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Police identify gunman in Maryland mall shooting



COLUMBIA, Md. (AP) -- Police have identified the gunman in the Maryland mall shooting as a 19 year old from suburban Washington.

Howard County Police Chief William McMahon said Darion Marcus Aguilar of College Park, Md., arrived at the mall shortly after 10 a.m. on Saturday armed with a Mossburg 12-gauge shotgun and used it to kill two people at a store on the upper level of the Mall of Columbia before killing himself.

McMahon said police are trying to determine whether Aguilar knew either of the victims.

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 a skateboard shop called Zumiez.

It took hours to identify the shooter since he was carrying ammunition and a backpack and police thought he may have had explosives, McMahon said. When the body was searched, police found crude homemade explosives in the backpack.

Police Identify Gunman in Maryland Mall Shooting, Motive Unclear

"When we originally found the shooter, he still had a lot of ammunition on his person," McMahon said at a news conference Sunday morning.

McMahon said he didn't know if Aguilar had a criminal record. No motive has been given for the shooting.

"There are a lot of unanswered questions," McMahon said.

Very few details were released about Aguilar. He apparently lived with his mother in the suburb of College Park, where University of Maryland is located. McMahon didn't know if Aguilar was a student there.

According to McMahon, Aguilar purchased the shotgun last month at a shop in neighboring Montgomery County.

Aguilar took a taxi to the mall and roamed its halls before shots rang out within an hour. Police arrived at the scene just 2 minutes after a 911 call came into authorities at 11:15 a.m. When they arrived, they found three bodies at the Zumiez skateboard shop on the upper level.

Five others were injured in the midmorning shooting and its aftermath. All had been released from hospitals by Saturday evening. Only one person was injured by gunfire.

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

Earlier, McMahon praised mall patrons for doing the right thing by sheltering in place and not stampeding toward the exits.

"We actually have drilled on this in the past and that experience has been very beneficial to us," McMahon said Saturday.

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 through Tuesday.

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.

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. Detectives interviewed 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."

Join the discussion

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NMBHOTDOG January 26 2014 at 3:57 PM

Our educational system has been Liberalized and trashed. Our children are being told by the current Administration that they are owed a living instead of a work ethic. When this doesn't happen, and all they have to do with their time is sit around and stew about their plight. Copycat what the liberal media runs into the ground. A Liberal Zombie Apocalypse. These same people can be seen looting after a disaster.

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2 replies
ncedwards2002 NMBHOTDOG January 26 2014 at 4:06 PM

nmbhotdog, you are stupid if you believe what you just wrote above, the biggest problem in this country is that every nut cake can walk into any gun store and purchase enough fire power to kill a dozen people. It doesn't have a damn thing to do with sitting around stewing about having a job or not... God, we have a nation of idiots!

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2 replies
NMBHOTDOG ncedwards2002 January 26 2014 at 4:15 PM

We Do have lots of nuts. Don't know where they're all coming from. This being said, use our schools, doctors, parents and every citizen to point out something that looks horribly wrong. Unfortunately that's not happening. Until then, I will carry to protect me and my family, if heaven forbid that ever happens. Otherwise background checks need to be much more extensive and in my state, under 21 can't purchase weapons as in this case. Unfortunately all access to any weapon, be it a bomb or what can't be totally policed. So, I'll choose to protect myself. Waiting for the police is too long.

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yazzgc ncedwards2002 January 26 2014 at 4:59 PM

You sound like the real Idiot. Show me where anyone wanting to buy a gun can just go in a gun store and buy a gun????? My own experence is First I had to sign an agreement for the law to check my mential backround then agree to a FBI backround ,local police check ,statecheck, 2 refewrances with telephone numbers and had to answer to local police in writing then wait for about 2 months to see if i was allowed to purchase a fire arm. After all that if I was found to be able to purchace and had previously had a firearm I D CARD i COULD GO TO A GUN STORE TO PURCHASING ONE. After selecting a fire arm giving my permit to purchace that I was ginen at my local polic dept.,the gun dealer had to call in for a fedearl ID check the fire arm serial number and and rest of the paper work was sent to the STATE DEP{T. handeling fire arms all this took about 3 months. A criminal probaly can get a deadly weapon in about 2 hours at some inner city street corner then if a crime is commeted with it probaly will get off by plea bargening to a lesser crime. Prosecutors and alot of police dept especially in inner city's are lazy or overworke by the type of people that live there.

