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Gunman’s Journal Reveals New Details Into Double Murder At Mall In Columbia

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Brianna Benlolo, Tyler Johnson
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COLUMBIA, Md. (WJZ)—Howard County Police released new details in their investigation into the double murder at the Mall in Columbia.

Investigative reporter Mike Hellgren has the latest from police.

Police say it is evident from the gunman’s handwritten journals that he knew he was having mental issues. Police also confirm that he frequented the mall and would often smoke outside with small groups of friends, but they could not say whether he had been inside the Zumiez store before the tragic incident.

Police communications obtained by WJZ reveal the chaos in Columbia on Saturday:

“We have an active shooter at the Columbia Mall, last seen in the food court. Kids are hiding in the bathroom.”

“A male and female were shot inside Zumiez.”

“What we need is somebody to start going store to store and verify if there is any more victims.”

 Police now say they recovered shooter Darion Aguilar’s cell phone and computer on his body, and they are combing through that and tracking his financial records.

But unanswered questions remain, including whether Aguilar knew the victims.

A woman claiming to be his mother said this:

“I don’t believe he knows them,” she said.

We do know he lived just blocks from 21-year-old Brianna Benlolo, but police have so far revealed no other connections.

“That is an open question. We know that is an important piece of information our community is interested in, but we just don’t know that,” said Howard County Police Chief Bill McMahon.

Was he intent on doing more harm than just inside Zumiez? Police say he did have several crude explosives in a backpack there, but beyond that have uncovered no larger plots.

Were there warning signs? Police have not revealed specific passages from Aguilar’s journal but say they showed he was deeply unhappy and possibly suicidal.

However, many close to Aguilar say this was out of his character.

“If you were to go in his room you would see what a gentle, sweet kid he was,” his alleged mother said.

WJZ has confirmed with the medical examiner that Aguilar shot 25-year-old Tyler Johnson multiple times; he shot Benlolo in the neck and the chest and killed himself by putting the gun in his mouth.

“Never had a gun before, never been interested in guns, never been interested in anything like that,” his alleged mother said.

Police are putting up fliers at different locations around the mall, asking folks who had any contact with Aguilar to contact them.

Aguilar was also an active skater. Published reports say he wrote in his journal about a hatred of certain groups but it is unclear which ones he was talking about. Police say his journal does not name the victims or provide any insight into whether he had any relationship with them.

According to court records, Aguilar’s parents divorced last year. They had been separated since the late 1990s.

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