Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Tragedy at the Mall in Columbia leaves too many questions - Tuesday January 28th, 2014 at 12:58 PM

Tragedy at the Mall in Columbia leaves too many questions

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Columbia Mall shooting leaves behind questions

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January 27, 2014
We join with those who mourn the young people who died in the senseless shooting at the Mall in Columbia Saturday morning. And we are grateful to those police and firefighters who fearlessly responded to the scene and extend our sympathies to those injured, both physically and emotionally, as a result of the incident.
Monday was a day of healing, a time to return to normalcy at the most quintessential of suburban outposts. We believe Howard County Executive Ken Ulman took exactly the right tack in choosing to have lunch at the mall's food court. Whatever inspired 19-year-old Darion Marcus Aguilar to open fire in a skate and snowboard shop, it was an aberration, a lightning strike. Time to move forward, as difficult as it may be, to put the shock and terror of that fateful day behind.
That's not to suggest that victims Brianna Benlolo, 21, of College Park or Tyler Johnson, 25, of Mount Airy will be forgotten. Both were employees of the Zumiez store where Aguilar opened fire, and their deaths will haunt the community for a long time, so pointless was this loss, so stupid, so awful, such an enormous waste.
Brianna, the store's assistant manager, was remembered as upbeat and the mother of a young son while Tyler was leading the challenging life of a recovering addict. Active in 12-step programs, he was just sorting out where life would take him. Indeed, that might be said of all three who died that day, including Aguilar, who took his own life; they were still on the cusp of adulthood and finding their way in the world.
What demons drove this young man, a College Park doughnut shop employee, to bring a 12-gauge shotgun and shells, as well as two homemade explosive devices crafted from fireworks, to the mall? That we do not know. The incident does not appear to fit any of the patterns we have come to expect of such highly-public murder-suicides post-Columbine, post-Aurora and post-Fort Hood — the angry loner or the crazed sufferer of delusions or the ideological terrorist.
This lack of an apparent motive — and the fact that so many of those around Aguilar said they saw no signs of anger, depression or potential suicide — makes the shooting all the more disturbing. He kept a journal expressing, as police have described it, "general unhappiness with his life," but it falls short of an explanation. Rare is the teen who has not entertained similar thoughts — just listen to the lyrics of their music. A certain amount of angst and gloom are standard for the age group.
It is possible we may never know what drove this behavior which, of course, makes it all the more difficult for the devastated families of the victims, not to mention a heartbroken and traumatized community trying to make sense of such senselessness. How do you take comfort that this was a complete aberration when it lacks all justification, even a misguided one?
This much we do know. Howard County rose to the challenge of this 21st century horror, the mass shooting, with the vigor, professionalism and resolve that we recall from the sniper shootings in neighboring Montgomery County in 2002. Not only have county employees distinguished themselves (as did first-responders from neighboring jurisdictions), but we see the same strength, compassion and outreach among local residents.
Affluent suburbs like Howard County, and unincorporated communities like Columbia in particular, are sometimes assumed to be less close-knit then either small towns or city neighborhoods, dismissed as having less sense of place, shallow roots and bourgeois values. But that's not been our experience, and disasters like this one demonstrate that a shopping mall can be as much a rallying point, a community's town center, as any street corner or courthouse square.
That the mall's management would think to leave a memorial book for visitors to sign at the center court Monday demonstrates that they understand this, too. "Forever in our hearts," read the sign outside the Mall in Columbia where the victims were also remembered. It is a fine sentiment and true. But it might also have announced, "forever inexplicable," because that is the sad legacy of that fateful day, too.

To respond to this editorial, send an email to talkback@baltimoresun.com. Please include your name and contact information.
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Maryland Mall Shooter Was ‘Gentle’, Says Mom

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Police ID assailant in Columbia mall shooting; motive remains unknown

