(Adds authorities found explosive material in shooter's bag)
By Bill Trott
COLUMBIA, Md. Jan 25 A gunman opened fire with
a shotgun in a skate shop at a crowded shopping mall near
Baltimore on Saturday, killing two store employees and wounding
another person before apparently killing himself, police said.
Howard County police said they did not know the motive for
the shooting at the large mall in Columbia, Maryland, about 20
miles (32 km) west of Baltimore. Police said they have
tentatively identified the shooter, who was carrying explosive
material in a bag, but did not release his name.
Police identified the victims as Brianna Benlolo, 21, of
College Park, Maryland, and Tyler Johnson, 25, of Mt. Airy,
Maryland. Johnson had recently moved to Mt. Airy from Ellicott
City, police said. Both were employees of Zumiez, a skate shop
where the shooting took place.
One person suffered a gunshot wound to the foot, and four
others were injured in the chaos, police said. Howard County
General Hospital said all five people had been treated and
released. The person shot in the foot was a level below the
Zumiez store, police said.
The shooting happened at about 11:15 a.m. EST (1615 GMT) on
the mall's upper level just above the food court. The mall,
which has more than 200 stores, was crowded with weekend
shoppers, many of whom sheltered in place after hearing the
shots or seeing people fleeing.
Police, who were in the area on another case, responded to
the emergency calls within two minutes and found all three
bodies either in the store or just outside it. Police said they
believe the man shot himself to death.
Police said in a statement Saturday night that a search of
the shooter's bag found inside the store revealed "two crude
devices that appeared to be an attempt at making explosives
Police said both devices were disabled, and that police will
conduct a thorough search of the mall using K-9 units through
the night. Investigators also were reviewing footage from
surveillance cameras around the mall.
The mall will remain closed on Sunday, police said, though
people may retrieve vehicles from the mall parking lot this
It took hours for state and Howard County police, joined by
authorities from neighboring counties, to clear the building of
shoppers and employees and ensure there were no other shooters.
"This took a long time because you can imagine how many
rooms there are in the mall, how many back offices, bathrooms
and dressing rooms and nooks and crannies in the mall," Howard
County Executive Ken Ulman told reporters.
A friend of Benlolo, Paul Dorion Malcolm, 24, said she had a
"I met a lot of young mothers that have kids, but I've never
met a mom so devoted. She took that kid everywhere, when she
wasn't working at Zumiez she was with her kid," Malcolm said in
a phone interview.
"Her energy was amazing: always upbeat, positive," said
Malcolm, who used to work at a shoe store at the mall and met
Benlolo there last year.
A visitor to the mall said the shooting caused panic.
Tonya Broughton of Silver Spring, Maryland, was having a
ladies' day out with friend Tarah Lancaster-Williams when they
saw people running.
"We were getting facials at a kiosk on the lower level when
everyone started running," Broughton said. "We just headed for
the nearest store, Victoria's Secret. I still had the facial
She said the Victoria's Secret employees herded everyone to
the rear of the store.
"They were very nice, keeping us calm. They told us we were
safe," Broughton said.
Colin Reddy, who works at the mall, told CNN he heard about
eight or nine shots in all.
"We thought it was construction because there's a lot of
construction going on at the mall right now. Then I heard it
again. Like 'boom, boom, boom.' And then everybody started
running," he said.
Reddy said he and the other employees closed the store's
gate and waited in a back room for police to arrive.
Zumiez, which has more than 400 stores across the United
States, said in a statement it was "deeply saddened by the
violence" at its store. The company said it was arranging
counseling for its employees in the area.
The attack in Columbia follows a shooting at a New Jersey
mall in November in which a gunman fired at least six shots
without hitting anyone, sparking a mass evacuation of the
complex, then killing himself.
There also has been a spate of shootings in recent days at
U.S. schools and universities. A student was shot dead on Friday
at South Carolina State University in Orangeburg, and at Purdue
University in Indiana a teacher's assistant was shot and killed
on Tuesday. In both incidents, suspects have been charged with
(Reporting by Bill Trott; Additional reporting by Andrea
Shalal-Esa in Maryland; Kevin Murphy in Kansas City, Missouri;
Colleen Jenkins in Winston-Salem, North Carolina; Alex
Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Victoria Cavaliere in New York;
Writing by Eric Beech; Editing by James Dalgleish, David
Gregorio and Lisa Shumaker)