Three people died Saturday during a shooting inside the Mall in Columbia, located outside Baltimore, Md.
Officers with the Howard County Police Department around 11:15 a.m. responded to a report of shots fired inside the mall. Police entered and found three bodies inside and around upper-level skate shop Zumiez.
Two of the victims were identified as Brianna Benlolo, 21, of College Park, and Tyler Johnson, 25, of Ellicott City. Both were Zumiez employees, according to police
The third body belonged to the suspected shooter, who police believe acted alone. The deceased suspect, whose identity was not immediately released, was found near a shotgun and a large quantity of ammunition, according to authorities. Investigators said in a news briefing around 4 p.m. that, due to volume of ammo recovered, federal officials were inspecting the body for explosives before removing it from the mall. Law enforcement did not fire any shots during the incident, investigators said.
Five other people were injured in the crime but all of them had been released from the hospital Saturday evening. One person was treated at Howard County General Hospital for a gunshot wound to the foot. Four people were taken to the hospital with medical or incidental injuries suffered in the chaos that erupted just after the shooting.
Investigators said around 2 p.m. some of the people that had been sheltered inside the mall for nearly three hours were being let out. The mall was cleared of patrons around 4 p.m. but was still being treated as a crime scene. Police said they would patrol the perimeter through the night.
Howard County police chief Bill McMahon told reporters it took SWAT teams hours to systematically sweep through the property and retrieve the "many, many" people who had hunkered down inside. "You know, I’m sure, how many people were in the mall on a Saturday afternoon," McMahon said. "It was a chaotic scene."
There was not yet word Saturday evening on a motive in the crime. Howard County police officials said though some reports indicated the shooting was spurred by a domestic incident, that information had not been confirmed.
The mall was expected to be closed at least through Saturday night as investigators conducted interviews and reviewed surveillance footage.
"This has obviously been a tremendously trying few hours and we’ve seen a lot of patience," Howard County executive Ken Ulman said during a news conference. "We ask that people proceed to bear with us. This is an active crime scene and it is going to be an active crime scene for some time."
McMahon extended the department's condolences to the victims' loved ones. "This shouldn’t happen in the Columbia mall," he said. "It shouldn’t happen anywhere but, unfortunately, it’s how we are in society."
Contact Alex Wigglesworth at 215-854-2305 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @phila_lex on Twitter.
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