SPRING HILL – One of the two victims killed in the Maryland mall shooting had lived in Spring Hill, attending Nature Coast High School during her freshman year.
Benlolo, a 21-year-old single mother of a 2-year-old girl, has a grandfather and step-grandmother who have lived in Spring Hill for several years.
“She was just a young, beautiful, bright, artistic girl,” Benlolo’s step-grandmother, Rita Benlolo, said Monday at her Spring Hill home.
Her grandfather, Henri Benlolo, was already with other family in Maryland, she said.
Brianna Benlolo’s father served in the military in Tampa, which is how the family landed in Spring Hill, said neighbor Rosalie Kelly, whose husband has spent time with Henri Benlolo and his son.
They then moved to Colorado before eventually settling in Maryland.
“They are just good neighbors, and they’re there if you need them,” Kelly said. “I just feel for the young kids and families.”
Darion Marcus Aguilar, 19, shot himself to death after gunning down Brianna Benlolo and Tyler Johnson, 25 in the suburban Baltimore mall late Saturday morning, authorities said.
Aguilar also injured several others, authorities said.
The shooting baffled investigators and acquaintances of Aguilar: a quiet, skinny teenager who graduated from high school less than a year ago and had no previous run-ins with law enforcement.
Police spent Sunday trying to piece together his motive.
Police found a journal belonging to Aguilar but they would only say that it “expressed general unhappiness.” The contents, however, were enough for an officer looking into the disappearance of Aguilar on the day of the shooting to worry about the teen’s safety.
Brianna Benlolo lived half a mile away from Aguilar in the same College Park neighborhood.
Howard County Police Chief William 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.
Although they lived close to the University of Maryland, neither was a student there. Aguilar was accepted last February to Montgomery College, a community college in the Washington suburbs, but school spokesman Marcus Rosano said he never registered or attended.
A relative of Johnson said he did not know Aguilar and did not socialize with Benlolo outside of work.
Dave Krause, of Spring Hill, said he heard about the shooting on television.
He didn’t realize Brianna Benlolo, was the granddaughter of his neighbor of 25 years, he said.
“Our deepest condolences to the family,” he said. “We all know each other and are there for each other if anybody needs anything. You’re not supposed to lose your grandkids before you.”
“It’s senseless,” Krause added. “We all get mad, but do we go and do things like that? No.”
Neighbors also said that, after learning of the news, they will purchase a gift for the Benlolo family, to show them that they are in their thoughts and prayers.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.