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Live updates: Shooting at the Mall in Columbia

Police respond to a shooting Saturday at the Mall in Columbia. (Peter Hermann/The Washington Post)

Police respond to a shooting Saturday at the Mall in Columbia. (Peter Hermann/The Washington Post)

Three people are dead following a fatal shooting at the Mall in Columbia on Saturday morning. We’re bringing you the latest updates here.

Where things stand

Maryland State Police patrol the Columbia Mall after a fatal shooting on Saturday in Columbia, Maryland. Three people were killed in a shooting at the shopping mall, located about 45 minutes outside Washington. (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

Maryland State Police outside the Columbia Mall on Saturday afternoon. (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

We’re about to wind down our live coverage of the shooting at the Mall in Columbia. Here’s a look at where things stand and some key updates you may have missed:

What We Know

  • A man armed with a shotgun opened fire inside a Zumiez store on the mall’s upper level at around 11:15 a.m.
  • Two people were killed: Brianna Benlolo, 21, of College Park; and Tyler Johnson, 25, of Ellicott City. Both were employees of Zumiez, a skateboarding store.
  • Benlolo and Johnson, along with the shooter, were found dead from gunshot wounds when police arrived.
  • The shooter had “a lot of ammunition,” the Howard County police chief said. Technicians were working to make sure that the ammunition on his body didn’t pose any additional danger.
  • Five people were taken to Howard County General Hospital. One of them had a gunshot wound to the foot, the others suffered non-gunshot-related injuries. All five were released shortly before 5:30 p.m.
  • The mall was locked down for several hours as police slowly searched the entire building (and all of the offices, back rooms, changing rooms and other places people sought shelter). It was cleared of everyone shortly before 4:30 p.m.
  • The mall will remain closed tonight and Sunday.

What We Still Don’t Know

  • The identity and motive of the shooter. Police said shortly before 8 p.m. he had still not been identified.
  • Details about the lives of the two young people killed in the mall on Saturday.
  • When the people who evacuated the mall will be able to return and retrieve their personal belongings. Police said that they won’t be able to retrieve things on Saturday night.
  • When the mall, home to 202 stores, will reopen.

Key Links

  • Here’s our lead story about the shooting.
  • This video shows the scene at the mall.
  • Where did the shooting occur? This helpful graphic shows where Columbia is, where the mall is and where the shooting took place inside the mall.
  • If you’re not familiar with Columbia, site of today’s shooting, read about the place and its evolution. And then read this story about the mall’s importance in Columbia.

Night falls on the mall

As night falls on the scene of a multiple shooting at Columbia mall, an eerie silence is broken by the distant sounds of a helicopter that hovers overhead.

There are cars in the parking lot just as on any Saturday night, but flickering police lights and crime scene tape hint at the morning’s violence. Authorities continue to comb the mall for clues as they piece together the events. There’s little movement outside but the lights inside remain undimmed, and they’ll stay on for investigators for the rest of this sad, restless night.

— Victoria St. Martin

Personal belongings still inside

Many people who were evacuated from the mall left behind personal belongings. Those belongings are going to remain there a little while longer, as police have said people won’t be able to retrieve them tonight.

Mall to remain closed on Sunday

The Mall in Columbia will remain closed on Sunday in the wake of the shooting, according to a note posted on the mall’s Facebook page.

Police will continue to patrol mall, crime scene

The Mall in Columbia will remain closed through the evening. Howard County police plan to patrol the mall’s perimeter and guard the crime scene throughout the night.

Victim's uncle: 'The odds keep narrowing'

George Sliker, Tyler Johnson’s uncle by marriage, said Johnson’s family members saw news of the mall shooting Saturday and tried frantically to reach the young man, who they knew worked at Zumiez.

When they couldn’t get hold of him, Sliker said, they started calling hospitals. When that failed, he said, they went to the mall.

“The odds keep narrowing. They couldn’t get anybody to tell them anything,” said Sliker, 67, whose wife’s brother is Johnson’s father. “It was horrible for them. You just get a sense for it, I guess.”

Sliker, of Upper Marlboro, said he did not know Johnson well himself, seeing him mostly at family holiday parties. But at those, Sliker said, Johnson was polite and upbeat.

