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January 26, 2014

Three dead in mall shooting

COLUMBIA, Md. — A man carrying a shotgun opened fire at a busy shopping mall in suburban Baltimore on Saturday, killing two employees of a skate shop and then himself as panicked shoppers ran for cover, police said. Five others were injured.

Police were still trying to determine the identity and motive of the gunman who killed a man and a woman, both in their 20s, at a skate shop called Zumiez on the upper level of the Mall in Columbia.

Witnesses described hearing gunshots and screams as shoppers ducked into nearby stores and hid behind locked doors. Many found cover in stockrooms and barricaded themselves until the arrival of police, who searched store to store. By late afternoon, the mall had been cleared of shoppers and employees.

Howard County Police Chief William J. McMahon said at a news conference that authorities had difficulty identifying the gunman because of concerns he might be carrying explosives and were proceeding with an “abundance of caution.”

“We do not know yet what caused the shooting incident,” he said. “We do not have a motive.”

Someone called 911 at around 11:15 a.m. to report a shooting at the mall. Police responded to the scene within 2 minutes and found three people dead — including the apparent gunman near a gun and ammunition — either inside or outside the shop, which sells skateboards, clothing and accessories. McMahon said police were confident there was a single gunman.

Police identified the victims as 21-year-old Brianna Benlolo of College Park, Md., and 25-year-old Tyler Johnson of Ellicott City, Md. Both worked at Zumiez.

Benlolo’s grandfather, John Feins, said in a telephone interview from Florida that his granddaughter had a 2-year-old son and that the job at Zumiez was her first since she went back to work after her son’s birth.

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