MARYLAND

Columbia mall shooting victims honored at vigil

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COLUMBIA, Md. (WJLA) - A vigil is being held Thursday evening for the two young victims of a fatal shooting at The Mall in Columbia last weekend. It comes as investigators in Howard County continue to release bits of information about the gunman, Darion Aguilar.

Brianna Benlolo, 21, and Tyler Johnson, 25, were fatally shot Saturday inside the Zumiez store at The Mall in Columbia. Photo: Facebook

The flowers at the memorial outside the mall have faded, but for many, the pain is fresh. 

“They were always very nice,” says Amanda Kern. “[Brianna Benlolo] always had a smile on her face.”

Kern works at the mall and knew the victims, 21-year-old Benlolo and 25-year-old Tyler Johnson. Many are still consumed with loss, grief and confusion.

“It’s just really bizarre that it’s just out of the blue,” says Denise Talley of Suitland.

Investigators continue to seek what motivated 19-year-old Aguilar. Police say he emerged from a dressing room at Zumiez Saturday and opened fire on the two shop employees with a shotgun before turning the gun on himself.

“There is just no connection,” says Ree Jones of Suitland. “It’s just crazy.”

Investigators continue to comb Aguilar’s journal. Police say they learned Aguilar knew he had psychological problems, but didn’t go for help and hid it from his family. The journal also showed he pondered killing people, though he didn’t specify who. The final entry includes an apology to his family for what he was about to do.

Tonight, many Columbia mall employees will join in the vigil, a demonstration of grief and resilience.

“They want to come out and show their support and at the same time we are here, we are surviving it,” Kern says.

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