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Just 19 years old, a 2013 graduate of James Hubert Blake High School in Silver Spring, Aguilar had been scheduled to work early Saturday, at a Dunkin’ Donuts. He didn’t show up. And by day’s end — hours after his violent, self-
inflicted demise — his mother, having tried again and again to reach him, would report him missing to the police.
Under a sunless sky, gray and frigid, it was about 10 a.m. as the taxi cruised north to Howard County. Soon, Aguilar — who kept a journal, in which he wrote of his dissatisfaction with his life, according to police — would fatally shoot two employees of a clothing shop, spreading terror in a suburban mall packed with shoppers.
Then he would turn the Mossberg on himself.
But why?
Sunday night, almost 36 hours after the shootings, after “a considerable amount of time interviewing families, friends, associates of our victims and our shooter,” investigators still had not uncovered a motive for the attack, Howard County Police Chief William J. McMahon said. He said they had found no connections between Aguilar and either of the young adults he killed, Brianna Benlolo and Tyler Johnson.
Benlolo, 21, of College Park, and Johnson, 25, of Mount Airy, worked together in Zumiez, a store for skateboarders, snowboarders and surfers. Although police said they have found no evidence that Benlolo and Aguilar were acquainted, Benlolo and Aguilar lived a short distance apart.
“There’s still speculation that there was somehow some romantic involvement” between Aguilar and Benlolo and Johnson and Benlolo, McMahon said. “We have not been able to establish that, and I’m not sure where that information is coming from. And it’s becoming very frustrating for the families of the victims to hear this.”
The apparent absence of a relationship between them and their killer adds a layer of mystery to the mayhem. If Aguilar didn’t travel to the mall specifically to shoot Benlolo or Johnson, if his purpose was random murder, why did he stop so soon, with only two victims dead? He had abundant ammo, authorities said. Why didn’t he keep shooting until the police arrived, until they cornered him or gunned him down?
These tragedies are familiar by now, and that’s how they normally end.
“We don’t know why,” said Howard County Executive Ken Ulman.
How it began: The cab pulled up at an upper-level entrance to the mall, near a Sears and a Starbucks, at about 10:15 a.m., just after the mall opened, Ulman said. In view of a surveillance camera, Aguilar got out, toting his backpack, and walked calmly through the doors.
Ahead of him as he entered, in a central area of the mall, was a merry-go-round, which is usually spinning with children. He strolled past it, stepping onto an escalator near the carousel. At the bottom of the escalator, on the first level, is the food court. Under the eye of another video camera, he lingered for about an hour, sitting, standing, pacing, Ulman said.
“We don’t have him on camera in the food court the entire time,” Ulman said. “But we know he stayed in that area because we would know if he moved out of that area. . . . The way the cameras are, we would have seen him somewhere else if he left that area.”
Investigators “don’t know where the weapon was,” Ulman said. The shotgun was new to Aguilar; he bought it last month in Montgomery County, police said. “The assumption is it was in the backpack,” Ulman said. “It certainly wasn’t visible. He wasn’t carrying it openly.”
Then, about 11:15, Aguilar got back on the escalator and rode up. As he got off, the Zumiez store was just steps away. Benlolo and Johnson were the only workers, police said. There was one customer in the store, browsing.
Aguilar apparently walked through the store and entered a dressing room near the back, Ulman said, because the dressing room is where police would later find his backpack, containing a crude, low-grade explosive device made with firecrackers.
Just seconds went by, evidently, before he emerged from the dressing room wielding the loaded shotgun.
“We heard a loud bang,” said Courtney Birkmeyer, 22, who was with her mother in an American Eagle Outfitters store, trying on clothes.
“We thought it might be a clothing rack falling over.”
Seconds later, the two heard more booms, and realized they were gunshots. “Survival mode took over,” Birkmeyer said. “We got into the dressing room as quick as we could, and we crouched on the little bench where you can rest your garments — so our feet weren’t seen, just in case someone was walking around.”
Ulman said police think Aguilar fired six to eight rounds with the Mossberg, using the final round on himself. Like his victims, he died on the floor of Zumiez. The customer in the store suffered no harm, police said.
Birkmeyer said she spoke with her father by cellphone during her and her mother’s harrowing 80 minutes in the dressing room. He was in another part of the mall, near the lower level food court, and kept his family updated with what was going on.
Arriving within minutes, heavily armed police officers swarmed through the mall, looking for a possible accomplice of the gunman, while hundreds of patrons fled to the icy cold outside. Five people needed medical treatment. One of them, who was outside the store, was hit by stray buckshot from the gun and suffered a minor wound, police said. The others incurred small injuries in the frantic mass exodus from the shopping complex.
As for Birkmeyer, “we were kind of safe and contained in our little dressing room,” she said. “So the panic was setting in. But luckily we didn’t have any of the visuals.”
Brandon Cole, 36, of Greenbelt, said he had just taken his 19-month-old daughter’s shoes off so she could run in a play area in the lower level of the mall.
He and his wife, Taylor Cole, were standing behind a bench watching their little girl play.
“We were sitting there quietly, admiring our young baby daughter and the innocent joy that is childhood,” he said. “And I heard two loud booms.”
Then he heard another. “I said: ‘That’s a gun! . . . We need to move! We need to get out of here!’ ” Cole, who works for the Army, said he vaulted over a wall as his wife grabbed their child. They hurried into a J.C. Penney store and eventually out of the mall.
“I saw the threat, assessed and moved,” Cole said. “I just reacted; I didn’t think.”
He said: “I was never scared. And I really only was overcome by emotion when I knew we were safe, and I was able to put hands on my wife and daughter, and just know how close we were to being injured or hurt.”
Meanwhile, back in College Park, Aguilar’s mother, having been unable to reach him, phoned Prince George’s County police to report him missing. They two lived together in a two-story white house in the 4700 block of Hollywood Road. At the house, officers inspected Aguilar’s journal and saw notations that made them realize he might have been a threat to himself.
“The investigator began to actively search for the missing man, to include tracking his phone,” police said in a missing persons report. “The phone indicated it was in the Columbia area, and our investigator soon determined it was pinging at the Mall in Columbia.”
Prince George’s officers arrived at the mall shortly before 6 p.m. “Not long thereafter, it was confirmed the missing person and the deceased gunman were one and the same.”
Referring to Aguilar’s journal at a news briefing Sunday night, Chief McMahon offered few details of the gunman’s musings, describing only his theme: “He does express some general unhappiness with his life.”
Matt Zapotosky, Julie Zauzmer and Dan Morse contributed to this report.
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Colombia prison fire kills nine, injures dozens: media reports

