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Mall in Columbia: Shooter had 'crude' explosive devices (+video)

Police have yet to identify the shooter at the Mall in Columbia, Maryland, who was armed with a shotgun, ammunition, and explosives made of fireworks. Three people were killed, including the shooter who took his own life.

By Staff writer / January 26, 2014

Shoppers are evacuated by police after a shooting at The Mall in Columbia on Saturday in Columbia, Md. Three people died in a shooting at the mall in suburban Baltimore, including the gunman.

Evan Vucci/AP

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It took police just two minutes after the first 911 call to arrive at a crowded suburban Baltimore shopping mall Saturday morning, where they quickly found the results of the latest public shooting: three people dead, including a man who had taken his own life. Around him were a shotgun, a large amount of ammunition, and crude explosives apparently made using fireworks.

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Brad Knickerbocker is a staff writer and editor based in Ashland, Oregon.

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Although the violence ended quickly, and the rapid response reflected a considerable amount of training for just such an event at the Mall in Columbia, Md., it was hours before police could be sure that any other potential threat had been eliminated. When the shooting started, many shoppers and employees had taken refuge in storage areas and dressing rooms, some fashioning barricades.

Police have yet to identify the shooter, other than to say he was male, or any possible motive. Speaking to reporters Saturday, authorities emphasized that they could not confirm some press reports that the shooting had involved a domestic dispute.

The two other people killed were young employees of the Zumiez skateboard shop on the second level of the mall: Brianna Benlolo, 21, and Tyler Johnson, 25.

Ms. Benlolo's grandfather, John Feins, told the Associated Press in a telephone interview from Florida that his granddaughter had a 2-year-old son and that the job at Zumiez was her first since she went back to work after her son's birth.

"She was all excited because she was the manager there," he said. "It's senseless. It's totally, totally senseless.”

Witnesses said they heard a succession of gunshots fired near the food court on the first floor of the mall. The skateboard shop is on the second level of the mall, just above the food court.

Five people were treated for minor injuries and released from an area hospital, including one who had received a gunshot wound to the foot.

"This was a very scary incident," Howard County Executive Ken Ulman said at a press briefing. "There were a lot of people very close to where this happened."

Columbia, Md. is a planned community between Baltimore and Washington, designed and developed by James Rouse in the 1960s. The mall, which includes more than 200 shops, kiosks, and restaurants, is the commercial center of the town.

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