Police seek friends of Columbia mall shooting gunman - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Police seek friends of Columbia mall shooting gunman

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Howard County police handed out this flyer Tuesday night in hopes of finding friends of Aguilar. (Photo via twitter) Howard County police handed out this flyer Tuesday night in hopes of finding friends of Aguilar. (Photo via twitter)
COLUMBIA, Md. -

Darion Aguilar, the young man whom authorities say shot and killed two employees at a shopping mall in Columbia, Maryland on Saturday, was not alone when he purchased a shotgun in December. Investigators say the friend who accompanied him to a Montgomery County gun store went back to the store when Aguilar purchased more ammunition.

It's unclear whether police have identified the friend for questioning. Police in Howard County are now asking any friends of Aguilar to contact them as they attempt to determine a motive for the mall shootings and Aguilar's subsequent suicide.

Police say they still have no motive in the shooting that killed Brianna Benlolo, 21, and Tyler Johnson, 25, who worked at Zumiez, a store for skateboarders, snowboarders and surfers.

Howard County police said Tuesday they have learned Aguilar frequented Columbia Mall often, and would hang out outside in small groups and smoke. They distributed a flyer to stores in the mall on Tuesday hoping to find mall employees and frequent customers who knew him.

Police tweeted that they need to do more interviews before releasing the contents of Aguilar's journal, but they say Aguilar knew he was having mental issues. They say the journal, which was handwritten, offers no insight into whether he knew the victims. Police are still working to access his electronics, including his computer and cell phone.

The shotgun used was purchased for $460 in cash at the United Gun Shop on Randolph Road, just outside the city limit of Rockville, Md. on Dec. 10, according to the owners.

Co-owner Cory Brown said the then-18-year-old Aguilar was polite, well-spoken, and clean cut. Aguilar, said Brown, did not appear interested in assault-type weapons, only in a shotgun for "home defense."

In filling out the federal background check form, Aguilar voluntarily supplied his social security number. Because Aguilar had no criminal record, the instant background check placed no impediment for the sale, which included two boxes of ammunition.

Given the "proceed" signal and the customer's polite and sensible demeanor, "There wasn't a red flag," the gun shop owner told FOX 5. "There wasn't even a yellow flag."

Brown said the friend who accompanied Aguilar was also a slim young man. The friend, said the gun store owner, did not appear to be particularly interested in weapons, and spent part of his time in the shop examining survival rations.

On Saturday at the mall, police were wary of crudely-fashioned possible explosives, so they did not immediately search Aguilar's body. But they got the serial number off the shotgun at the scene, called the manufacturer, and then called the wholesaler. Police learned that the weapon had been purchased in Montgomery County.  

Investigators called United Gun around 4:30 p.m. Saturday. One of the shop owners supplied Aguilar's name to police based on the sales record.

Even though the store has a parking lot, one of the owners remembers seeing on the security cameras that Aguilar and the friend did not walk to a car. Instead, they walked away with the gun in a cardboard box toward the sidewalk on Randolph Rd. That may mean that the mysterious friend could live in the neighborhood of the gun shop. That neighborhood is Montrose Park.

Howard County police did not specifically respond to FOX 5's questions about the friend who accompanied Aguilar during the gun and ammo purchases.

An 18-year-old who tells us he was friends with the victims says Brianna Benlolo never acted as if she had any relationship problems. Darren Green says she never mentioned any bad or abusive relationships. He says he spent a lot of time with the young employees at Zumiez and they didn't deserve what happened.

ANYONE WITH INFORMATION ON DARION AGUILAR IS ASKED TO CALL HOWARD COUNTY POLICE AT 410-313-3200.

FOLLOW HOWARD COUNTY POLICE ON TWITTER: @HCPDNEWS


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