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BOGOTA Tue Jan 28, 2014 6:29am EST
BOGOTA (Reuters) - A fire that broke out in a prison in northern Colombia late on Monday has killed at least nine and injured dozens after a fight between inmates following routine inspections for drugs and weapons, local media reports said.
As many as 42 injured inmates were taken to hospital near the overcrowded Modelo prison complex in the coastal city of Barranquilla, according to local media. The flames were brought under control in the early hours of Tuesday.
Four of the victims died in hospital.
The fire began when prisoners ignited their mattresses as guards launched tear gas in a bid to break up the fighting, according to RCN Radio. Prison officials seized drugs, knives and cellular phones during a day of cell inspections, angering inmates and setting off a battle between gangs.
Semana magazine said the fighting kicked off after an argument between two religious groups.
The prison, with capacity for about 400 inmates, houses about 1,200 inmates, RCN said.
(Reporting by Helen Murphy Editing by W Simon)

Heroin Mix Blamed For 22 Pennsylvania Deaths

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At least 22 people have died in Pennsylvania in the past week from a suspected overdose of a mix of heroin and a powerful narcotic, officials have said.
Attorney General Kathleen Kane expressed concerns that the batch - a mix of heroin and fentanyl - could spread to other areas.
The drug is found in bags stamped with the words Theraflu, Bud Ice, and Income Tax.
The bags were found in Allegheny, Westmoreland, Armstrong, Butler, Lawrence and Beaver counties, Ms Kane said.
"However, these stamped bags could already or eventually be available in other counties across Pennsylvania," she added.
Allegheny County's medical examiner has called the deaths a "major public health crisis".
Fentanyl is a synthetic morphine substitute that is about 100 times more powerful than morphine.
It resembles heroin, though it is much more potent, and it has been blamed for dozens of deaths across the country in the past.
Authorities are working to combat the spread of the batch and track down its origin, as well as informing the public.
"There is a killer out there, and we want to try to stop people from using it," Detective Tony Marcocci told The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
"We are going after the addicts. They can very well supply it to another addict.
"But ultimately our goal is to go after the source - the actual dealers - whether they be in our county or another county."
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Student sets himself on fire at Denver-area school

