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Live updates: Columbia mall reopening

Members of the media stand outside the closed Zumiez store at the Mall in Columbia on Monday.  (AP Photo/Jessica Gresko)

Members of the media stand outside the closed Zumiez store at the Mall in Columbia on Monday. (AP Photo/Jessica Gresko)

The Mall in Columbia reopened at 1 p.m. Monday, two days after a gunman killed two mall employees and took his own life. We’ll bring you live updates from the scene.

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Media tours mall before opening

Members of the media have gathered at the Mall in Columbia for a tour of the mall as it prepares to open to the public for the first time since Saturday’s shooting.

The mall is scheduled to open at 1 p.m. More than two dozen members of the media gathered shortly before 10 a.m. for a half-hour tour of the mall.

— Patrick Svitek

Members of the news media gather for a tour of the Mall at Columbia. (Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post)

Members of the news media gather for a tour of the Mall at Columbia. (Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post)

Mark Berman
January 27, 10:35 am
  • Mark Berman January 27, 10:35 am

Memorial wall replaces Zumiez

The Zumiez store where the shooting occurred has been shuttered. A memorial to Brianna Benlolo and Tyler Johnson, the two Zumiez workers killed Saturday, now stands outside the store’s walls.

Mark Berman
January 27, 10:37 am
  • Mark Berman January 27, 10:37 am
Mark Berman
January 27, 10:40 am
  • Mark Berman January 27, 10:40 am

Eerily silent and empty

The Columbia Mall normally opens at 10 a.m., but Monday morning it was eerily silent and empty as the media was led on a tour at that hour.

Zumiez, the scene of Saturday’s shooting, had been covered in whitewashed plywood that featured a thank you to Howard County officials and first responders.

It also had this simple message: “Zumiez is closed until further notice,” it read. “In loving memory of Brianna Benlolo and Tyler Johnson.”

Mall officials created indoor and outdoor memorials to the tragedy. The indoor one at the Center Court featured books that mall patrons could sign and flowers that could be floated in a fountain. Mall officials said the books will be presented to the victims’ families. The outdoor memorial features candles, flowers and a banner that reads “Forever in Our Hearts.”

The mall is scheduled to reopen at 1 p.m. Monday.

— Justin Jouvenal

Mark Berman
January 27, 10:57 am
  • Mark Berman January 27, 10:57 am

Photo: Memorial outside the mall

A memorial has been set up outside one of the mall’s entrances:

The memorial outside a mall entrance. (Patrick Svitek/The Washington Post)

(Patrick Svitek/The Washington Post)

Mark Berman
January 27, 11:11 am
  • Mark Berman January 27, 11:11 am

Mall officials made repairs, say it's ready to open

The Mall in Columbia is ready to reopen after  the shooting, Ashley Venable, senior general manager of the mall, said this morning.

Mall officials were given access to the mall in the early morning hours Sunday and “immediately went to work” to prepare to open again, she said. Physical repairs to the mall, which mostly focused on storefront entrances authorities entered, are complete, Venable said.

Before a tour of the mall with members of the media, Venable detailed the mall’s efforts to remember the victims, including memory books that mall patrons can sign and that will ultimately go to the victims’ parents.

“Their loss is our community’s loss,” she said of the victims. “We all need to be there for them and for each other.”

— Patrick Svitek

Displays set up near the mall fountain. (Patrick Svitek/The Washington Post)

Displays set up near the mall fountain. (Patrick Svitek/The Washington Post)

Mark Berman
January 27, 11:34 am
  • Mark Berman January 27, 11:34 am

Police still haven't found a motive

The investigation into Saturday’s shooting at the Columbia mall continues, but police have been unable to unearth any warning signs or worrisome hints in Darion Marcus Aguilar’s past:

He has no criminal record that police or online court records can turn up. He’s had no contact with Maryland’s mental health system that authorities have found, law enforcement officials said.

But on Saturday, police say, Aguilar took a taxicab to the Mall in Columbia before shooting and killing two people and himself. More than two days later, authorities are still trying to piece together why that store, why those people and why this happened:

Police also are trying to figure out why Aguilar walked into the Zumiez store, pulled a shotgun and killed two employees: Brianna Benlolo, 21, and Tyler Johnson, 25. He then killed himself in the store, never going back out into the mall or threatening anyone else, even though he was laden with ammunition. Authorities said they have found no connection between Aguilar and the people he shot.

Howard County Police Chief William J. McMahon said at a news conference Sunday night that authorities had discovered a journal in a search of the College Park home Aguilar shared with his mother. McMahon said the teenager had written about his “general unhappiness” in life.

Mark Berman
January 27, 12:02 pm
  • Mark Berman January 27, 12:02 pm

Mall employees followed their training

Mall in Columbia retailers “did exactly what they were trained to do” in response to Saturday’s shooting, Ashley Venable, senior general manager of the mall, said this morning.

Speaking to reporters before a tour of the mall, Venable said the workers either left the mall or sheltered in place, ensuring the safety of both retailers and customers.

— Patrick Svitek

A security guard stands near the entrance of the Mall in Columbia in Monday. (Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post)

A security guard stands near the entrance of the Mall in Columbia on Monday. (Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post)

Mark Berman
January 27, 12:24 pm
  • Mark Berman January 27, 12:24 pm
Mark Berman
January 27, 12:44 pm
  • Mark Berman January 27, 12:44 pm

Media crowd gathers outside mall

With the mall reopening in minutes, right now there are more media members outside than shoppers:

(Mike Rosenwald/The Washington Post)

(Mike Rosenwald/The Washington Post)

Mark Berman
January 27, 12:54 pm
  • Mark Berman January 27, 12:54 pm
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