COLUMBIA, Md. – The gunman who killed two people at a Maryland mall was a teenage skateboarding enthusiast who had no criminal record before he showed up at the shopping center armed with a shotgun, plenty of ammunition and a backpack filled with crude homemade explosives, authorities said Sunday.
Darion Marcus Aguilar, 19, took a taxi to the Mall in Columbia in suburban Baltimore on Saturday morning and entered the building near Zumiez, a shop that sells skateboarding gear. He went downstairs to a food court directly below the store, then returned less than an hour later, dumped the backpack in a dressing room and started shooting, police said.
Shoppers fled in a panic or barricaded themselves behind closed doors. When police arrived, they found three people dead – two store employees and Aguilar, who had killed himself, authorities said.
The shooting baffled investigators and acquaintances of Aguilar, a quiet, skinny teenager who graduated from high school less than a year ago and had no previous run-ins with law enforcement. Police spent Sunday trying to piece together his motive.
Aguilar, who had concealed the shotgun in a bag, fired six to nine times. One victim, Brianna Benlolo, a 21-year-old single mother, lived half a mile away from Aguilar in the same College Park neighborhood.
Howard County Police Chief William McMahon said there has been speculation about a romantic relationship between the gunman and Benlolo, but investigators have not been able to establish that.
The other employee, Tyler Johnson, did not know Aguilar and did not socialize with Benlolo outside work, a relative said.
Tydryn Scott, 19, said she was Aguilar’s lab partner in science class at James Hubert Black High School. She said she was stung by the news.
It was really hurtful, like, wow – someone that I know, someone that I’ve been in the presence of more than short amounts of time. I’ve seen this guy in action before. Never upset, never sad, just quiet, just chill, Scott told The Associated Press. If any other emotion, he was happy, laughing.
The Prince George’s County Police Department said it received a missing persons report for Aguilar at about 1:40 p.m. Saturday, more than two hours after the mall shooting. Officers went to Aguilar’s home to speak with his mother about 5 p.m. and saw Aguilar’s journal. The portion the officer read made him concerned for Aguilar’s safety, the department said.
Police began tracking Aguilar’s phone and soon discovered it was at the mall.
Howard County Police Chief William McMahon said the journal expressed general unhappiness, but he did not give any specifics about the writings.
There are a lot of unanswered questions, he said.
Aguilar purchased the 12-gauge shotgun legally last month.
At his home, officers also recovered more ammunition, computers and documents, police said.