(Adds male victim's home city, paragraph 5; suspect had no
criminal record, paragraph 21)
By Alice Popovici
COLUMBIA, Md. Jan 26 A gunman who shot and
killed two people at a Maryland mall was a 19-year-old who lived
with his mother in a nearby Washington suburb and arrived at the
shopping center in a taxi about an hour before opening fire,
police said on Sunday.
But a day after Saturday's shootings, police could provide
no immediate insight into why Darion Marcus Aguilar killed a
young man and a young woman at the mall in Columbia, Maryland,
about 20 miles (32 km) west of Baltimore, before apparently
Police have found no evidence that Aguilar, of College Park,
Maryland, knew the two victims who worked at a clothing and
skateboard shop at the mall, Howard County Police Chief Bill
McMahon told a Sunday evening news conference.
"We have no known relationship between the victims and our
shooter," he said.
Aguilar fired six to eight shots from a 12-gauge shotgun,
killing Brianna Benlolo, 21, also of College Park, and Tyler
Johnson, 25, of Mount Airy, Maryland, police said.
Both were employees of Zumiez, the shop where the
shooting took place. A third person on a lower floor of the mall
suffered a gunshot wound to the foot, and four more people were
hurt in the ensuing chaos.
The attack was the latest in a spate of shootings in recent
weeks across the United States that have renewed questions about
the vulnerability of public places like shopping centers,
schools and cinemas and sparked fresh calls for stiffer gun
U.S. Representative Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican and
chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said the
latest shooting highlighted the vulnerability of malls.
"You can't have a security lockdown at our malls," he said
in an interview with CBS. "It's very difficult to stop a lone
gunman who may have mental issues ...(and) wants to kill people.
I mean, you can only do so much to stop that."
But New Jersey Democratic Representative Frank Pallone said
shootings underscored the urgent need for better gun controls,
including universal background checks, limitations on the sale
of ammunition and an assault weapons ban.
"My concern is that this becomes such a norm that people
think, 'Well, that's the way it is and nothing can be done,'"
Pallone told MSNBC.
The shooting in Maryland followed earlier gun violence 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 killed himself.
The past week saw a student shot dead at South Carolina
State University in Orangeburg on Friday, after a teacher's
assistant was shot and killed at Purdue University in Indiana on
Tuesday. Suspects have been charged with crimes in both cases.
The South Carolina shooting marked the 36th school shooting
since 20 children were gunned down at Connecticut's Sandy Hook
Elementary School in December 2012, according to the group
Mayors Against Illegal Guns. The Sandy Hook shooting renewed the
national debate on gun laws, though gun control measures
proposed by President Barack Obama in its wake were rejected by
the U.S. Congress.
SHOOTER AND VICTIM WERE NEIGHBORS
The Maryland shooting happened around 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 took shelter after hearing the shots or seeing
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.
Aguilar had a backpack filled with crude explosives, and
authorities were initially concerned he had booby-trapped
himself, McMahon said.
"These were homemade devices consisting of flash powder and
household items, so they're not very sophisticated," McMahon
said. Police believe Aguilar legally bought the shotgun himself
last month in nearby Montgomery County.
Overnight, police searched Aguilar's home where they found
more ammunition, and seized computers, including a journal.
"He does express some general unhappiness with his life,"
McMahon said of the journal.
McMahon said he could not yet give further information about
Aguilar, including whether he worked or was a student, but said
Aguilar did not have a criminal record.
Aguilar lived less than a mile (1.6 km) away from Benlolo,
the female victim, in a quiet middle-class neighborhood with
tree-lined streets in College Park, which is home to the
University of Maryland's flagship campus.
There was no answer at Aguilar's address. Neighbors said he
lived there with his mother and possibly a sister, and that the
family, who had only moved in within the last couple of years,
kept to themselves.
Neighbor Megan O'Reilly said she interacted with them only a
couple of times. "The house, when I visited, looked immaculately
kept on the inside," she said. "They were not very engaging as
(Additional reporting by Peter Cooney in Washington; Writing by
Jonathan Allen; Editing by Edith Honan and Eric Walsh)