Gunman kills two, self in US mall shooting
By Jewel Samad and Jim Watson, AFP
January 27, 2014, 12:26 am TWN
HOWARD COUNTY, Maryland--A gunman carrying homemade explosives shot dead two people at a popular shopping mall near Washington, D.C. on Saturday before killing himself, U.S. police said.
Investigators were grappling for a motive but said that they had "tentatively identified" the gunman, who had "a large amount of ammunition" still on and around him when officers found his body in a store alongside the two victims at the upscale Columbia Mall in Maryland.
"Because of concerns about any other weapons he may have or explosives, we are approaching this with an abundance of caution," Howard County Police Chief Bill McMahon said.
"We're getting assistance from some of our federal partners and making sure there are no explosives on the body of the deceased."
Police later tweeted that a search of the gunman's bag turned up two crude devices "that appeared to be attempt at making explosives. Both disabled."
They did not immediately reveal the identity of the gunman — who they said appeared to have killed himself with a shotgun — and special units continued to comb the mall late into the night.
First responders were alerted to mid-morning gunfire at the mall, a favorite weekend spot for young families about 45 minutes outside downtown Washington, by an emergency police call indicating shots had been fired inside the two-story shopping center.
Badly shaken shoppers described how they fled in panic or cowered in store doorways. Some made frantic calls to loved ones, as the United States reeled from the latest in a slew of gun-related rampages.
"#HoCoPolice responded to 911 call in less than 2 minutes. Found victims and suspect dead from gunshots upon arrival," the Howard County Police Department tweeted.
Police identified the victims as Brianna Benlolo, 21, of College Park, Maryland, and Tyler Johnson, 25, of Ellicott City, Maryland. Both were employees of skateboard store Zumiez.
NBC television spoke to one man who said he was in phone contact with his daughter, who was taking shelter in a Bank of America branch inside the shopping center, along with dozens of others.
The young woman described a chaotic scene as shoppers were told to evacuate or quickly take shelter.
"People were panicking," her father said.
Howard County General Hospital said all five injured shooting victims have been treated and released. One had suffered a gunshot wound to the foot.
"The other four were either medical conditions or twisted ankles, things like that as people were moving away from a very, very chaotic and dangerous situation," McMahon said.