Friends gather at the memorial books
Around 1:30 p.m., 17 people were lined up to sign memorial books for Briana Benlolo and Tyler Johnson and throw white flowers in a mall fountain.
Some mourners cried. Others hugged each other and spoke in hushed tones about their departed friends. One woman picked up a flower, made the sign of the cross with it, bowed her head and then flung it in the water.
The mall had only been open 30 minutes, but already dozens of flowers bobbed in the pool, where patrons tossed pennies and nickels on happier days. But the mall itself bore few signs of the shooting. Shoppers streamed around her and dance music blared from stores, but the scene was different.
Caitlin Davis, 17, of Columbia, brought flowers to lay at the memorial of her friend “Bri.” Davis remembered Benlolo as “being the nicest person I’ve ever met.”
Davis said it could just have easily been a memorial for her — she was slated to work as seasonal worker at Zumiez this winter. It didn’t work out, but she is employed at the mall’s Game Stop, which is around the corner from the scene of the shooting.
“Standing outside the food court, I was almost crying,” Davis said. “I was almost in tears walking around. This is just unreal.”
Patric Centorbi, 20, of Arbutus, Md., was also friends with Benlolo, who he called “happy [and] energetic.” He said they had made plans to go snowboarding shortly before her killing. Centorbi works at the Hot Topics next door to Zumiez, and he said Benlolo would come over and hang out with him on breaks.
“They were two of the sweetest people I know,” Centorbi said of Benlolo and Johnson.
— Justin Jouvenal