COLUMBIA, Md. (WJZ/AP) — The 19-year-old Maryland mall gunman was a skateboarding enthusiast who took a taxi to the mall, carrying a 12-gauge shotgun he’d purchased legally a month earlier, plenty of ammunition and some crude homemade explosives inside a backpack, authorities said.
Rochelle Ritchie reports investigators found a journal belonging to Darion Marcus Aguilar, 19, but they would only say that it “expressed general unhappiness.” The contents, however, were enough for an officer looking into the disappearance of Aguilar on the day of the shooting to worry about the teen’s safety.
Police began tracking Aguilar’s phone and soon discovered it was at the mall.
All is quiet at the home of 19-year-old Darion Aguilar –the person police say is responsible for gunning down 21-year-old Brianna Benlolo and 25-year-old Tyler Johnson, who are employees at Zumiez.
Police say Aguilar entered the Mall in Columbia around 10:15 a.m. Saturday near Zumiez, a shop that sells skateboarding gear, and went downstairs to a food court directly below. Less than an hour later, he returned to the store, dumped the backpack in a dressing room and then started shooting, police said.
Though his motive is unknown, the gunman expressed “general unhappiness with his life” in a journal, Howard County Police Chief Bill McMahon said at a news conference Sunday night.
WJZ sat down with a witness who was inside of the store at the shooting. He says Aguilar pulled out a shotgun and pointed it at Benlolo before turning and shooting Johnson.
“I was no more than four feet away from the girl who he shot first. I was behind her,” the witness said.
Johnson’s aunt, the first family member to speak out, calls her nephew a great person.
“He was a very positive, friendly and funny person, a great person,” she said.
Johnson’s murder still seems unreal for his family members.
“Our lives are changed forever,” a loved one said.
Aguilar graduated from James Hubert Blake High School in Silver Spring. He had no previous run-ins with law enforcement.
Aguilar was accepted last February to Montgomery College, a community college in the Washington suburbs, but school spokesman Marcus Rosano said he never registered or attended.
Tydryn Scott, 19, said she was Aguilar’s lab partner in science class at James Hubert Blake High School and said he hung out with other skaters. 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 Mall in Columbia will set up two memorial sites: one outside Starbucks and another near Lord & Taylor. It will reopen Monday at 1 p.m. to the general public.
Zumiez chief executive Rick Brooks said in a statement that when the mall reopens, there will be memory books to sign and visitors will be invited to float flowers in the mall’s fountain in memory of Benlolo and Johnson.
“Counselors have met with the store team,” he said Sunday. “The emotions are very raw and real — and as co-workers and friends, we are pulling together.”
Five other people were hurt in the attack, but only one was hit by gunfire — a woman who was hit in the foot upstairs near Zumeiz. All were released from hospitals hours later.
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