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Columbia Mall Shooter Reported Hearing Voices, Never Got Mental Health Help

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WJZ general assignment reporter Mike Hellgren came to Maryland's News...
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COLUMBIA, Md. (WJZ) — Columbia mall shooter Darion Aguilar had a disturbing fascination with the Columbine High School massacre. That fascination grew in the weeks before he killed two employees at the mall.

Mike Hellgren has more on the troubled picture police paint of Aguilar’s mental health.

Aguilar confided in one person–his general doctor–that he was having mental health issues. He never saw a psychiatrist. Like others who have committed such violent acts, he had a fascination with Columbine.

As police piece together the profile of the Mall in Columbia shooter Darion Aguilar, they uncover his fixation with the Columbine massacre.

He made videos like Columbine killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, dressed like them, timed the shootings to 11:14 a.m. — the minute of their rampage — and even played a video game simulating Columbine. He’s not alone.

Troubled Perry Hall High School shooter Robert Gladden listed Harris and Klebold as his inspirations on Facebook.

MedStar Good Samaritan’s chief of psychiatry, Dr. Elias Shaya, stresses cases like these are rare.

“This is just another illness, just another condition that is treatable,” Shaya said. “It is very possible that, at the time he saw his general doctor, the symptoms were much milder. It is much more likely for me to be hit by lightning than for me to be shot by someone with psychiatric illness.”

“The brain, all of a sudden, starts doing things that are totally irrational and becomes fixated on it for irrational ways,” he continued. “And it kind of feeds on itself if it is untreated. It is important to realize–this is treatable.”

In an exclusive one-on-one interview about the shooting, Howard County’s police chief said Aguilar was referred to a psychiatrist, but never got help. He reported hearing voices a year before the shooting.

“Frightening, isn’t it?” Chief William McMahon said. “If our son or daughter shows sign of their struggles, if they’re having mental health issues, I’m not so sure we have that same urgency to go seek treatment.”

“I don’t know if it’s stigmatization, I don’t know if it’s embarrassment, I don’t know if it’s not knowing what the warning signs are,” he continued.

“Something that absolutely makes no sense. We’re all struggling to make some sense out of it. And that’s a tough task,” Shaya said.

According to police, Aguilar’s doctor told his mom her son was having mental problems. She has no recollection of that conversation.

Shaya says the stigma over getting treatment for mental illness needs to go. He believes Maryland has more resources to help than most states.

Police have said Aguilar was searching for mental health help online at the same time he was looking up information on mass murders.

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