ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — Months after a shooter opened fire inside the Columbia Mall, detectives are still learning from the event.
As Gigi Barnett explains, police departments are using the incident to prepare officers for another potential mall rampage.
In the dead of winter, 19-year-old Darion Aguilar opened fire inside the Columbia Mall. Detectives say he came with an intent to kill.
Twenty-one-year-old Brianna Benlolo and 25-year-old Tyler Johnson–coworkers–lost their lives in Aguilar’s rampage and thousands more lost their sense of safety.
“There’s a lot of talk about the impact it’s had on the community and that’s undeniable,” said Howard County Police Chief William McMahon.
Now police in other counties are determined to make sure they’re ready if another one strikes.
This weekend, Anne Arundel County police and fire teamed up, used the Westfield Mall in Annapolis and drilled. In this simulation, a shooter killed 15 shoppers and injured dozens of others.
“We live in a different world today. We know that there are high-impact incidents. Although they’re low in frequency, we need to be prepared for that,” said Anne Arundel County Fire Chief Michael Cox, Jr.
Police say valuable lessons could come from this drill, because since the 1999 Columbine shooting, police have changed their tactics.
“We no longer surround, call SWAT and wait while people die. Our first responders are 24, 25-year-old patrol officers tasked with identifying a threat and then going into a scenario,” said Anne Arundel County Police Chief Kevin Davis.
They’re the ones who need to be prepared the most.
“These are 20-somethings, and they’re assessing a threat situation literally within seconds. And to see how they handled that was extraordinary,” said Anne Arundel County Executive Laura Neuman.
Anne Arundel County police officers reached out to the Howard County Police Department before the simulation. They wanted details from the January mall shooting so this weekend’s drill was as real as possible.
Anne Arundel County Police say no live firearms were used during the simulation.
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