BY DANIEL ENG
The Columbia Town Center Mall in Columbia, Maryland reopened Monday, Jan. 27, two days after a gunman shot and killed two Zumiez employees before shooting himself. A temporary wall spans the entrance of the popular skateboard clothing store with a message that they will be closed until further notice “in loving memory” of the two victims, Brianna Benlolo, 21, and Tyler Johnson, 25, according to The New York Times.
Howard County Police Chief William J. McMahon and Howard County Executive Ken Ulman held a news conference and addressed more than 300 mall employees upon the reopening, according to a Howard County Police Department Press Release. They spoke on the safety and recovery efforts that had taken place since the shooting and made crisis counseling resources available.
At County College of Morris, students have expressed ambivalence over the recent shooting. Early childhood education major Elizabeth Mertz said she is distressed over the number of shootings that have taken place within the last year. “Even though they opened the mall two days after the shooting it was the right thing to do keep Zumiez closed to show respect for the two dead employees,” Mertz said. “I feel that anywhere we go now there could be a possible shooting because it’s so easy to attain a gun.”
Mertz added that the circumstances of this particular shooting were tragic. “Most of the recent shootings have been done by people at a young age,” Mertz said. “I think that the media does play a huge role in all of these shootings and it’s hard to detect when people have a mental illness because they can hide it so well.”
The shooter, Darion Marcus Aguilar, 19, was dropped off at the mall by a cab and remained in one area of the mall for an hour before the shooting at Zumiez, according to a Howard County Police Department press release. Aguilar used a legally purchased Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun and was found to be carrying two homemade devices that seemed to be intended to be explosives.
Although no motive has been established the investigation is ongoing and police are still in the process of analyzing a journal obtained through a search warrant at Aguilar’s home. In the journal Aguilar expresses with dissatisfaction with life but no more specific details have been released yet, according to a Howard County Police Department press release.