No signs of depression in mall gunman’s journal, family spokesman says
From Shimon Prokupecz and Ralph Ellis
(CNN) — The journal of a 19-year-old accused of killing two people at a Maryland mall over the weekend contains typical teenage writings about acne and rejection by girls, but nothing to indicate he was depressed, a family friend said Monday.
According to police, Aguilar took a taxi to The Mall in Columbia on Saturday morning and then fired as many as nine shots from a shotgun into a skateboard apparel shop, killing 21-year-old Brianna Benlolo and 25-year-old Tyler Johnson before fatally shooting himself.
Family friend Ellis Cropper, who is serving as a spokesman for Aguilar’s mother, told CNN on Monday that police reviewed the journal after the mother called police to file a missing person report.
Police have said only that Darion Marcus Aguilar’s journal expressed “general unhappiness with his life.”
On Saturday, a federal official briefed on the shooting told CNN that preliminary information suggested the gunman aimed only at the two victims, perhaps indicating it was an isolated situation and not a wider shooting spree.
Police have offered no motive for the shooting.
“I know there’s a lot of interest in the motive for this, and I have as much interest in that as anybody,” Howard County Police Chief Bill McMahon said Sunday.
Aguilar was an avid skateboarder, Cropper said. As of now that’s the only known link between him and the skate shop.
Cropper said Aguilar’s mother, with whom he was close, doesn’t think he was dating anyone.
Prelude to the shooting
According to Cropper, here’s what Aguilar’s mother says happened before the shooting on Saturday:
Aguilar was scheduled to report to work for a 5:30 a.m. shift at Dunkin’ Donuts, a job he had held since about September.
His mother offered to give him a ride to work, but he said he would get there on his own. Several hours later, she went to check on him, and the store manager said Aguilar had never showed up, according to Cropper.
The mother then called police to file a missing person report. When officers arrived at her home, she used a cell phone locating service to trace her son’s phone.
It showed he was at the mall.
According to Cropper, police — who were aware of the mall shooting — then asked if Aguilar kept a journal.
Police later returned to the home and seized the journal, along with other potential evidence including computers and documents, according to McMahon, the police chief.
McMahon said Aguilar purchased the 12-gauge Mossberg shotgun in December and also had two homemade bombs in his backpack.
Benlolo was an assistant manager at Zumiez. She had worked there since November 2012, according to her Facebook page.
Her friend Evelyn McDonald said Benlolo, the mother of a small boy, was “just full of energy.”
“She was so nice and just an amazing artist and just an amazing person inside and out,” McDonald told CNN.
“She loved her son. She loved being a mother,” McDonald said.
Johnson had worked at the store for about three months, according to his Facebook page.
Five people went to the hospital for treatment after the shooting. All were treated and released.
Four suffered injuries in the chaos after the shooting. The other injured victim suffered a gunshot wound to the foot. Police said the woman wasn’t in Zumiez; rather, she was on the first floor when she was hit.
Worker at mall: ‘It was just crazy’
Thousands of people were in the mall when the gunfire broke out a bit after 11 a.m. Saturday.
The gunfire sent shoppers and workers running for cover.
“A lot of kids were crying, and mothers were holding on to them,” a mall worker identified only as K.T. told CNN. “I wasn’t worried about me. I was just making sure everybody was OK.”
Once the shooting stopped, SWAT team members moved from store to store. Many people hid for hours after the shooting, police said.
Although the mall was scheduled to reopen Monday afternoon, the Zumiez store will be closed indefinitely, The Baltimore Sun reported.
“We are deeply saddened by the violence that has occurred this morning within our store in Maryland at The Mall in Columbia,” Zumiez CEO Rick Brooks said Saturday. “We’re making arrangements for counseling to be made available to Zumiez employees in the area.”
Memorial sites will be set up outside the mall and in the food court, WBAL reported.
University shootings earlier last week
The shooting was the latest instance of gun violence or threats in ordinary places across the country.
A student was shot dead Friday afternoon at South Carolina State University, prompting a manhunt for several suspects that extended beyond the school’s Orangeburg campus.
On Wednesday, the University of Oklahoma in Norman briefly shut down after a report of a possible shooting that apparently turned out to be a false alarm, the university’s president said.
On Tuesday, a gunman shot and killed another student inside Purdue University’s electrical engineering building. Police said Cody Cousins, 23, an engineering student, killed Andrew Boldt, 21, of West Bend, Wisconsin. Cousins was charged with murder.
Last Monday, a student was shot and critically injured near a gym at Widener University near Philadelphia. Police were looking for a suspect.
CNN’s Ray Sanchez, Joe Sutton, Evan Perez, Greg Botelho, Adam Shivers and AnneClaire Stapleton contributed to this report.
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