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Mall Shooter Planned For Year Before Attack

P. Kenneth Burns / WYPR

The 19-year-old College Park man responsible for the shootings at The Mall in Columbia had been planning the attack for at least a year, Howard County investigators said Wednesday. He also sought psychiatric help during that time, investigators said.

They also confirmed there was no link between Aguilar and his victims, 21-year-old Brianna Benlolo and 25-year-old Tyler Johnson.

Police released more details of the on-going investigation into the incident that left two employees of a skate shop dead.

Police Chief Bill McMahon said Darion Aguilar looked at violent images and at websites devoted to mass shootings starting in January 2013 and that he had a particular fascination with the 1999 Columbine school shooting.

“He [was] visiting sites that are devoted to mass shootings, including those at schools and at malls,” said McMahon.

According to McMahon, Aguilar told a doctor last April that he was hearing voices in his head. But the doctor’s notes from that visit for a medical condition said the voices were “non-specific, non-violent and really not directing him to do anything."  The doctor referred Aguilar to a psychiatrist, but police said there was no evidence that he ever saw one.

Aguilar researched guns and explosive devices on the internet and downloaded a game based on Columbine. At the same time, he also continued to look at websites on mental health issues, investigators said.

“It becomes apparent to us that he knows he has something going on that needs to be dealt with,” McMahon said.  The websites on mental health included chat rooms for those contemplating taking their own life, but it’s not clear if Aguilar took advantage of the counseling those sites offered.

  Actions towards the shooting began in December when Aguilar legally purchased the  Mossberg 500 shotgun he used in the attack from a gun shop in Rockville.  He would purchase ammunition for the gun weeks later from the same gun shop and from the Bass Pro Shops at Arundel Mills Mall in Hanover.

Police also obtained evidence that Aguilar purchased materials to make explosive devices in January from a Home Depot in College Park.  The devices made were not powerful enough to do structural damage to the mall.

Investigators also found video of the gun and ammunition devices along with a journal of some 20 pages, with thoughts on death, suicide and killing people.

McMahon criticized early reports that there was a romantic link between the shooter and his victims.  “[The] inaccurate reporting of a domestic relationship between them was a distraction for us but more importantly, it was very, very painful to their families,” he said.

Howard County Police have posted photos obtained through the investigation of the suspect purchasing the gun and explosive making materials on their website.