Police in Howard county, Maryland say a shooter that opened fire in a shopping mall in Columbia on Saturday morning is among the 3 people confirmed dead. Four other victims were injured in the shooting.
Maryland police received a call to 911 at around 11:15 a.m. of shots fired at the Mall in Columbia. When police arrived at the scene they found three people dead, including one person who was found near a gun and ammunition.
The Howard County Sherrif's office the lead agency in the Mall in Columbia, Maryland shooting.
During a press conference, Howard County Police Chief William J. McMahon said police are confident that there was only one shooter.
"We don't know a motive yet," McMahon said. "We are very confident that it was a single shooter, and there was not another shooter in the mall."
Law enforcement officials have since said the shooting, which took place on the second floor at a skateboard store appears to have been a domestic dispute.
The two story shopping mall is located outside of Baltimore and approximately 40 miles from Washington, D.C., the nation's capital.
Joan Harding told USA Today that she was shopping with her husband, David, for a tiara for their granddaughter's 18th birthday when they heard something heavy falling, followed by gunshots and people running.
"My husband said, 'Get down!' and the girl that worked in the store said, 'Get in the back,' " Harding said. They hid there until police gave the all-clear.
Following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, state and local level government officials re-assessed plans to keep the public safe in places where large crowds gather.
Worldwide, shopping malls are vulnerable to violence as a place in which people, sometimes in the thousands congregate for shopping, entertainment and dining.
In 2002, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security was created to oversee the nation's security and later the 9/11 Commission was established to examine the response efforts of first responders and provide insight or "lessons learned" to improve response efforts if another terrorist attack occurred on U.S. soil.
In the 9/11 commission's report, it is estimated that eighty-five percent of the nation's critical infrastructure is privately owned and privately patrolled. Therefore, security guards are the first line of defense at the overwhelming majority of U.S. venues - everything from nuclear power plants to shopping malls. Consequently, the Department of Homeland Security's role is limited to suggestions and incentives, except in special events such as the Super Bowl.
U.S. shopping mall owners reached out to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for assistance in response efforts to violent crimes including shootings and acts of terrorism.
Public and private partnerships between state and local police and mall security were established as part of the target hardening efforts. Larger malls often have local police on site at all times.
An instructional video on how to survive workplace violence from the Department of Homeland Security offers some practical tips, such as locking doors behind you, silence cellphones, and as a last resort, do everything possible to take the shooter down.
"Your survival may depend on whether or not you have a plan," the narrator says. "The plan doesn't have to be complicated. There are three things you could do that make a difference: run, hide, fight."
Police are still in the process of securing the shopping mall. The Mall in Columbia will be closed for the rest of the day and Sunday. Another press conference is scheduled for 4 p.m.
Check back for details as more information becomes available.