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A 16-year-old student set himself on fire in a suicide attempt at Standley Lake High School in Westminster, Colorado. Officials say he is severely injured with more than 80 percent of his body burned. VPC
Blair Shiff and Tarhonda Thomas, KUSA-TV, Denver 5:20 p.m. EST January 27, 2014
A police cruiser blocks the entrance to Standley Lake High School in Westminster, Colo., where classes were canceled after a student's apparent suicide attempt Jan. 27, 2014. Police say a 16-year-old boy was critically injured after setting himself on fire at the suburban Denver high school.(Photo: Brennan Linsley, AP)
WESTMINSTER, Colo. — One student was critically injured Monday after he set himself on fire in a high school cafeteria in an apparent suicide attempt.
Fire officials say more than 80% of the student's body was burned after he tried to kill himself at Standley Lake High School in suburban Denver. The 16-year-old, whose name has not been released, was taken to an area hospital.
The fire, which broke out at about 7:15 a.m. MT, was extinguished quickly. Spokeswoman Cheri Spottke of the Westminster Police Department said the teen had not made any statements before igniting himself.
"There is no indication there were any threats," she said.
The teen reportedly doused himself with oil before setting himself on fire and left word of his intentions on social media. Spottke said she didn't know how the student started the fire.
"This is not someone's fault. I had this planned for years," the teen wrote in a social-media post. He went on to mention that friends over the weekend tried to talk him out of the suicide attempt. "If anyone says that they know why I did this, ... nobody knows and nobody will."
The fire was confined to the cafeteria, and a school staffer suffered a minor cut while trying to retrieve a fire extinguisher from its glass-enclosed container. A custodian quickly put the fire out with the extinguisher, Spottke said.
A 16-year-old student set himself on fire Jan. 27, 2014, at Standley Lake High School in suburban Denver.(Photo: KUSA-TV, Denver)
Several other students were in the cafeteria at the time but none was injured.
The building, which houses about 1,500 students in grades 9 to 12 northwest of Denver, did not sustain much damage but smoke did fill the area, officials said. Fire investigators discovered an empty one-gallon can of fuel on the floor.
"Our focus now is making sure the kids are safe," Spottke said.
Investigators went through the school with bomb-detection dogs as a precaution, and no devices were discovered, she said. Investigators also are talking to students, faculty members and family members to find out what happened and why.
Classes have been canceled Monday and Tuesday, said spokeswoman Lynn Setzer of Jefferson County Public Schools. Students who already had arrived on campus were sent home but will be able to return Tuesday for counseling and their belongings.
Self-immolation is rare in the United States and is not listed among the top reasons for emergency room visits resulting from self-inflicted injuries, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Since 2009 in Tibet, 125 people have set themselves on fire to protest China's continuing occupation of that country. In December 2010, a Tunisian street vendor set himself on fire to protest police harassment; his death became the catalyst for Arab Spring protests in several countries.
Monday's incident was the latest to affect Denver-area schools in recent weeks:
• On Thursday, Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., where two gunmen killed 13 people in 1999, went on high security alert after receiving a series of threatening phone calls. The alert applied to a half dozen other schools in the area, in the same school district as Standley Lake, but was lifted the same day.
• On Dec. 13, Karl Pierson, 17, fatally shot Claire Davis, a 17-year-old classmate at Arapahoe High School in Centennial, Colo., before killing himself in the school's library. Pierson reportedly had threatened a teacher and librarian who had disciplined him last year and allegedly was seeking that teacher when he entered the school, investigators have said.
Westminster also was home to Jessica Ridgeway, a 10-year-old abducted on her way to school and killed in 2012. Austin Sigg, who was 17 at the time of the crime, was given to a life sentence plus 86 years for the crime.
Colorado state lawmakers are considering a bill to spend about $250,000 to continue a hot line that students and teachers can use to report threats and bullying anonymously. State officials say the hot line has prevented more than two dozen school attacks since its creation in 2004.
Contributing: Anastasiya Bolton, KUSA-TV, Denver; The Associated Press
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Pentagon, scientists closing in on rapid DNA technology

