TODAY   |  January 26, 2014

Maryland mall shooting witness: ‘We were just scared out of our minds’

Police say two people were killed at a Maryland mall Saturday when a gunman opened fire inside a clothing store, shooting Brianna Benlolo, 21, and Tyler Johnson, 25, and then killing himself. NBC’s Kristen Welker reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> of a gunman opening fire with thousands of people nearby. typical saturday, people go to the mall and suddenly shots ring out. that's our top story. it hadn't been open for very long on saturday when people started running for covering, hearing the barrage of bullets all around them.

>>> this morning police are still trying to determine just what may have sparked the senseless violence. kristen welker is outside that mall in columbia , maryland, with the latest. good morning.

>> reporter: erica, good morning. this malo kated about 25 miles outside of washington, d.c. remains closed this morning while police continue their investigation. overnight they say they found and disabled two devices, what appeared to be crude attempts at explosives. they said they scoured the mall with canine units. this morning this community continues to be rattled by the violence that erupted here. police say 21-year-old brianna benlolo and 25-year-old tyler johnson were working at the clothing store sooum please when a gunman opened fire killing them both before police say he turned the gun on himself.

>> it was just boom, boom, boom and people started screaming and running.

>> reporter: the shooting began just after 11:00 saturday morning. 911 calls captured the first terrifying moments.

>> we have an active shooter at the columbia malast seen at the food court .

>> reporter: witnesses say the crowded mall became a scene of fear and chaos.

>> we were crying and scared out of our minds.

>> it was completely crazy. everybody started running, screaming. i almost passed out because i couldn't breathe.

>> reporter: some fled while others sought a safe place inside.

>> there was a young couple with two brand new babies. we have like a restroom at the end in the storeroom, so as many people as we could fit in there.

>> reporter: police say they got to the mall within minutes of the first 11 call. they say they found three bodies in the second floor store. next to the gunman, a shotgun and more.

>> he also still had a large amount of ammunition still on and about him. because of concerns about any other weapons he may have or explosives, we're approaching this with an abundance of caution.

>> reporter: while police worked late into the night searching the mall for clues and scanning surveillance video, outside a vigil for the victims as yet another american community prepares to mourn innocent lives.

>> when something like this happens, it makes you realize how fragile life is and how it can change for you in an instant.

>> reporter: police say they have tentatively identified the shooter. we expect to learn more about that at a news conference scheduled for later on this morning. so far no word on a motive, but law enforcement sources say there are early indications that the shooter may have known one of his victims. five people were injured in this incident. they have been treated and released. the associated press is reporting that brianna benlolo, one of the victims, was also a young mother, just adding to the devastation here. erica?

>> kristen welker, thank you.