Mall shooting victims remembered at vigil

Hundreds of people huddled in the cold outside The Mall in Columbia on Thursday for a candlelight vigil to remember Brianna Benlolo and Tyler Johnson, the skate shop employees killed in Saturday's shooting at the mall.

The vigil was held at an impromptu memorial set up outside the mall's west entrance, where suspected gunman Darion Marcus Aguilar entered the mall that morning.


Police say Aguilar, 19, of College Park, shot Benlolo and Johnson with a 12-gauge shotgun about 11:15 a.m. before turning the gun on himself.

The motive for the shooting remains unclear.


Police believe Aguilar frequented Zumiez, where Benlolo and Johnson worked. Aguilar wrote in his journal that he was "ready to die," police say, and assembled the shotgun in a dressing room at Zumiez.

With the sun setting over the mall on Thursday, local religious leaders and friends shared reflections on Benlolo, 21, of College Park, and Johnson, 25, of Mount Airy.

Joan Webb Scornaienchi spoke on behalf of Johnson's family.

"If you are saddened by what happened at the mall, we understand that, but at the same time you are missing the point of what Tyler's life is about," said Scornaienchi, the executive director of HC DrugFree. "You are missing the legacy."

She urged the crowd "to live your life with love and hope.

"That's what Tyler would've done."

Patric Centorbi said Benlolo "always managed to brighten my day."

"All I wanted to say is, please remember her as the amazing person she was," he said. "Please strive to bring light to other people's lives."


Ashley Venable, senior general manager of the mall, said memorial funds had been set up for each of the victims.

The Brianna Benlolo Memorial Fund will benefit Brianna's 2-year-old son. Donations can be made at any Wells Fargo bank branch. The Community Foundation of Howard County has set up a fund in honor of Johnson. Donations can be made by visiting the foundation's website and entering Johnson's name in the memorial section.

The ceremony ended with a moment of silence and a closing prayer, and most of the crowd dispersed. But some lingered by the memorial, which was strewn with flowers, stuffed animals and other mementos.

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Sean Harper, 22, works at the Vans store, located across from Zumiez.

Harper, skateboard in hand, said he had gotten to know Benlolo through working at the mall. He was in Vans at the time of the shooting.

"It's so sad, man," he said. "Innocent lives were taken that shouldn't have been."


Harper said Benlolo was a natural mother — someone who would "give you the shirt off her back."

"I looked at Bri as a real, real close friend," he said. "She was one of the most vibrant people you would ever meet."

Patrick Upman went to pay his respects to Johnson, a childhood friend. Upman, 25, of Ellicott City, said Johnson was always willing to listen and help.

"There are not a lot of people out there who are just legitimately good people," Upman said. "He was always there, no matter what it was. If you needed someone to talk to, Tyler was your man."