- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 25, 2014

A man and a woman fatally shot at a Maryland mall were employees of a skate shop where the shooting took place, Howard County police said Saturday. The man believed to be the gunman was found dead nearby.

Howard County Police Chief William J. McMahon said the shooting occurred in a store called Zumiez above the food court on the upper level of The Mall in Columbia at around 11:15 a.m.

Police late Saturday afternoon identified the victims as Brianna Benlolo, 21, of College Park and Tyler Johnson, 25, of Ellicott City.

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Chief McMahon said the shooter has not been identified because he had a “large amount of ammunition on and about him,” causing police to take precautions before approaching his body.

“Because of concerns about any other weapons he may have had or explosives, we are getting assistance from our federal partners in making sure there’s no explosives on the body of the deceased,” he said.

The chief said police could not confirm reports that the shooting was a domestic incident. He said the man likely acted alone and a shotgun was found near him. He also said no shots were fired by police in the course of the response.

Susan Case, a spokeswoman for Howard County General Hospital, said five injured victims were brought to the hospital from the shooting scene. Most had injuries that were not directly related to the shooting but to the chaotic aftermath. One person had suffered a gunshot wound to the foot.

Howard County Executive Kenneth S. Ulman praised the police response, saying officers arrived within two minutes of the first calls for help.

“Everyone did exactly what they were trained to do,” he said.

The shooting drew officers from departments around the region as well as federal agencies. People were directed out of the mall and into a parking lot, where some boarded a bus and others walked toward their cars. Some people were seen crying.

Joan Harding of Elkridge, Md., was shopping with her husband, David, for a tiara for their granddaughter’s 18th birthday. She said she heard something heavy falling, followed by gunshots and people running.

Witnesses described moments of panic as they heard a succession of gunshots and screaming as people ran for cover into nearby stores and hid behind locked doors.

“My husband said, ‘Get down!’ and the girl that worked in the store said, ‘Get in the back,’” Ms. Harding said. That is where they hid until police gave the all-clear.

Laura McKinzles of Columbia works at a kiosk in the mall. She said she heard between eight and 10 gunshots, followed by people running and screaming. She ran into the backroom of a perfume store and locked the door.

Chief McMahon said the mall, located about 25 miles northeast of the District, had drilled on responses to active-shooter situations in the past.

“This shouldn’t happen in Columbia mall. This shouldn’t happen anywhere. But unfortunately that’s where we are in society and things do happen,” Chief McMahon said.

This article is based in part on wire service reports

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