Maryland mall reopens after fatal weekend shooting

COLUMBIA, Maryland Mon Jan 27, 2014 5:11pm EST

1 of 16. Police walk in front of an entrance to the Mall in Columbia after a shooting at the mall in Columbia, Maryland, January 25, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Joshua Roberts

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COLUMBIA, Maryland (Reuters) - A Maryland mall where a 19-year-old gunman killed two store employees before apparently taking his own life reopened on Monday to mourners bearing flowers and questions about why the shooting happened.

The popular retail complex about 20 miles west of Baltimore had been closed since Darion Marcus Aguilar fired six to eight shots from a 12-gauge shotgun on Saturday as the mall bustled with weekend shoppers.

Howard County Executive Ken Ulman told a few hundred people, many of them first responders, outside the mall before it reopened that the community had shown its resiliency and strength.

"In these tough times I've seen some things that I am incredibly proud of," Ulman said while flanked by U.S. Representative Elijah Cummings, a Democrat.

After a moment of silence called for by Ulman, the onlookers walked in through the same entrance police say the shooter used.

Police are investigating what drove Aguilar, of College Park, Maryland, to shoot the employees of the Zumiez skateboard shop - Brianna Benlolo, 21, of College Park, and Tyler Johnson, 25, of Mount Airy, Maryland.

Howard County Police Chief Bill McMahon told CNN investigators had not turned up any relationship between Aguilar and the victims.

A third person who was near the shop on the mall's upper level just above the food court suffered a gunshot wound to the foot.

Carrying a bunch of lilies, Kristen Lowman, 20, of Elkridge, Maryland, said she was shopping at the mall when the shooting took place.

She was unsure if she would be able to come back to shop there, but added, "Anywhere you go you have a risk ... You can't let bad people control what you do."

Most stores appeared open, but the Zumiez shop was sealed off by a temporary white wall with a company statement on it saying it was closed in memory of Benlolo and Johnson.

Passersby stopped to snap photos, and bunches of flowers and stuffed animals were placed in front of the wall. They were quickly picked up by mall security.

Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, a Democrat who signed into law one of the nation's toughest gun control bills last year, turned up after the ceremony to show solidarity with Columbia residents.

"The tragedies that unfolded here over the weekend reminded us that in places all around our state all of us are human, therefore all of us are vulnerable," he told reporters.

The attack was the latest in a spate of U.S. shootings that has renewed questions about the vulnerability of public places. It sparked fresh calls from some politicians for stiffer gun control.

Aguilar had a backpack filled with crude explosives and authorities were initially concerned he had booby-trapped himself, police have said.

Police believe Aguilar, who they said did not have a criminal record, legally bought the shotgun last month in nearby Montgomery County.

Police found more ammunition and Aguilar's journal during a search of his home. In the journal, "he does express some general unhappiness with his life," McMahon said on Sunday.

(Reporting by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Stephen Powell, Bernard Orr)

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Comments (16)
Naksuthin wrote:
Gun Advocates were claiming just yesterday that it was a Romantic triangle gone bad…and not another CRAZY MAN WITH A GUN….As if somehow shooting a person in a fit of jealousy is less of a gun murder than a crazy man with a gun

Jan 26, 2014 9:42pm EST  --  Report as abuse
tatterdemons wrote:
So, Frank Pallone goes on about even more strict gun control through background checks…but the guy had no record. It sickens me that guys like Pallone use every tragedy as a vehicle for authoritarian levels of gun control. How does restricting access to “assault” weapons effect shotgun murders? How does reducing sale of ammunition prevent small scale massacres? If someone has 20,000 rounds, there is no physical way to use that amount of ammo in a mass shooting. Most gun enthusiasts buy in bulk to save money, not to plan violent acts.

Jan 26, 2014 9:46pm EST  --  Report as abuse
another guy who legally purchased a gun, lots of ammo, and then went and killed people.

was he on anti-depressants or other drugs like the columbine kid and the aurora guy and the newtown guy?

if so, laws in every other civilized nation, including switzerland and israel, would have prevented him from owning a gun – and these three young people would be alive.

all the rest of the civilized world would also have required him to have real firearms training before he could own or operate a gun – this simple requirement has been shown to reduce gun violence significantly. would it have saved their lives?

we wont know, because the NRA and the millions of stupid jerks that support it and the hundreds of evil, self-serving politicians who count on it for support, have prevented rational gun laws in our country.

Jan 26, 2014 10:00pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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