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Researchers are closing in on the final steps of a new system to analyze human DNA in 90 minutes instead of the two to three weeks it now takes, according to interviews with Pentagon and industry officials.
Such a dramatic cut in the amount of time to get a DNA sample has huge ramifications for law enforcement, war crimes investigations and immigration, said Chris Asplen, the executive director of the Global Alliance for Rapid DNA Testing.
"When it comes to solving crime (not proving it in court but actually using DNA to find the killer, rapist, burglar, etc.) the value of DNA as an investigative tool is directly proportional to the speed at which it can be leveraged in any given investigation," Asplen said.
Pentagon researchers expect to finish evaluating prototypes of the Accelerated Nuclear DNA Equipment (ANDE) system by June, said Jenn Elzea, a Pentagon spokeswoman. The Departments of Homeland Security and Justice are also investigating prototypes, she said.
Once deployed, these systems would significantly reduce the time to analyze DNA, the building blocks of the human body. They would let investigators use the technology in the field instead of sending samples to a clean lab.
NetBio of Waltham, Mass., is developing the rapid DNA prototype under review by the Pentagon's Rapid Reaction Technology Office, Elzea said. The company was founded in 2000 and is based on research done at MIT's Whitehead Institute.
Beyond law enforcement, rapid DNA can be used for a variety of applications, Asplen said. They include immigration, human trafficking, war crimes and natural disasters. Military units could track the DNA of suspected terrorists or militants in places such as Afghanistan to gain a better understanding of the "biometrics" of certain populations.
After the research determines if the technology works well enough to deploy to the field, policymakers need to decide who can be screened and when, Elzea said. The Pentagon is already developing the guidance "for the use of rapid DNA analysis capabilities," she said.
Most government policies governing the use of DNA analysis go back to 1994 and the DNA Identification Act, Asplen said. That law did not anticipate rapid analysis. "The language requires that only DNA tests done in an accredited laboratory may be entered" into the national database. "That language will have to changed," he said.
Follow @rlocker12 on Twitter.
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Maryland mall shooting: Darion Aguilar's mother says he was gentle

