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Motive Still Unknown In Double Murder At The Mall In Columbia

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Brianna Benlolo, Tyler Johnson
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WJZ general assignment reporter Mike Hellgren came to Maryland's News...
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COLUMBIA, Md. (WJZ)–It’s been almost a week since the double murder at the Mall in Columbia. Even with more details coming to light about the teenager who opened fire inside the mall, a motive has yet to be established. More memorials are planned for the victims.

Mike Hellgren has a new statement from the chief leading the investigation.

Howard County Police Chief Bill McMahon released a letter Friday morning, praising his team and thanking the community for support. Click here to read the full letter.

Almost a week after the horror at the Columbia mall, a memorial at the Zumiez store, where two employees were gunned down, continues to grow.

Questions persist, including why troubled teenaged gunman Darion Aguilar opened fire.

Howard County Councilwoman Mary Kay Sigaty represents the area.

“It’s so much easier to deal with the reality of the situation if you have some sense of why it may have happened,” she said.

Sigaty has been back at the mall every day this week.

“I’ve certainly seen a community come together in terms of dealing with something that really shook them,” Sigaty said.

Earlier this week, the chief made some revealing comments about a search for a motive in an interview with our partners at 105.7-The Fan.

“When we have one of these things, if you can say it’s domestic violence-related, if you can say that people have some kind of personal relationship gone bad and the shooting takes place in a public place, you know, obviously it’s tragic. People understand that, but they also have a sense that they’re not at risk. Early indications clearly are that there is no relationship, and so that’s unsettling for people and we understand that,” McMahon said.

“There was a lot of information being attributed to other sources describing that relationship and it wasn’t true,” he said.

The chief released a letter Friday, praising the response, saying “when the call came, our officers did what they were trained to do.”

“We can’t figure out, necessarily, why it happened yet. We don’t know, but we can’t live in fear,” Sigaty said.

Hundreds in the community paused Thursday night to remember the victims, 25-year-old Tyler Johnson and 21-year-old Brianna Benlolo.

“Tyler was a gift for those of us who knew him and loved him,” said Johnson’s friend Joan Webb Scormaienchi, HC Drug Free. “His father said today that he is with the angels, and I believe that.”

“She was a really loving mother to her beautiful son. Just please remember her as the amazing person she was, and please strive to be the light in other people’s eyes.  Bring the happiness that she would bring to ours every time we saw her,” said Patric Centorbi, Benlolo’s friend.

Amid the grief, questions remain about the shooter.

WJZ has reported extensively on 19-year-old Aguilar’s journal entries. In it, police say he expresses thoughts of wanting to die and has a general hatred of others. Included in his writings is an apology to  his family for what he is planning to do. He indicates that he thought he needed a mental health professional but never told his family.

Aguilar’s journal also mentions killing people– but in general terms He does not mention the victims or any other person.  He does not mention targeting specific people, locations, ethnicities or groups.

“The mall is really the heart of the community. Our kids hang out here.  We consider it a safe place. It’s more than just shopping, so it was very important that we came together here. The problems of the world are also the problems here. We’re not isolated from them. I think that’s important for us to remember,” said Rabbi Susan Grossman, Beth Shalom Congregation.

The mall will hold a moment of silence Saturday at 11:15 a.m.  That’s the exact moment those deadly shots were fired one week ago.

One of Benlolo’s friends will also hold a skate in her honor at the Centennial Park amphitheater in Ellicott City at noon Saturday. Attendees are encouraged to speak from the heart about what she meant to them.

Johnson’s funeral was held Thursday.

The “Brianna Benlolo Memorial Fund” will benefit Brianna’s son and will be set up as a trust to provide for his future health, education, support and maintenance. Contributions can be made at any Wells Fargo branch by referencing the Brianna Benlolo Memorial Fund or can be made by mailing a check to: The Brianna Benlolo Memorial Fund, P.O. Box 1353 , Lynnwood, WA 98046.

The “Tyler Johnson Memorial Fund” will benefit the Community Foundation of Howard County. Donations can be made care of: The Tyler Johnson Memorial Fund, 10630 Little Patuxent Parkway, Century Plaza, Suite 315, Columbia, MD 21044 and online at www.cfhoco.org/give/donate/foundation.

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