“Everything was going fine,” Sliker said. “He’s a likeable kid.”

Sliker said Johnson grew up in Ellicott City, though his immediate family now lives in Mount Airy. He said that as far as he knows, no one knew why Johnson had been shot.

“It’s very hard on the family, of course, mostly because I’m not sure anybody knows what happened,” he said. “He just seemed like an ordinary kid who was at the wrong place at the wrong time.”

— Matt Zapotosky

Zumiez CEO offers condolences

Rick Brooks, chief executive of Zumiez, offered condolences to the families of the two employees killed in Columbia today.

“We are deeply saddened by the violence that has occurred this morning within our store in Maryland at The Mall in Columbia,” Brooks said in a statement posted to Facebook. “Our hearts go out to the victims and their families. As you have heard from the Howard County Police the two victims are Zumiez employees. They have been identified as Brianna Benlolo and Tyler Johnson.”

Brooks said the company was arranging for counseling to be available to Zumiez employees in the area. He said the company was working with the Howard County police, but said that it would not give any interviews or provide any other comments.

Pulling up to mall as chaos unfolded

Stacy Allwein and her 18-year-old son were pulling into a parking garage at Columbia mall when she said she saw about a hundred people pouring out of the doors.

“A lady ran out frantic, tapping at my window, saying, ‘can you please drive me out?’” Allwein said.

There was a shooter in the mall, the woman reported amid the chaos and rush of other shoppers running around. “My heart just dropped,” Allwein said.

The woman quickly hopped into Allwein’s car and her son drove the shaken stranger to her own car on the other side of the mall. As throngs of police were just arriving at the scene, Allwein and her son left.

Allwein, 49, had headed to the mall to look for a dress. They probably would have stopped in the food court to feed her hungry son. She said she worries about what would have happened if they both arrived just for their trip minutes earlier.

“You never know why these crazy things happen,” Allwein said. “We were just going to go shopping.”

— Lynh Bui

Mall employees and patrons wait in a theater lobby. (Reuters)

Mall employees and patrons wait in a theater lobby. (Reuters)

Where the shooting took place

The shooting at the Mall in Columbia occurred in a store on the upper level. Here’s a better look at where, exactly, this took place.

Here’s the overhead view:

(The Washington Post)

(The Washington Post)

And another overhead view from a different angle:

(The Washington Post)

(The Washington Post)

Here’s the mall directory, with Zumiez located in the “C” on the upper level:

(Screenshot from themallincolumbia.com)

(Screenshot from themallincolumbia.com)

What we know and what we don't know

It has been nearly seven hours since a gunman opened fire inside a suburban mall. Here’s a rundown of what we know about today’s shooting and what we still don’t know.

What we know:

  • A man armed with a shotgun opened fire inside a Zumiez store on the Mall in Columbia’s upper level at around 11:15 a.m.
  • Two people were killed, both of them Zumiez employees: Brianna Benlolo, 21, of College Park; and Tyler Johnson, 25, of Ellicott City.
  • The two of them and the shooter were found dead from gunshot wounds when police arrived.
  • The shooter has not been identified yet, as police are still working to make sure the ammunition he had does not still pose any danger.
  • Police have not determined a motive yet.
  • The mall was cleared of everyone who was sheltered inside after the shooting shortly before 4:30 p.m.
  • Five people were taken to Howard County General Hospital. One had a gunshot wound to the foot, the other four suffered other non-gunshot-related injuries. All five were in good condition and were released shortly before 5:30 p.m.
  • The mall will remain closed at least through the night, police said. Detectives are examining the crime scene now.

What we still don’t know:

  • The identity and motive of the shooter. William J. McMahon, the Howard County police chief, addressed reports that the shooting was a domestic issue during a news conference this afternoon, emphasizing that these reports are all speculative and that nothing has been confirmed yet. So we don’t know yet who the shooter was, why he opened fire, why in this particular store or why these particular people.
  • Anything about the lives of the two Zumiez employees killed on Saturday.
  • When people who evacuated the mall will be able to retrieve their personal belongings, which include house keys and laptops.
  • When the 202-store mall will reopen.
People wait to be transported to their vehicles after being released from the Mall in Columbia on Saturday. (Amanda Voisard/The Washington Post)

People wait to be transported to their vehicles after being released from the Mall in Columbia on Saturday. (Amanda Voisard/The Washington Post)

Police: Shooter dead from gunshot wound

VIDEO: Reporting from the scene

The Post’s Emma Brown reports from the scene outside the Mall in Columbia:

Hospital releases five patients brought from mall

The five people being treated at Howard County General Hospital have been treated and released, the hospital reported.