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Watch this video
  • NEW:Teen's mother tells reporters she doesn't think Darion Aguilar knew his victims
  • Gunman's journal covers typical teen topics like acne and rejection by girls, friend says
  • Mall reopens Monday afternoon; store where shooting occurred remains closed
  • Darion Aguilar legally bought the 12-gauge shotgun in December, police say
(CNN) -- The mother of a 19-year-old accused of killing two people and himself at a Maryland mall told reporters that her son was a "gentle, sweet kid."
In the conversation, recorded Sunday by a reporter for radio station WNEW, the woman says Darion Aguilar never had a gun before and was a gentle teenager.
"If you were to go into his room you would see what a gentle, sweet kid he was," she says.
She says she cannot understand what happened and that she doesn't think her 19-year-old son knew the victims.
She adds that she feels for the parents of 21-year-old Brianna Benlolo and 25-year-old Tyler Johnson, who were shot dead with a shotgun on Saturday morning at the busy Columbia mall.
ABC also reported the mother's comments.
The woman's revelations come as police look into a journal written by Aguilar. The diary contains typical teenage writings about acne and rejection by girls, but nothing to indicate he was depressed, a family friend said Monday.
Family friend Ellis Cropper, who is serving as a spokesman for Aguilar's mother, told CNN on Monday that police reviewed the journal after the mother called police to file a missing person report.
Cropper said Aguilar's mother, with whom he was close, doesn't think he was dating anyone.
Police have said only that Aguilar's journal expressed "general unhappiness with his life."
Police evacuate employees and patrons from the Columbia Town Center Mall after a shooting resulting in fatalities there on January 25 in Columbia, Maryland.Police evacuate employees and patrons from the Columbia Town Center Mall after a shooting resulting in fatalities there on January 25 in Columbia, Maryland.
The Maryland State Police medivac flys over the mall. The Maryland State Police medivac flys over the mall.
Police escort people from the mall as they assist in evacuations. Police escort people from the mall as they assist in evacuations.
People leave the mall as it is evacuated after the shooting. People leave the mall as it is evacuated after the shooting.
The area outside the mall is seen after the shooting. The area outside the mall is seen after the shooting.
Police patrol outside a Sears store at the mall. Police patrol outside a Sears store at the mall.
Police secure an entrance to a Sears store at the mall. Police secure an entrance to a Sears store at the mall.
Two shoppers leave the mall after the shooting. Two shoppers leave the mall after the shooting.
Maryland State Police patrol outside the mall. Maryland State Police patrol outside the mall.
Police enter the Sears department store.Police enter the Sears department store.
Authorities and emergency vehicles gather outside the mall. Authorities and emergency vehicles gather outside the mall.
Police and FBI agents meet outside the mall. Police and FBI agents meet outside the mall.
Maryland State Police officers gear up as civilians depart Columbia Mall after the shooting. Maryland State Police officers gear up as civilians depart Columbia Mall after the shooting.
Police said at least three people were killed in the shooting. Police said at least three people were killed in the shooting.
Photos: Shooting at Columbia Mall in Maryland
Photos: Shooting at Columbia Mall in Maryland
Photos: Shooting at Columbia Mall in Maryland
Photos: Shooting at Columbia Mall in Maryland
Photos: Shooting at Columbia Mall in Maryland
Photos: Shooting at Columbia Mall in Maryland
Photos: Shooting at Columbia Mall in Maryland
Photos: Shooting at Columbia Mall in Maryland
Photos: Shooting at Columbia Mall in Maryland
Photos: Shooting at Columbia Mall in Maryland
Photos: Shooting at Columbia Mall in Maryland
Photos: Shooting at Columbia Mall in Maryland
Photos: Shooting at Columbia Mall in Maryland
Photos: Shooting at Columbia Mall in Maryland
Photos: Shooting at Maryland mallPhotos: Shooting at Maryland mall
According to police, Aguilar took a taxi to The Mall in Columbia on Saturday morning and then fired as many as nine shots from a Mossberg 500 shotgun into a skateboard apparel shop, killing Benlolo and Johnson before fatally shooting himself.
On Saturday, a federal official briefed on the shooting told CNN that preliminary information suggested the gunman aimed only at the two victims, perhaps indicating it was an isolated situation and not a wider shooting spree.
Police search for mall shooter's motive
MD mall shooting witness reactions
Police identify Maryland mall shooter
Police have offered no motive for the shooting.
"I know there's a lot of interest in the motive for this, and I have as much interest in that as anybody," Howard County Police Chief Bill McMahon said Sunday.
Aguilar was an avid skateboarder, Cropper said. As of now that's the only known link between him and the skate shop.
Prelude to the shooting
According to Cropper, here's what Aguilar's mother says happened before the shooting on Saturday:
Aguilar was scheduled to report to work for a 5:30 a.m. shift at Dunkin' Donuts, a job he had held since about September.
His mother offered to give him a ride to work, but he said he would get there on his own. Several hours later, she went to check on him, and the store manager said Aguilar had never showed up, according to Cropper.
The mother then called police to file a missing person report. When officers arrived at her home, she used a cell phone locating service to trace her son's phone.
It showed he was at the mall.
According to Cropper, police -- who were aware of the mall shooting -- then asked if Aguilar kept a journal.
Police later returned to the home and seized the journal, along with other potential evidence including computers and documents, according to McMahon, the police chief.
McMahon said Aguilar purchased the 12-gauge Mossberg shotgun in December and also had two homemade bombs in his backpack.
The victims
Benlolo was an assistant manager at Zumiez. She had worked there since November 2012, according to her Facebook page.
Her friend Evelyn McDonald said Benlolo, the mother of a small boy, was "just full of energy."
"She was so nice and just an amazing artist and just an amazing person inside and out," McDonald told CNN.
"She loved her son. She loved being a mother," McDonald said.
Johnson had worked at the store for about three months, according to his Facebook page.
One person found dead near guns, ammo
Deadly shooting at suburban mall
Mall shooting happened in one store
Five people went to the hospital for treatment after the shooting. All were treated and released.
Four suffered injuries in the chaos after the shooting. The other injured victim suffered a gunshot wound to the foot. Police said the woman wasn't in Zumiez; rather, she was on the first floor when she was hit.
The mall reopened Monday afternoon, but the Zumiez store will be closed indefinitely, according to a sign on the boarded up storefront.
Memorial sites will be set up outside the mall and in the food court, officials said.
Gun shop owner recalls conversations with Aguilar
The co-owner of the United Gun Shop in Rockville confirmed Aguilar purchased a shotgun on December 10 for about $430 in cash.
Cory Brown, the co-owner, said Aguilar walked in with a friend and after spending about 30 minutes in the store, he was approved to purchase the Mossberg 500.
Brown said Aguilar seemed to know what he wanted.
"He came in and asked for something he can use for home defense. A platform he can start with and grow into. He asked a lot of good questions," Brown said.
Aguilar showed him a learners permit to drive and a change of address card. He filled out the ATF form and was approved within minutes.
Aguilar also purchased two boxes of ammo for a total of 32 shotgun shells, which each contained about 50 small pellets inside.
Brown said Aguilar came back just before Christmas with the same friend and purchased another box of shotgun shells.
He said he wanted to practice more with it, telling the gun shop owner, "there's more kick than I thought."
He purchased another box of shotgun shells for $16.
University shootings earlier last week
The shooting was the latest instance of gun violence or threats in ordinary places across the country.
A student was shot dead Friday afternoon at South Carolina State University, prompting a manhunt for several suspects that extended beyond the school's Orangeburg campus.
On Wednesday, the University of Oklahoma in Norman briefly shut down after a report of a possible shooting that apparently turned out to be a false alarm, the university's president said.
On Tuesday, a gunman shot and killed another student inside Purdue University's electrical engineering building. Police said Cody Cousins, 23, an engineering student, killed Andrew Boldt, 21, of West Bend, Wisconsin. Cousins was charged with murder.
Last Monday, a student was shot and critically injured near a gym at Widener University near Philadelphia. Police were looking for a suspect.
CNN's Ray Sanchez, Joe Sutton, Evan Perez, Greg Botelho, Adam Shivers and AnneClaire Stapleton contributed to this report.
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Venezuelan Leader to Press for Puerto Rican Independence

