Columbia downtown patrons say mall shooting details won't change habits

Howard County police shared disturbing details Wednesday morning about the thoughts and apparent plans of Columbia mall shooter Darion Marcus Aguilar. Those details, however, didn't change the reaction many have had toward the mall since the violence shook a community and its primary gathering place.

"I don't think it will impact my patronage," said Tom Busch, a 69-year-old Columbia resident who works within walking distance to the mall. "I was shocked that something like this happened. But it can happen anywhere."

At a news conference at police headquarters, Chief Bill McMahon said that Aguilar had no connection to the two Zumiez employees he killed -- Brianna Benlolo, 21, and Tyler Johnson, 25 -- and that he had designs on a mass shooting.

McMahon said investigators believe Aguilar, 19, acted alone, and that the attack was random. McMahon also said Aguilar researched mass shootings and was enthralled with the Columbine shooting. He even waited until 11:14 a.m. Jan. 25 to launch his attack -- the same time the two Columbine students opened fire in 1999.

Police also said Aguilar fired nine rounds, though he had 54 rounds with him.

Columbia resident Jasmine Lyon, 53, said she feels safe going to the mall and that, if anything, the randomness of Aguilar's attack hasn't changed that. 

"I've lived here a long time. This is just one case, it's not like it happens every year," she said. "I'm not afraid of something (like that) happening again here."

Elliot Sperling, 22, of Columbia, said he is less inclined to go to the mall now.

"I don't go much to begin with, but it's kind of scary it happened here," said the Hammond High School graduate.

Sperling said that the details do not affect his perception of the mall either way.

"When it's targeted you could feel safer, but you still don't know. For me, the fact that it happened is enough to deter me. Either way, it's scary."

Wanda Martin, a current resident of Silver Spring who lived in Columbia for 30 years, said she still frequents the mall, and that the shooting won't change that.

"Our society is so different today. It could be us at anytime in any mall," she said. "You can't be afraid of everywhere you go. We can't be locked in our homes." 

Dave Procida, 58, a 17-year Columbia resident who said he goes to the mall about once a week, shared Martin's sentiment.

"That was an aberration. It could have happened anywhere," he said. "It's a terrible event, but if we started (changing our habits), we would be living in a hole."

Elkridge residents Manish and Juhi Srivastava, who were leaving a meal at Clyde's in Columbia, said the shooting hasn't changed how they feel about going to the mall.

"We aren't big mall people, but it really does not change anything," said Manish, 39, who said he goes to the mall once a month. 

Suki Lee, 52, said she works at the central branch of the Howard County Library System, located within sight of the mall, and that her habits haven't changed, either.

"I've worked in the public for 25 years; every day you don't know what's going to happen," she said.

Lee said fearing the worst in public places is not how she lives her life.

"I'm a runner. If that's how I look at things, I would never go running," she said. 

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