As police continue to sift through the witness accounts of the shooting at the The Mall in Columbia on Saturday, the identities of the three dead have come out. The suspected gunman has been identified as Darion Marcus Aguilar, just 19 years old. The shooting victims are Brianna Benlolo, 21, and Tyler Johnson, 25, both workers at a Zumiez Skate Shop.
Both were much too young to die, and now it's come out that Brianna, the store's manager, leaves behind a young son. Described as a "devoted mom," this was reportedly Benlolo's first job since giving birth to a now 2-year-old boy.
A 2-year-old boy who has been left without a mother.
The senselessness of these shootings that continue to happen in America is hard enough to get past, but I can't get the picture of a little boy crying for his mommy out of my mind. Brianna didn't deserve to die, and her little guy deserved to have his Mom come home from work on Saturday night and cuddle him. He deserves to have her there for t-ball games and kindergarten graduation and every other milestone from which she's been stolen by a monster with a gun and -- according to cops -- some homemade explosives.
There have been myriad reports speculating some link between Aguilar, Johnson, and Benlolo, but so far cops have not verified any of them. The young mother's grandfather was reached by media and he said she is on "good terms" with the father of her little boy, with whom she shares custody. That gives me hope that at least the little guy has a dad out there who will be there for his son, but is that really enough?
My heart goes out to this little boy and to his father both, as well as the rest of the Benlolo and Johnson families, and to the Aguilar family as well.
How do we stop these tragedies?
Image via Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images