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Updated Jan. 26, 2014 7:15 p.m. ET
It was an obsession for Cuban leader Fidel Castro —freeing Puerto Rico, the self-governing U.S. commonwealth southeast of Cuba, of what he called American colonialism.
"It fit into his world view and criticism of Washington's imperialism in Latin America," said Michael Shifter, president of Washington's Inter-American Dialogue policy group. "But by the late 1980s, this had faded as an issue."
But now, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, who has built close ties with Mr. Castro and his brother, Cuban President Raúl Castro, says he will take up the cause at the summit of Community of Latin American and Caribbean States in Havana on Tuesday.
"It's an embarrassment that Latin America and the Caribbean in the 21st century still have colonies," he said last week in Caracas. "Let the imperial elites of the U.S. say whatever they want."
But independence for Puerto Rico, which was handed over by Spain after the Spanish-American war, has never gotten much traction. In a 2012 referendum, 61% voted for statehood and only 5% for independence.
Months before that vote, René Pérez Joglar of the popular Puerto Rican band Calle 13 met with Argentina's president, Cristina Kirchner, to ask for support for the independence movement.
Last week, she alluded to the meeting and said "we will do it."
Mr. Shifter said lobbying by Mr. Maduro and Mrs. Kirchner, though, isn't likely to have much resonance.
"They are struggling in their own countries and don't have much credibility outside of Venezuela or Argentina," he said. "I don't think this will give a major boost to the movement."

Mall attack: Darion Aguilar expressed 'general unhappiness,' cops say

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  • Shooting victim is remembered as an amazing artist and mother
  • Still no known relationship between the shooter and his victims
  • Darion Aguilar reportedly bought the 12-gauge shotgun in December
  • Gunman killed the 2 employees inside a skate shop in the mall
(CNN) -- Police say the man arrived at a busy mall in Columbia, Maryland, in a cab, about an hour before he walked into a small shop and fired a shotgun at least half a dozen times, killing two people who worked there.
Why Darion Marcus Aguilar shot two people to death and then killed himself is still a mystery to police. They're investigating who the 19-year-old man was and whether he even knew the people he shot Saturday.
"I know there's a lot of interest in the motive for this, and I have as much interest in that as anybody," Howard County Police Chief Bill McMahon told reporters Sunday.
He said there was still no known relationship between the shooter and his victims, though he did not rule out the possibility that there was one.
Police released this photo of shooting suspect Darion Marcus Aguilar.
Police released this photo of shooting suspect Darion Marcus Aguilar.
Police said that Aguilar showed up at The Mall in Columbia in a taxi and stayed in a "generally confined area" before going to Zumiez, a shop that caters to skaters, on the second floor.
There he fired six to nine shots, killing 21-year-old Brianna Benlolo and 25-year-old Tyler Johnson before turning the shotgun on himself.
The shootings, which left five other people injured, ended a violent week which saw shootings or gun scares at American schools or shopping centers -- ordinary places where people once felt safe.
McMahon identified Aguilar as the shooter at a Sunday morning update for reporters.
Police patrol outside a Sears store at Columbia Mall in Columbia, Maryland, after a fatal shooting on January 25. Police urged people inside the mall to stay in place.Police patrol outside a Sears store at Columbia Mall in Columbia, Maryland, after a fatal shooting on January 25. Police urged people inside the mall to stay in place.
Police secure an entrance to a Sears store at the mall. Police secure an entrance to a Sears store at the mall.
Two shoppers leave the mall after the shooting. Two shoppers leave the mall after the shooting.

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