On Saturday, a deadly shooting at the Mall in Columbia rocked Howard County.
In the days that followed, family and friends of those who lost their lives, shoppers, employees, emergency responders and the community as a whole have worked to regain to a sense of normalcy .
On Friday, Howard County Police Chief William J. McMahon issued a letter in response to the shooting. In the letter he thanks his colleagues and fellow emergency personnel as well as the Howard County community.
"We train for events like this, but pray we never have to use what we learn. When the call came, our officers did what they were trained to do and ran toward the danger," McMahon writes in the letter.
The Columbia Mall reopened Monday, two days after the shooting that claimed the lives of Brianna Benlolo, 21, and Tyler Johnson, 25. After firing several rounds, suspected shooter Darion Aguilar then turned the gun on himself.
Below is a copy of McMahon's letter in full:
As a police chief, I know that two of the most important measurements of the strength of a law enforcement agency are the effectiveness of our members and the support of our community. The recent tragic shooting at The Mall in Columbia demonstrated to me that the Howard County Police Department has an abundance of both.
Our entire police department, and I personally, have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and encouragement we have received from the public. Through emails, phone calls, social media and one-on-one contacts, you have let us know that you feel we met and even exceeded your expectations that terrible day. We are humbled by those sentiments and proud to serve and protect you.
I am also proud of the selfless dedication members of the police department showed during an incident filled with uncertainty and fear. I am honored to serve with men and women who ran into the mall with the intent of stopping an active shooter and saving innocent lives. We train for events like this, but pray we never have to use what we learn. When the call came, our officers did what they were trained to do and ran toward the danger.
From the first 911 call until the crime scene was cleared days later, our personnel, from dispatchers to officers, civilians and volunteers, commanders and allied agencies, performed their duties for many long hours and without hesitation. I am grateful that they represented Howard County and this police department so well.
I'm also proud of all the people in the mall that day, employees and shoppers, who took shelter and kept each other safe until officers could get to each and every one of them. We hope those of you who were there will take advantage of the many crisis counseling services available, if you need them.
Our hearts and prayers go out to the families of the victims. Police know first-hand that behind every tragedy, there are real people who are in pain, and who are suffering a loss that is difficult for the rest of us to imagine.
Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts, for your continued support. This type of tragedy should never happen, here or anywhere. It's a comfort to know that in the worst of times, we in Howard County band together with a kinship and sense of community. Together, we are stronger.
William J. McMahon
Chief of Police, Howard County Police Department