Officials identify suspect in Maryland mall shooting

Gunman killed two store employees before turning gun on self; police find improvised devices in bag

Police enter a mall after reports of a shooting Saturday in Howard County, Md. Police in Maryland say three people died, including the presumed gunman.
Jose Luis Magana/AP

Investigators said Sunday that they have identified the man who allegedly opened fire at a busy shopping mall in suburban Baltimore on Saturday, killing two clothing store employees before turning the gun on himself.

Three people were confirmed dead following the incident, including the suspected shooter, police confirmed. The two victims were named as Brianna Benlolo, 21, and Tyler Johnson, 25, both of whom worked at skateboard clothing store called Zumiez.

The shooting took place at a mall in Columbia, a suburb of both Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

Early Sunday, investigators said they identified the gunman as the 19-year-old Darion Marcus Aguilar from College Park. He died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to police. Howard County Police Chief Bill McMahon said police are trying to determine whether Aguilar knew either of the victims.

A search of a bag belonging to the suspected shooter and found near his body revealed two crude devices that appeared to be improvised explosives made using fireworks. Police said the mall would remain closed on Sunday. 

Authorities said it was too early to speculate about a motive in the attack.

Aside from the two people who were killed, five others were treated at Howard County General Hospital, including one with a gunshot wound.

Saturday's shooting follows a string of recent gun incidents including shootings at South Carolina State University and Purdue University in Indiana — in both cases a student was killed. 

In the latest incident, someone called 911 at around 11:15 a.m. to report a shooting at the mall. Police responded to the scene within two minutes according to Howard County Executive Ken Ulman.

The Mall in Columbia is at the center of the town and typically opens at 10 a.m. on Saturdays. It was busy with shoppers and employees when shots rang out before noon.

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 gave the all-clear.

At a news conference, McMahon said police are relatively confident that there was only one shooter.

"We don't know a motive yet," McMahon said. "We are very confident that it was a single shooter, and there was not another shooter in the mall."

The mall was closed to the public as police went store to store looking for people who might still be hiding, McMahon said. He said the shooting occurred at a store on the upper floor, above the food court.

He said it was not clear whether the shooting was random or whether the shooter and victims knew each other.

People were directed out of the mall and into a parking lot, where some boarded a bus and others walked toward their cars. McMahon said detectives interviewed witnesses as they emerged from the mall.

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

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

Al Jazeera and The Associated Press

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