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Police: 3 dead in mall shooting; devices disabled

COLUMBIA, Md. (AP) -- The mall in suburban Baltimore was humming with weekend shoppers when, suddenly, shotgun blasts rang out on the upper level.

Panicked patrons in the food court below, others browsing in jewelry stores or undergoing facials scrambled for cover. Some ducked into nearby stores. Others hid in inventory rooms or barricaded themselves behind locked doors until police arrived.

Within 2 minutes of the first 911 call Saturday morning, police say officers arriving at the Mall in Columbia found three people dead, including the gunman. Police say a man with a shotgun had shot a man and a woman, both in their 20s, who worked at a skateboard shop. He then killed himself.

Five others were injured in the mid-morning shooting and its aftermath. All had been released from hospitals by Saturday evening.

"This was a very scary incident," Howard County Executive Ken Ulman said. "There were a lot of people very close to where this happened."

Police Chief Edward J. McMahon said police were still seeking a motive even as he praised mall patrons for doing the right thing by sheltering in place and not stampeding toward the exits.

A news release Saturday night said police found and disabled "two crude devices that appeared to be an attempt at making explosives using fireworks." Police were searching the mall with dogs overnight, which is standard procedure, and the mall was to remain closed Sunday.

Joan Harding of Elkridge, Md., was shopping with her husband, David, for a tiara for their granddaughter's 18th birthday. She said she heard something heavy falling, followed by gunshots and people running.

"My husband said, `Get down!' and the girl that worked in the store said, `Get in the back,'" Harding said. That is where they hid until police searched the mall and signaled it was safe to leave.

The shooting took place around 11:15 a.m. Saturday at a shop called Zumiez, which sells skateboards, clothing and accessories. The company's chief executive, Rick Brooks, said it was making counseling available for employees in the area.

McMahon said at a news conference that authorities had difficulty identifying the gunman because of concerns he was carrying explosives and were proceeding with an "abundance of caution." By late Saturday, police said they had tentatively identified the gunman but declined to release his name while they followed up on leads.

Police identified the victims as 21-year-old Brianna Benlolo of College Park, Md., and 25-year-old Tyler Johnson of Ellicott City, Md. Both worked at Zumiez.

Benlolo's grandfather, John Feins, said in a telephone interview from Florida that his granddaughter had a 2-year-old son and that the job at Zumiez was her first since she went back to work after her son's birth.

"She was all excited because she was the manager there," he said.

He said he had spoken with his daughter, Brianna's mother, earlier in the day, but didn't know who the gunman was or whether the person knew his granddaughter.

"It's senseless. It's totally, totally senseless," he said.

He described his daughter's family as a military family that had moved frequently and had been in Colorado before moving to Maryland about two years ago. He said his granddaughter was on good terms with her son's father, and they shared custody.

"I mean what can you say? You go to work and make a dollar and you got some idiot coming in and blowing people away," he said.

The mall is at the center of the town that's a suburb of both Baltimore and Washington, and it typically opens at 10 a.m. on Saturdays. It was busy with shoppers and employees when the shots rang out before noon.

McMahon said it wasn't clear whether the gunman and victims knew each other. He said officers did not fire any shots when they arrived at the scene. A police news release said it appears the gunman died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Tonya Broughton of Silver Spring, Md., was with a friend getting facials for a "girls' morning out," she said. "The only thing I heard was all the people running and screaming and saying `There's a shooter! There's a shooter!'" she said.

Wearing a gel face mask, she and her friend hid in a Victoria's Secret store, as her anxious thoughts turned to her family.

People were directed out of the mall and into a parking lot, where some boarded a bus and others walked toward their cars. Police cars blocked off various entrances to the mall as SWAT officers and law enforcement vehicles gathered in the expansive parking lot. Some people were seen crying and hugging and at least one woman was carrying a baby. McMahon said detectives were interviewing witnesses as they emerged from the mall.

Laura McKindles of Columbia works at a kiosk in the mall. She said she heard between eight and 10 gunshots, followed by people running and screaming. She ran into the backroom of a perfume store and locked the door.

Allison Cohen, who works at the apparel store Lucky Brand Jeans, said she always felt safe at the mall.

"I truly never thought something like this would ever happen here," Cohen said. "It's really, really shocking."


Associated Press writers Jessica Gresko and Martin Di Caro in Washington contributed to this report.

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movingbeyond35 January 27 2014 at 10:27 PM

My heart goes out to Brianna and Tyler. They came to work I know with smiles and to do their job for the day. This senseless act had to destroy their young lives, their families lives, friend's lives and also lives of US that didn't even know them. It touched home that is my son's favorite store. I seen him just morning he had on a nice hat I said where did you get that from he said Zumiez and I had to let him know what happen in Columbia, M.D. he gave me a moment of silence. I could tell he was hurt.

