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Gunman in Maryland mall shooting is identified; motive unknown

January 26, 2014|By Richard Simon | This post has been corrected, as indicated below.

COLUMBIA, Md. -- Police on Sunday identified the gunman in a shooting Saturday at a shopping mall here that left three people dead, including the shooter. Authorities said they are still trying to determine the motive.

"We want to find out why this occurred," Howard County police Chief William McMahon said at a news conference in the mall parking lot.

The gunman was identified as Darion Marcus Aguilar, 19, of College Park, Md. One of the victims, Brianna Benlolo, 21, was also from College Park, but police said they had not yet found any evidence that the gunman knew Benlolo or the other victim, Tyler Johnson, 25, of Mount Airy, Md. Both victims worked at a skateboard store in the mall.

PHOTOS: Maryland mall shooting

Authorities said they searched the gunman's home, recovering ammunition and a computer they plan to examine. Efforts to identify the shooter were delayed because of fear he was "booby trapped." Aguilar was carrying a backpack containing homemade explosives, police said.

Aguilar, armed with a 12-gauge shotgun, was dropped off by a taxi on the mall's upper level about an hour before the shooting, the chief said.

"We know he went downstairs, and then we saw him come back upstairs, and that's when the shooting began," McMahon said. He said Aguilar fired six to eight shots.

Authorities planned to make grief counselors available Sunday for shoppers and store workers going to the mall to recover belongings left behind in the shooting. Otherwise, the mall remained closed Sunday. When it reopens, perhaps Tuesday, a strong police presence is planned.

Courtney Birkmeyer, 22, was in the mall parking lot Sunday, the day after she and her mother were inside during the shooting, hunkered down in a dressing room.

"We heard a loud bang, and we weren't sure what it was at first," she said. "And then we heard two more right afterward. We realized they were gunshots."

"I was pretty scared," Birkmeyer recalled. "I was glad my mom was there."

Birkmeyer described herself Sunday as still shaky, but said she and her mother planned to keep shopping at the mall after it reopens.

[For the record, 9:00 p.m. Jan. 26: An earlier version of this post said shooting victim Tyler Johnson lived in Ellicott City, Md.  He lived in Mount Airy.]

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