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Many questions linger in deadly Maryland mall shooting

Investigators are still searching for a motive this morning behind a deadly shooting at a Maryland mall on Saturday that killed two workers. Police said the shooter, Darion Marcus Aguilar, 19, then killed himself. Investigators have not been able to find a link between Aguilar and the victims.

As a Maryland mall prepared to reopen Monday two days after a gunman entered the shopping center and killed two store employees and then himself, many questions remain about the tragedy.

The attack has baffled investigators and acquaintances of the shooter, a quiet, skinny teenager who graduated from high school less than a year ago and had no previous run-ins with law enforcement. 

Did Aguilar know his victims?
The shooter, Darion Marcus Aguilar, 19, is seemingly connected to the victims, Brianna Benlolo, 21, and Tyler Johnson, 25, in a couple of small ways. Friends of Aguilar described the teen as an avid skateboarder, and the store where he killed the two young employees was a skate shop called Zumiez. Additionally, he lived less than a mile away from Benlolo in College Park, Md.


Tyler Johnson, victim of shooting at The Mall in Columbia

Regardless of the possible overlap between Aguilar and his victims, Howard County Police Chief Bill McMahon said Sunday, "We have no known relationship between the victims and our shooter." Although Benlolo and Aguilar lived in the same area and were of similar ages, Benlolo did not attend Blake High School from which Aguilar graduated, said Dana Tofig, a school representative.

McMahon said there has been speculation about a romantic relationship between the gunman and Benlolo, but investigators have not been able to establish that. 

He said Monday that if the shooting were "domestic-related" he thought investigators would know more about that by this point. But he also did not rule that out. 

The chief also said there was no evidence so far that Aguilar ever applied for a job at Zumiez or worked there. 

Did Aguilar show warning signs of violence?
Aguilar’s mother reported him missing about two hours after the shooting on Saturday, according to Prince George's County Police Department. This may indicate she had some feeling that her son was capable of causing danger to others or himself, although Aguilar had no criminal record, according to Howard County Police.

When police arrived at Aguilar’s home to file the missing person’s report, they found his journal. According to Prince George’s County PD, entries in the journal made an investigator “concerned for the missing person's safety.” McMahon later said that Aguilar “does express some general unhappiness with his life” within the journal’s pages.

Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

A memorial site has been set up at the Mall in Columbia, Md.

And Aguilar's college plans were diverted. A Blake Highschool newspaper page highlighting the class of 2013 and their future plans, Aguilar indicated he intended on attending Montgomery College. Elizabeth S. Homan, Montgomery’s director of communications, told NBC News that Aguilar was accepted to his first choice school in February of 2013 but never registered for classes.

What did Aguilar do during his 60 minutes in the mall?
The shooter took a cab to the Mall in Columbia. He was dropped off near the Zumiez store on the second level and waited an hour before his attack on the store.

McMahon said surveillance video shows Aguilar made “very limited movement” during that hour. He walked down one level to the food court directly below the future crime scene and then ditched a bag in a Zumiez dressing room before he opened fire.

Did Aguilar intend to harm more people?
Aguilar fired between six and eight shots and hit four people — including one person who suffered a gunshot wound to the foot. When police found Aguilar’s body, they found “a large amount of ammunition on and about him,” McMahon said.

Officers also found “two crude devices that appeared to be an attempt at making explosives using fireworks,” a Howard County police statement read. Investigators were originally concerned they would find additional explosives on Aguilar’s body or in the mall, but did not. Police did find additional ammunition in the home he shared with his mother, McMahon said.

Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

A message is posted on the outside of the boarded up Zumiez store where two days earlier three people were shot and killed at the Mall in Columbia January 27, 2014 in Columbia, Maryland. Authorities say Darion Marcus Aguilar, 19, killed two employees at the skateboarding and surfing clothing store in the mall before fatally shooting himself. Investigators still have no motive for the shooting.

Where'd he get the gun and ammo?
Aguilar purchased his 12-gauge Mossberg shotgun legally in December. State law says that a person over the age of 18 can purchase and possess a rifle or shotgun without a permit, according to the National Rifle Association. Federal law stipulates that a gun buyer must pass a background check.

During news conferences Saturday and Sunday, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman skirted any comments about possibly fighting for stricter gun laws in Maryland. He encouraged the community to focus on “doing what we can to make the world a better place," adding, “There will be plenty of time for a broad public policy debate.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.