.

County Officials United at Columbia Mall Opening after Deadly Shooting

Local politicians ate lunch at the reopened mall in an attempt to help establish normalcy, as police continue to search for a motive in the killing of three.

Howard County Executive candidates Courtney Watson (D-Ellicott City) and Allan Kittleman (R-West Friendship) have lunch together at The Mall in Columbia on the first day the mall reopened after Saturday's shooting. Credit: Andrew Metcalf
Howard County Executive candidates Courtney Watson (D-Ellicott City) and Allan Kittleman (R-West Friendship) have lunch together at The Mall in Columbia on the first day the mall reopened after Saturday's shooting. Credit: Andrew Metcalf

Howard County officials Monday welcomed the media and public back into the reopened Mall in Columbia, with County Executive Ken Ulman describing the event as one of the first steps in moving on from Saturday's deadly shooting.

"Right now we have three important goals," said Ulman. "One is to show our respect and condolences to the victims and their families, to get this mall opened and back to business and third to continue this investigation and do our best to figure out what happened here."

Police spokesperson Sherry Llewellyn said Monday afternoon police have not yet determined a motive in the shooting that left two Zumiez skate shop employees dead as well as the alleged gunman. She said police met with merchants and mall security Monday morning to discuss security but that Monday was "about the community and getting back to some sense of normal."

Ulman was joined by his wife and staff members for lunch inside the food court.

Nearby, County Council member Courtney Watson and State Senator Allan Kittleman were sharing a table for lunch. Watson, a Democrat, and Kittleman, a Republican, are running against each other for County Executive in 2014.

"We've known each other a long time," said Kittleman, about the two lunching together. "This event goes well beyond politics."

Watson said the two found each other in the line to buy Japanese food.

"It's important to show unity," said Watson. "It takes time. There's a period of grief that everyone feels, then we have to move forward together."

"I think we'll become stronger as a community," said Kittleman.

Michelle Jose, the marketing manager for the mall, declined to speak about what additional security measures the mall has taken.

"Right now we're just making sure we have a positive environment for our shoppers," said Jose.

Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-7th District) addressed media before the mall opened.

"This is one of the safest communities in the United States," said Cummings. "It just shows that a senseless act of violence can happen anywhere."

Inside the mall, friends of Tyler Johnson reflected at the now closed Zumiez store, where police said the shooting centered. A Zumiez employee sitting near the memorial at Center Court remembered his friend Brianna Benlolo. Both Benlolo, 21, and Johnson, 25, were Zumiez employees killed in the shooting.

Jen Terrasa, a Howard County Council member, said the shooting strengthened what she knew about the community.

"I think we need to go back to continue to be the great county that we are that's strong, safe, together and prepared," said Terrasa.

Howard County Schools Superintendent Renee Foose said schools had faculty meetings Monday morning to discuss issues that might arise with students  talking about the shooting.

"We're making sure the community has the resources it needs," said Foose.

Ulman said he was more proud of Columbia than ever and didn't believe the shooting would define the city.

"I actually think if people think about this event they're going to think of a strong, resilient, loving, compassionate community with men and woman in law enforcement that did exactly what they needed to do," said Ulman.

Related Coverage

Columbia Mall Zumiez Employee: 'She Was One of the Nicest People I've Ever Met'

Mall Goers Show Sadness, Respect: 'This is a Faith-filled Community'

No Known Motive in Deadly Shooting as Columbia Mall Prepares to Reopen Monday

3 Dead in Shooting at Columbia Mall, Gunman Identified

19-Year-Old College Park Man Identified as Columbia Mall Shooter

Witnesses Describe Gunshots, Chaos in Columbia Mall Shooting

Zumiez CEO Issues Statement on Shooting




Boards

More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »