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Howard County Police Chief Announces Retirement

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ELLICOTT CITY, Md. (WJZ) — He was the man the community turned to after a gunman killed two people at the Mall in Columbia. Now the Howard County police chief is announcing plans to retire.

Monique Griego sat down with Chief Bill McMahon.

The chief says it wasn’t an easy decision because he still loves his job. Recently, he had to deal with some tough situations that reminded him exactly why he got into law enforcement.

The horrifying call came in on Jan. 25. An active shooter was at the Mall in Columbia. It was a day that would test the Howard County Police Department and its leader, Chief Bill McMahon.

“Columbia Mall was a unique challenge for us in that the shooter went in and murdered two young people and then took his own life,” McMahon said. “And that created a lot of concern in our community and a lot of attention.”

Just under three months later, McMahon, who became the face of the shooting investigation, is announcing his retirement after eight years as chief.

“It’s a decision I made a couple of years ago. Looking ahead, this will probably be a good time. I don’t want to overstay my welcome,” he said.

McMahon says the date just happens to come after one of the biggest challenges of his career. He tells WJZ helping people that tragic day re-energized his passion for law enforcement.

“As challenging as those events are, they really get at the core of why we do what we do,” McMahon said.

During his time as chief, the county has seen huge drops in several major crime areas. While he believes he can still be effective, McMahon says, after 30 years in law enforcement, the time has come to move on.

“Mixed emotions for me today because it’s proud to look back on what we accomplish, but I still feel like I have things want to get done and do. So I’m going to miss it,” he said.

While the chief says the Columbia mall shooting is something that will stick with him, he says the hardest thing he’s ever had to deal with as chief was dealing with the death of Corporal Scott Wheeler.

Wheeler was killed in the line of duty in 2007. McMahon says that is a tragedy he thinks about every day.

McMahon’s last day is June 30. His replacement, Major Gary Gardner, starts July 1.

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