MARRIOTTSVILLE, Md. (AP) — A man who killed two people at a Maryland mall in January before killing himself acted alone, had no connection with his victims and may have had a fixation with the 1999 Columbine High School shooting, police said Wednesday.
Howard County Police Chief William J. McMahon said during a news conference that extensive searches of computers, cellphones and other records show no indication that the gunman, 19-year-old Darion Aguilar, knew the victims of the Jan. 25 shooting at the Zumiez skateboarding and snowboarding store.
Investigators found thousands of searches on Aguilar's computer related to mass murder. He also looked up websites for people with mental health problems and told a doctor he was hearing voices, McMahon said.
Several pieces of information led police to believe Aguilar was fixated with the shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado. Police believe Aguilar may have waited inside the mall for over 40 minutes in order to begin his shooting at the same time that the Columbine massacre started, at 11:14 a.m., McMahon said.
In 1999, two students opened fire at Columbine, killing 12 classmates and a teacher and wounding 26 others before killing themselves in the school's library.
Investigators said Aguilar also downloaded a video game based on the Columbine killing, though it's not clear if he played it.
Just before he emerged from a Zumiez dressing room to begin the shooting, Aguilar took a picture of himself in the mirror and posted it to the social media website Tumblr. Some of the way he is dressed resembled what one of the Columbine killers wore, McMahon said.
"I had to do this. Today is the day," Aguilar wrote to go along with the photo, adding that he woke up and "felt no emotions no empathy no sympathy."
McMahon said investigators believe Aguilar took the picture to gain notoriety and intended for police to find it and show it to the public.
"We're not going to help him have that notoriety," McMahon said.
McMahon also talked about what has been described as Aguilar's "journal," which police found. McMahon said what police discovered was about 20 handwritten loose-leaf pages in a roughly chronological order. In a portion police released, Aguilar makes an angry, expletive-laced statement in which he anticipates the killings in "a couple of hours."
"Everything seems fake. I think that I may already be dead," he wrote.
At another point in the papers, he acknowledged he needed to see a psychiatrist, McMahon said.
Aguilar told a doctor in April that he was hearing voices, McMahon said. The voices were "nonviolent and nonspecific," the chief said. The doctor referred him to a psychiatrist, but police could not find that Aguilar ever met with one. McMahon said the doctor told police he later followed up with Aguilar's mother, but she did not remember the conversation.
A review of Aguilar's Internet searches found visits to mental health sites, including ones where people considering suicide seek help.
"He knows he's sick. He knows he has problems that need to be addressed. He writes it in his journal. He writes in his journal he's not comfortable talking to his mother about it," McMahon said, adding that there was no indication he ever spoke with anyone about his concerns.
Police said they released more information about the case in an effort to bring closure for the community, including the families of Aguilar's victims, 21-year-old Brianna Benlolo and 25-year-old Tyler Johnson. They were both Zumiez employees.
McMahon said the investigation is continuing.
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