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A security guard Jan. 27 walks past the boarded up Zumiez store where two days earlier three people were shot and killed at the Mall in Columbia in Columbia, Md. / Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images

A Maryland mall was back in the retail business Monday, two days after a shooting rampage left the gunman and two other people dead.

The Mall in Columbia reopened at 1 p.m. with a strong security presence but not very many shoppers. The Zumiez store, scene of Saturday's tragedy, was walled off from the public. A "memorial wall" provided this message: "Zumiez is closed until further notice. In loving memory of Brianna Benlolo and Tyler Johnson, please express your messages of hope and encouragement at the Mall's Center Court."

Ashley Venable, the mall's senior general manager, said people can place a flower in a pond or sign memory books that will be given to the families of the victims.

"This touched people whether they were here or not, watching this unfold on TV," Howard County Executive Ken Ulman said of the shootings. " A lot of people expressed a desire to do something. ... They could come and place some flowers, or have a private moment at one of the two spaces outside or inside the mall."

Customer Faith Leak said the mall and local officials were "handling it gently and tenderly," adding: "I think it's good the mall was closed yesterday. ... I don't think that life should go back to normal completely the next day."

Police and local officials encouraged people to return to the sprawling suburban mall, which features more than 200 stores, including five "anchor" department stores, a 14-screen movie theater and extensive food court.

"Come help reopen #ColumbiaMall today at 1pm. #HoCoPolice will be there, hope you will too. Together, we are stronger," the police department said in a tweet.

Police Chief Bill McMahon said officers have interviewed friends and family members of gunman Darion Aguilar, 19, a quiet teen less than a year out of high school who had no previous problems with the law.

McMahon said police still cannot confirm a motive for the shooting, although in his journal Aguilar expressed "general unhappiness with his life."

Aguilar, who lived in College Park, Md., fatally shot two employees at Zumiez, an apparel store catering to skaters and snowboarders, before killing himself. McMahon said it was not clear whether Aguilar knew either of the victims -- Benlolo, 21, a single mother also living in College Park, and Johnson, 25, of Mount Airy.

Aguilar failed to show up for work at a nearby Dunkin' Donuts early Saturday. His mother filed a missing person report with the Prince George's County Police Department -- more than two hours after the mall shooting. Officers went to Aguilar's home to speak with his mother about 5 p.m. and saw Aguilar's journal. The portion the officer read made him concerned for Aguilar, the department said.

Police began tracking Aguilar's cellphone and soon discovered it was at the mall.

Howard County police said Aguilar arrived at the mall by cab around 10:15 a.m. Saturday. He entered the building near Zumiez, went downstairs to a food court directly below the store, then went into the store an hour later, emptied his backpack in a dressing room and came out shooting.

Aguilar used a Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun that he bought legally in December. Police said Aguilar died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The shotgun was found near his body.

Aguilar carried a backpack containing homemade explosive devices. He also had a great deal of ammunition, McMahon said.

Another victim was shot in the foot. Police said Aguilar fired between six and nine shots inside and outside the store. The shooting spree set off a panic as customers rushed for exits or for cover. It took several hours for police to clear the building.

Contributing: Laura Petrecca; Scott W. Broom, WUSA



Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

Read the original story: Two days after deadly rampage, Maryland mall reopens

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