COLUMBIA, Md. (WJZ) — It’s the most horrifying call that any chief of police in the nation can hear: an active shooter in a mall. For Howard County Police Chief William McMahon, it was a reality and a crisis he continues to investigate six weeks later.

Vic Carter spoke with McMahon, who tells us in his own words about the day that changed the Mall in Columbia forever and the moment he heard the call.

“I was actually taking my wife on a three-day vacation,” he said. “The call came out. I headed right to the mall.”

He said he initially wondered if it was a hoax.

“Almost immediately I could tell…that this was in fact legitimate,” he said. “You have lives in danger, you have a community that’s going to be frightened.”

He said that a SWAT team was already in the neighborhood for an unrelated case.

“Fortunately, we were able to have some very well-trained, very well-equipped SWAT officers to partner with our patrol officers to get into the mall very quickly,” he said.

McMahon says in some ways, he feels badly for the shooter.

“I don’t demonize him. I demonize his actions. They were inexcusable. He suffered from mental health issues that were undiagnosed and untreated,” he said. “My reaction is one of sadness and disappointment in that this young man, who was deeply troubled…Even while he was searching through all these gruesome videos, interspersed in those searches are searches dealing with mental health issues.”

McMahon says they’re still waiting on toxicology results on all three people who died and sifting through computer files. He is very proud of his officers and everyone who works to keep public places like the mall safe.

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