A male, single shooter entered the Mall in Columbia today, killing two employees of a skate shop called Zumiez before committing suicide with the same shotgun. The employees, a male and a female, were both in their 20s. Additionally, five other shoppers were injured and taken to a local Howard County hospital.
Columbia, MD is about 25 miles northeast of Washington, DC, so Federal law enforcement personnel joined state, local, and mall police in the investigation. Officers were on the scene within two minutes of receiving the first 911 calls.
The shootings started at 11:15am, taking place on the upper level of the mall in and outside Zumiez. The mall’s food court, filled with customers at the time, is located below. A motive remains unclear, but police would rule out neither rumors of a domestic issue nor concerns about poor customer service.
Of the five injured shoppers, one suffered a gunshot wound. The other four suffered injuries such as twisted ankles, which occurred during the mayhem and following the shootings. Authorities estimated there were hundreds of shoppers in the mall at 11:15am.
It took law enforcement officials over four hours to search and clear the mall of frightened shoppers who were sheltering in place.
This type of violence seems to occur on a monthly basis, if not even more frequently, in this country. Four weeks into 2014, there have already been seven school shooting incidents. The shooting in Columbia comes less than three months after a shooting at the Garden State Plaza mall in Paramus, NJ. And a shooter killed 12 during a rampage at the Washington Navy Yard just four months ago.
Even though this investigation is in its earliest stages, national and local leaders immediately chimed in on the events of the day.
“We are an incredibly safe community in Howard County, Maryland,” said a spokesman for Howard County Executive Ken Ullman, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“The president believes that there are just too many mall shootings in this country,” said a White House spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity. “And if Congress would get serious about passing common-sense gun control legislation, we might see a drop in these incidents which profoundly affect average, ordinary, everyday Americans.”
But a spokesman for Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) disagreed with the White House assessment. “Look, malls are dangerous places,” said Boehner’s spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity. “And average, ordinary, everyday Americans are entitled to defend themselves against the dangerous clothing, music, and food found at their local malls. They have the Constitutional right to do so, and more legislation won’t solve the problem of giving guns to the mentally ill.”