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January 28, 2014

Maryland mall reopens with grief, more security

COLUMBIA, Md. — The fountain inside the mall was littered with white flowers. The skateboard shop — the scene of the deadly weekend shooting — was boarded up, as if under construction. Outside the mall, a banner read: “Forever in Our Hearts.”

As the mall in Columbia reopened Monday and shoppers and workers tried to get back to normal, there were reminders of the carnage everywhere. Shoppers wiped away tears. People signed memorial books and photographed the exterior of the store where the killings occurred. Politicians shook hands and consoled the grieving.

“I wanted to be here, I suppose, as a symbol of the fact that everyone in Maryland is with the people of Columbia today,” said Gov. Martin O’Malley, who stopped for a cup of frozen yogurt at the mall’s food court.

In the days since Saturday’s shooting, investigators have worked to piece together what drove the 19-year-old gunman to kill two employees of the skateboard shop, but so far answers have been elusive. Police aren’t even sure if the gunman, Darion Marcus Aguilar, knew either victim.

“We haven’t ruled anything out and we haven’t ruled anything in,” Howard County Police Chief William McMahon said in an interview.

Aguilar killed himself soon after the shootings. Investigators said he had no past run-ins with police.

Friends describe Aguilar as an avid skateboarder, a quiet and thoughtful teenager who became a vegan after watching a television documentary on how animals were slaughtered, according to Ellis Cropper, a family friend who is serving as a family spokesman.

He graduated high school in the spring, had taken an interest in environmental engineering and planned to start college classes, Cropper said. At the Dunkin’ Donuts where he worked, he was recently given the keys and responsibility of opening the shop for business, something his mother celebrated.

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