Gunman kills two in US mall shooting
A gunman in the US carrying homemade explosives has shot dead two people at a popular shopping mall near Washington before killing himself.
Investigators were grappling for a motive but said that they had “tentatively identified” the gunman, who had “a large amount of ammunition” still on and around him when officers found his body in a store alongside the two victims at the upscale Columbia Mall in Maryland.
“Because of concerns about any other weapons he may have or explosives, we are approaching this with an abundance of caution,” Howard County Police Chief Bill McMahon said.
“We’re getting assistance from some of our federal partners and making sure there are no explosives on the body of the deceased.”
Police later tweeted that a search of the gunman’s bag turned up two crude devices “that appeared to be attempt at making explosives. Both disabled.”
They did not immediately reveal the identity of the gunman – who they said appeared to have killed himself with a shotgun – and special units continued to comb the mall late into the night.
Emergency workers were alerted to mid-morning gunfire at the mall, a favourite weekend spot for young families about 45 minutes outside downtown Washington, by a police call indicating shots had been fired inside the two-story shopping centre.
Badly shaken shoppers described how they fled in panic or cowered in store doorways. Some made frantic calls to loved ones, as the United States reeled from the latest in a slew of gun-related rampages.
“#HoCoPolice responded to 911 call in less than 2 minutes. Found victims and suspect dead from gunshots upon arrival,” the Howard County Police Department tweeted.
Police identified the victims as Brianna Benlolo, 21, of College Park, Maryland, and Tyler Johnson, 25, of Ellicott City, Maryland. Both were employees of skateboard store Zumiez.
Howard County General Hospital said all five injured shooting victims have been treated and released. One had suffered a gunshot wound to a foot.
“The other four were either medical conditions or twisted ankles, things like that as people were moving away from a very, very chaotic and dangerous situation,” McMahon said.
The mall of about 200 stores, which has an indoor carousel and play area, is a favoured weekend destination for young and old alike.
Many people living in Columbia, a planned community replete with parks and good schools, work in either Washington or Baltimore.
The most notorious shooting in recent US history took place in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012, when a young gunman entered a primary school and opened fire. In 10 minutes, the 20-year-old shot and killed 26 people before taking his own life.
The Newtown attack briefly reignited the US gun control debate, triggered every time there is a major shooting, although attempts to pass tougher laws have made little headway in the US Congress.