Suspect in Columbia mall shooting believed to be dead

COLUMBIA, Md. - Police confirm three people are dead in a shooting at Columbia Mall in Howard County. 

Customers were locked inside stores of the mall as officials worked to secure the area. Officials say the initial calls of the incident came in at 11:15 a.m.

Police report one of the deceased was found next to a shotgun and ammunition. Howard County Police Chief Bill McMahon said it's his agency's belief that man was the shooter. He said the tactical teams were careful with the suspect's body. Given the amount of ammunition found on and near the man, McMahon said there was a concern there may have been explosive devices.

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"We are very confident that it was a single shooter, that there are no other shooters in the mall," McMahon said.

The police chief described the scene as "chaotic." He said all three victims were found at the same time, in the same place, at the same store in the mall -- Zumiez (a skate shop).

Two of those killed were identified by police as Brianna Benlolo, 21, of College Park and Tyler Johnson, 25, of Ellicott City.

At a 4 p.m. press conference Chief McMahon said while they were not ready to release the names of those killed in the shooting, investigators were able to confirm a male and a female, both in their 20s and both employees of Zumiez, were deceased. He said the third person, the suspect, was not an employee of the store.

Officials said in a press release that they expected some shoppers would need to stay locked in the mall for several hours. The mall was cleared after 4 p.m. As a result, the mall was closed to the public. Roads in the area of the mall were blocked. Law enforcement officials said cars would patrol the perimeter of the mall and guard the crime scene inside through the night.

Elizabeth Braun of Carroll County was locked inside a storage room of one of the stores with approximately 50 other shoppers Saturday as a result of the incident. She said among her concerns was that she parked very close to where officials informed them the shooting happened.

"I have to go by there to get to my car," she said.

Katherine Looney was inside Sears to get a new slow cooker. As gunshots were heard in the mall, she said there was "mass hysteria."

READ: Employees, shoppers react to shooting at mall

"I fell," she said. "...I bumped into a display."

Looney was among many who moved and shuffled for doors when gunshots were heard.

A motive is unknown at this time. Chief McMahon said Saturday afternoon while there was much discussion the incident spawned from a domestic dispute, it's something his agency has not confirmed.

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Later Saturday afternoon, officials confirmed the hospital treated five patients from the shooting. All were considered to be in good condition. One patient had a gunshot wound to the foot. The others, police say, sustained minor injuries as a result of the incident.

Howard County executive Ken Ulman said responding officers "did exactly what they were trained to do" in their response to the incident.

"I want to extend my deepest condolences to the victims," Ulman said.

"...The tactical teams went through every inch of the mall, and it has been cleared."

Ulman said he was proud of the local law enforcement response. He said tactical teams had previously trained for an active shooting incident at the mall, and that training seemed to pay off.

"They didn't hesitate. They rushed into the mall," Ulman said.

Stay with ABC2  News for the latest on this breaking story. 


ZUMIEZ ISSUES RESPONSE TO INCIDENT

"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


The following is a statement from The Mall in Columbia:

"Our prayers and support are with the entire Columbia and Howard County communities.    We are cooperating with the Howard County Police Department as it conducts its investigation of today's tragedy.  Howard County Police Department is releasing information to us and the community as quickly as possible and directing people to its Twitter account for the most up-to-date information.  We ask you keep all those affected and their families in your prayers tonight."

-- Ashley Venable, Senior General Manager, The Mall in Columbia


GOVERNOR O'MALLEY ISSUES STATEMENT ON COLUMBIA MALL SHOOTING

Governor O'Malley today released the following statement on the shooting at the Columbia Mall in Columbia, Md.:

"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."

"We thank all of the first responders who are on the scene. I have been in close contact throughout the day with Col. Marcus Brown of the Maryland State Police -- personnel from the State Police, the Maryland Coordination and Analysis Center, and the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems responded immediately to support Howard County law enforcement officials. I've also spoken with County Executive Ken Ulman to offer any other support he needs, and to commend the quick work of the brave men and women of the Howard County Police and our first responders."


MIKULSKI STATEMENT ON COLUMBIA MALL SHOOTING

U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) today issued the following statement on the Columbia Mall shooting:

"My thoughts and prayers go out to the families and loved ones of the victims in the Columbia Mall shootings.

"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."
 


CUMMINGS ISSUES STATEMENT ON SHOOTING

Congressman Elijah E. Cummings (MD-07), issued the following statement after a shooting at a mall in Columbia, Maryland earlier today:

"I am deeply saddened to hear of another senseless act of violence committed today at the Mall in Columbia, in my district.  While we do not yet have full details of what has happened, my thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims, and those injured in the shooting.  I commend the work of law enforcement officers and first responders currently on the scene for their quick and highly professional work in securing the mall and getting people to safety."


ARCHBISHOP LORI CALLS FOR PRAYERS FOR VICTIMS IN HOWARD COUNTY SHOOTING

Archbishop William E. Lori, Archbishop of Baltimore, issued the following statement following today's shooting in Howard County.

"On behalf of the entire family of faith in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, I extend our heartfelt prayers for the victims of today's tragic shooting, and for their families and friends, asking the God of life and of love to bless them with consolation and strength.

"May this day of sorrow, during which we have witnessed but the latest act of senseless violence in our society, turn our hearts and minds anew to the dignity and value of every human life.  May this day spur us on to work and pray for the day that, with every person respected and loved, we will be free from such violence and fear."

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