Shooter still not identified

Howard County police said they still have not identified the shooter, as they continue to work to ensure there is no danger from the ammunition on the shooter’s body.

Police identify two people killed at mall

Police have named the two victims killed today:

  • Brianna Benlolo, 21, of College Park
  • Tyler Johnson, 25, of Ellicott City

Both were employees of the Zumiez store at the mall. The identity of the shooter is still unknown.

Five people at hospital in good condition

The police are reporting that the five patients being treated at the hospital are in good condition. One of them was shot in the foot, but the others were not injured by gunshots.

Growing up in Columbia

If you’re not familiar with Columbia, the site of today’s shooting, a story written eight years ago could be a helpful primer.

Allison Klein, a former Post reporter, wrote about growing up in Columbia in the 1980s and watching as the idyllic suburb dealt with crime and million-dollar homes that replaced rows of trees.

As lofty as it sounds, Columbia was founded on the concept of equality and cultural integration. That’s why my parents moved here in 1973, when I was a year old and my sister was 3. Columbia’s celebrated founder, the late James W. Rouse, established the town in 1967 with the idea of an open community that hopefully would avoid most of the racial, social and economic problems of some urban areas….

[A]ll ‘tweener children in Columbia, including me, spent as much time as possible roaming the mall as packs of bored, lip-glossed kids who could not go to the bathroom without the company of another bored, lip-glossed kid. What we wanted most was to be part of the pack, although I’m not sure exactly what we did other than shove our winter coats under the display beds in department stores so they wouldn’t burden us as we shopped. We hung out at the mall’s now-defunct video arcade and ate trays of french fries at McDonald’s, which once occupied prime mall real estate where the Gap is now located.

Read more here about the Columbia that was and the Columbia sensibility the reporter took with her as she left the region and returned.

O'Malley thanks first responders, police

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) just released this statement on the shooting in Columbia:

On behalf of the people of Maryland, I want to express my deepest condolences to the families of the victims and all those affected by this senseless act of violence. Protecting the public’s safety is our most solemn obligation.

We thank all of the first responders who are on the scene. I have been in close contact throughout the day with Col. Marcus Brown of the Maryland State Police — personnel from the State Police, the Maryland Coordination and Analysis Center, and the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems responded immediately to support Howard County law enforcement officials. I’ve also spoken with County Executive Ken Ulman to offer any other support he needs, and to commend the quick work of the brave men and women of the Howard County Police and our first responders.

Police get message across via social media

Within about 30 minutes of shots being fired at the Mall in Columbia this morning, the Howard County Police Department sent this tweet: “There has been a shooting incident at the Columbia mall. No additional details yet. PIO en route. Will update ASAP.”

Over the next four hours, the police department sent more than 40 tweets from its account — @HCPDNews — to release news as it became known and to correct misinformation.

Many police departments take to Twitter when a crisis hits as the quickest way to spread information. Following the bombings at the Boston Marathon in April 2013, the Boston police primarily released news through 140-character-or-less blurbs on Twitter. When suspected bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was captured, the department quickly tweeted: “CAPTURED!!! The hunt is over. The search is done. The terror is over. And justice has won. Suspect in custody.”

Here is a timeline of some of the tweets the Howard County police released today:

Police: Mall cleared of those sheltered inside

The mall has now been cleared of everyone who was sheltered inside after the shooting, Howard County police said, and detectives are examining the crime scene.

Rescue personnel respond to the scene of a shooting at the Mall in Columbia on Saturday in Columbia, Md. (Amanda Voisard/The Washington Post)

Rescue personnel respond to the scene of a shooting at the Mall in Columbia on Saturday in Columbia, Md. (Amanda Voisard/The Washington Post)

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