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David NMBHOTDOG January 26 2014 at 4:08 PM

I've said it for a long time, if you REWALLY want to stop killings and these shootings, STOP Liberals from being able to own a weapon of ANY kind. Everytime this happens it turns out its always a Liberal nutjob.

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Ericka January 26 2014 at 6:39 PM

Wow! I can't believe all the racist comments here,so not neccessary.
We don't know what triggered this guy or if he knew these innocent people, but be reminded these innocent young adults lost their lives. My prayers to their family, friend's, and her 2 yr old son.
As far as the shooter, I'll let God deal with his fate.

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1 reply
massagebearnj Ericka January 26 2014 at 6:59 PM

Well, if God deals with the shooter as he did with the victim, then the shooter will be OK

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1 reply
Ericka massagebearnj January 26 2014 at 7:16 PM

U are an ass!

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julieanne1278 January 26 2014 at 6:38 PM

I also want to send out prayers for the victims and their families. As well as those who were affected by the shooting. It has to be pretty traumatic seeming someone get murdered.

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julieanne1278 January 26 2014 at 6:36 PM

kb....they released a photo of Darion earlier. He was Black. I will point out that there are plenty of these shooters walking around who are not black, but of another race or color.

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kroywen74 January 26 2014 at 1:15 PM

When ever we here of a shooting we always go back to the 2nd amendment, why is it nobody ever ask the question, why are we so angry as a people that we have to go and kill innocent people, what is happening to society. We where not like that 50, 75 100 years ago. Why now? Where is all the experts to figure that out.

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4 replies
robplanb January 26 2014 at 5:32 PM

No picture yet AOL? Its readily available. Or does the picture not go with the agenda? http://www.baltimoresun.com/

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1 reply
Hey Tubby robplanb January 26 2014 at 5:48 PM

sure makes you wonder, AOL usually quick to publish the pics

Flag Reply +5 rate up
dwhe342612 January 26 2014 at 6:28 PM

I very much agree with JNANANE our prayers should go the the victims and their families. After that we need to sort out the cause of the challenge.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
Jeff January 26 2014 at 1:18 PM

Human beings a mistake of evolution!

Flag Reply +2 rate up
emberbb January 26 2014 at 1:18 PM

Why do these shootings continue to happen and more often than ever? Who are all these bastards with guns, guns that are not registered, guns that are illegal, yet more people than ever have weapons. And why is it they are so young? Thank God they commit suicide! I truly believe that families and friends are closing their eyes to too many weapons they see, rather than reporting this to the authorities; or better yet, taking the weapon away when the owner is not around, and alerting the authorities immediately. Something very serious needs to be done, and this needs to be done NOW. This cannot continue any longer; I don't have the answer but I am scared to leave my house and if necessary, only during the day. What kind of life is that? I do not own a knife or gun, never have. I am not against any law abiding citizen owning a weapon, as long as it was obtained legally, registered, etc. This week in my local paper, there was an article about a man going to a couple's business who supposedly owned him money, and when he was not paid, he killed both of them -- simple as that. He was prepared ahead of time, and most likely did not legally own the gun, but thought nothing of killing them. It is so casual, so easy to pull out a gun and shoot, and keep shooting, all this without a thought, just like having your wallet in your pocket or purse. This is what's going on today, and if people don't change or get involved, it will become worse and worse, until there is no one left to kill other than one's self.

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3 replies
David January 26 2014 at 1:20 PM

Did the taxi driver not have a problem with dropping him off at a mall while carrying a shotgun? This could have been prevented altogether.

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1 reply
Dee Jay J.J. David January 26 2014 at 1:23 PM

C'mon David, you can do better than that.

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1 reply
ismithrice Dee Jay J.J. January 26 2014 at 1:30 PM

Why "C'mon David"??? I thought the very same!

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