Police: 3 dead after shooting incident at Columbia Mall

COLUMBIA, Md (USA Today/WUSA) -- Three people are dead and four others injured after a shooting incident at the 'Mall in Columbia' in Maryland, police said.

Police were called around 11:15 a.m. for reports that shots were fired. When Police made entry, they found three dead in the store, Zumiez, which is located on the upper level of the mall. One of the three dead is believed to be the suspected shooter, police said.

Police have identified two of the victims. Brianna Benlolo, 21, of College Park Maryland and Tyler Johnson, 25, of Mount Airy Maryland, both were employees of Zumiez.

CNN is reporting that "preliminary information indicates the shooting may have been related to a domestic dispute," they were told by a federal official.

During a press conference on Saturday afternoon, Howard County Police Chief Bill McMahon said he believes that the suspected shooter killed Benlolo and Johnson and then killed him or herself using a shotgun.

Police said in a tweet, "One deceased subject located near gun and ammunition. ID unknown."

Police said there were no reports of any additional shots fired. The mall has been closed to the public and police say that people who were evacuated after the incident will not be able to retrieve their belongings Saturday night.

Witnesses said they heard gunshots, setting off a scramble as shoppers fled the mall or ran to hide.

Ed Main was shopping at the Justice store with his son Noah, 15, his daughter Tori, 12, and his niece Ana Collins, 18, when they heard two loud pops. He said they were hustled by an employee into a storeroom in the back of the store. Main, from nearby Westminster, said the employee "shut the door and barricaded it from the inside."

It was more than an hour before they were able to exit the mall.

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.

Joan Harding, of Elkridge, 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.

"My husband said, 'Get down!' and the girl that worked in the store said, 'Get in the back,' " Harding said. They hid there until police gave the all-clear.

The U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski said in a statement, "My thoughts and prayers go out to the families and loved ones of the vicitms in the Columbia Mall shootings as well as to those who remain in the mall under lockdown. Like all Marylanders, I am shocked and saddened by this incident. I have reached out to County Executive Ulman to offer appropriate federal assistance as he leads the community through this difficult time."

Governor O'Malley released the following statement after the incident: "On behalf of the people of Maryland, I want to express my deepest condolences to the families of the victims and all those affected by this senseless act of violence. Protecting the public's safety is our most solemn obligation."

Zumiez also released a statement Saturday evening:

"We are deeply saddened by the violence that has occurred this morning within our store in Maryland at The Mall in Columbia. Our hearts go out to the victims and their families.As you have heard from the Howard County Police the two victims are Zumiez employees. They have been identified as Brianna Benlolo and Tyler Johnson. We're making arrangements for counselling to be made available to Zumiez employees in the area.

As you can imagine, we are receiving numerous calls and are unable to respond to the flood of questions at this time. We're working with the Howard County police department and all information will come through them. We won't be giving interviews or comments. Thank you for understanding.

The Zumiez team is a tight knit community and all of our hearts go out to Brianna and Tyler's families." Rick Brooks, Zumiez CEO

Police said this is an active crime scene and they do not have a motive for the shooting.

Howard County General Hospital received five patients from the shooting. One of the victims was shot during the incident. The other patients sustained injuries during the scene. Officials said, "All are in good condition." The five patients were released from the hospital Saturday evening.

Police had tweeted earlier, "Two victims with minor injuries that were NOT directly related to the shooting were transported to HCGH. No other injuries reported." WUSA9 reporter on the scene says the two were taken to the hospital due to seizure and ankle injury.

Police will be holding another press conference at 4:00 p.m.

The mall will be closed "at least through tonight", police said.


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