May God bless you all

La La from V.A

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massolds56 January 27 2014 at 5:28 AM

what's the point of debateing about anything,, Just pray for those whom lost thier live's and pray that the Creator know's what to do with the one whom did this horrible act. If I said now you wonder why the other country's won't let horrible/killing video games in thier country from USA and won't allow horrible/ killing movie's in thier country either from USA. what would your reaction be back, we can't stop those making horrible/killing video games and we can't stop those making horrible/killing movie's and from stopping them going on TV. I'll tell you we should have stopped all that was horrible/killing video game's, movies years ago from spreading thier brainwashing crap in the USA, But It's to late to do anything, people. The germ is spread and nothing will be able to stop it from spreading, unless O ban's horrible/killing video games and movie's. look how many shooting's/killing's are in other country's that won't allow USA horrible/killing video games and movies in thier country. Probaly none or 1. The point is we should have done something many full moon's ago and it is probaly to late to stop it. be alert and you better be legally carrying to save lives. am Praying that this stop's in the USA. Peace Brother!

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darinzxp January 27 2014 at 4:17 AM

Pray for those 2 solus that were taken.

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noknrc January 27 2014 at 4:12 AM

With the way this new society wants to act. Buy a gun, learn how to use it properly and carry it. It may save your life and the life of your family.

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nvisiblegypsys January 27 2014 at 3:55 AM

as times become more desperate, so will people.....

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sondravvag January 27 2014 at 2:21 AM

Between the school shootings and the mall shootings I would say something very sad and serious is going on in this country where the needs of these children, and they have all been CHILDREN doing the shooting, are not being met. The breakdown of the family, the couples who divorce in 5 years, the lack of fathers in the home, the parents who just don't want to give up youthful pursuits and become responsible parents are raising these kids without attention, without knowledge of what is going on in their heads, and are just letting it go. It must be easier not to pay attention and "take a chance" that the kid won't go on the rampage. I raised four, two boys and two girls and when I suspected their world was not going well I spent hours daily listening to them, letting them know that nothing is to bad to get fixed and if they shut the door on their bedroom on me I sat on the floor outside the door and told them I would stay there until they discussed the issue. It ended up with conversation, some yelling, but the realization that things and feelings could be fixed and they were loved; Parents are doing a TERRIBLE job these days. Not all of them but certainly some of them.MY hear is broken.

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andrzejz3 January 27 2014 at 2:36 AM

Americans, in order to understand the rapidly escalating problems with their youths should learn about other societies, where success not failures are noted. Look at the environments where children grow up, in Germany, Poland, Switzerland, look at the urban design, the local and state governments investments into education and recreation within the cities, towns, communities, look at the addressed values and interactions. On the other hand, it may be too depressing to start comparing schools in Prague, Berlin with the defunct entities across the US where the local mall is the only viable attraction for the young and adults alike.

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usaparks January 27 2014 at 5:46 AM

Well said Sondra!!! But I need to add that belief in God is critical, we need to teach kids right from wrong. Society is doing a good job of calling good bad and bad good. When the going gets tough I want everyone reading this to remember : God loves you He really does !!!!!! and there's HOPE......please read the Psalms and ask God to comfort you...He will do it EVERYTIME ..Jesus loves you very much!!!!!!!!!

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pscottparker10231955 January 27 2014 at 2:06 AM

Reminds me to make sure to carry my gun more often. You never know when you might need it these days. One thing for sure, we sure live in "interesting" times...(old Chinese curse: "may you live in interesting times.")...LOL

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jalden4 January 27 2014 at 1:57 AM

These American shooters are worse than the Islamic fundamentalist terrorists, since the fundamentalists at least pretend they are acting for a cause.

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themaneagle January 27 2014 at 1:22 AM

Im just shocked how many people think that the solution to that if by carrying gun all the time, everybody. This isn't the wild wild west or is it? You got old pops"hot hands" shooting someone in a movie theater just because he was texting and people think having a gun would help? Think about if everyone had a gun at a movie = showtime, instead of one person dead for nothing we probably would have a dozen.... for nothing

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andrzejz3 January 27 2014 at 12:50 AM

From the horses mouth. I have an American neighbor nearby here close to Villfranche by the sea. He has a beautiful villa on what must be at least 50 hectares of land with a sweeping view of the bay below. He is a majority stock holder of a firearm manufacturing company in the US, on the east coast. When I asked him much time he spends in France in his (probably $15M-$20M) house, he smilingly replied for his stay to account to about 11 months of the year, When asked why?, he answered " do you have any idea how many guns we put in peoples hands in America, think about it, would you like to live there, it is absolutely insane..? America is just a great business to me, but it is a not a place to live, look around, why are you here, look how beautiful, peaceful, safe it is here?"

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