OPD holds press conference related to apprehension of suspect in Paddock Mall shooting
Ocala Police Chief Mike Balken speaks about the arrest of Albert Shell Jr. as Ocala Mayor Ben Marciano, left, and Major Steve Cuppy of the Ocala Police Department, right, listen during a press conference at the Ocala Police Department in Ocala, Fla. on Monday, Jan. 8, 2024. Shell is charged with the shooting death of David Barron, 40, of Ocala, at the Paddock Mall in Ocala on Dec. 23, 2023. Shell was arrested in Marion County, in or around the Florida Highlands during the early hours of Jan. 8, 2024. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2024.
Ocala Police Chief Michael Balken, along with Ocala Mayor Ben Marciano and OPD Maj. Steve Cuppy, held a press conference this morning to give details about the early morning arrest of Albert Shell, who was wanted in connection to the Dec. 23 shooting death of a man and the wounding of a woman at Paddock Mall.
Shell was apprehended on charges of premeditated first-degree murder and attempted premeditated first-degree murder by a joint OPD, Marion County Sheriff’s Office, U.S. Marshal’s Service Florida and Caribbean Regional Fugitive Task Force at a house in an area about 20 miles southwest of Ocala known as the Florida Highlands, which is within Marion County.
Shell had been at large since the shootings occurred and rewards for information leading to his arrest had risen from $5,000 to $20,000.
Balken said the increased reward amount helped generate tips and he was certain that the reward money would be paid out once all the tips were sorted.
Balken said he was notified around 1 a.m. Monday that his team had identified the place where Shell was hiding and that it took approximately two hours to negotiate with Shell to give himself up for arrest.
Balken said as they were processing evidence to prosecute Shell for the crime, they would also be investigating who aided Shell in evading law enforcement over the past two weeks so they could be prosecuted.
“Albert is responsible for one of the more heinous acts that we’ve seen in Ocala in a long time. His criminal history alone tells me that he should never have been on the street to have been able to commit this crime and we’re going to see to it that he stays behind bars,” Balken replied when asked during the press conference if Shell had expressed any remorse.
Balken reminded attendees at the press conference that, “Just two days before Christmas, on Dec. 23rd, a targeted attack of violence occurred inside the Paddock Mall, resulting in the loss of David Barron’s life and leaving another innocent woman injured. Our hearts go out to the victims’ family, friends and all of those who are affected by this terrible tragedy.”
Balken called the shooting a “targeted act of violence” and said “a beef between two individuals resolved in the mall with a gun.” He said the injured woman, who is recovering, was an “innocent bystander.”
He said that what made matters worse was the mall setting, just two days before Christmas, which left many people traumatized.
“This event really impacted our entire community,” Balken said.
Balken thanked those who worked “tirelessly” in his agency over the past two weeks to apprehend the suspect and thanked the Marion County Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. Marshal’s Service for their assistance in doing so.
He also thanked the community.
“To the incredible members of our community, the outpouring and numerous tips that we received from our citizens really played a critical and crucial role in resolving this case and we certainly can’t thank them enough. I’d also like to thank the various news media outlets who assisted us along the way by delivering our message as we went along,” Balken stated.
Asked about mall security, Balken replied, “Ocala is a growing community. We’ve got a ton of shopping centers … a lot of locations where something like this could potentially kick-off.”
“Looking back on some of the work that we’ve done just around the Paddock Mall through the 2023 calendar year, I think officers did over 500 security calls there at the mall without any increased security, so I think it’s something that we’ll look at certainly around the holiday season to make sure our community stays safe,” Balken added.
Balken denied the assertion that the community was experiencing an uptick in violence.
“That’s just simply not correct. You know we’ve averaged I think it’s about eight homicides every year since 2012. We ended last year on that number. The numbers of shootings quite frankly are down tremendously, which is a huge comment considering the population growth that we’ve seen here in Ocala/Marion County. So as the population nearly doubled since I’ve started, homicides have gone down nearly 60%, or rather 40% to 50%, and shootings are right in line with that,” he noted.
Balken told the press: “Violent crime is down not only in Ocala, not only across Florida, but across the entire country.”
Marciano offered his condolences to the victims of the crime and thanked OPD and other agencies for their sacrifices to keep the community safe.
“We are a resilient community, but we will not stand for acts of violence like this and my commitment to you as our mayor is to make sure that we work with law enforcement to make sure that we are doing everything in our power to address these issues moving forward and that we are a safe and healthy community,” Marciano said.