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Authorities: Suspect in custody after Washington state shooting that left 5 dead

  • Author: Lornet Turnbull, Amy B Wang, Darryl Fears, The Washington Post
  • Updated: September 25, 2016
  • Published September 24, 2016

BURLINGTON, Wash. – A 20-year-old man is in custody in the fatal shooting of five people at a mall in rural western Washington, state police said late Saturday.

Authorities identified the suspect as Arcan Cetin of Oak Harbor, Wash., a city about 30 miles from the scene of the shooting.

Earlier Saturday, police had made public several images from a surveillance camera showing a man with dark hair in a black, short-sleeved shirt, shorts and shoes entering the Cascade Mall in Burlington empty-handed on Friday evening, then later brandishing a rifle in a Macy's department store.

At about 7:20 p.m. local time Saturday, the Washington State Patrol tweeted, "#cascademallshooter is in custody." Cetin was arrested around 6:30 p.m. Saturday in Oak Harbor after Lt. Mike Hawley of the Island County Sheriff's Office passed him walking along a street.

Hawley said he recognized Cetin from a photo circulated among law enforcement agencies after the shooting.

"I literally hit my brakes," Hawley said. He and a reserve deputy arrested Cetin, who was unarmed and did not resist, he said. Cetin seemed "zombie-like," Hawley said.

In appeals to the public Saturday, police initially described the suspect as Hispanic based on his "dark hair" and darker complexion, officials said.

However, Cetin's Facebook page says he is originally from Adana, a city in southern Turkey, and that he went to high school in Oak Harbor and formerly worked as a bagger at the Whidbey Island Commissary. Cetin immigrated with his family to the U.S. when he was a young child, according to Reuters.

Arcan Cetin, 20, of Oak Harbor is seen in a Washington State Department of Licensing photo released by the Washington State Patrol after they announced his capture in relation to a mass shooting in Burlington, Washington. (Washington State Patrol / via Reuters)

He is a legal permanent U.S. resident, officials said. Cetin is expected to appear in Skagit County Court on Monday.

According to footage from mall security cameras, the shooter fired multiple times in the department store, striking four women and one man, said Lt. Chris Cammock, commander of Skagit Multi-Agency Response Team. Police recovered a rifle from the scene, Cammock said, but would not elaborate on its type.

Four women died at the scene of the shooting, and a man died from his wounds after being airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, officials said. Police said the ages of the victims ranged from a teenager to a senior citizen.

Hayley Thompson, the Skagit County coroner, said the victims would be identified only after she examines their bodies at the hospital. County officials said they did not expect to release updates about the victims until Monday.

However, details about some victims emerged late Saturday as grieving family members stepped forward.

One victim was identified by family members as 16-year-old Sarai Lara, a high school student who had survived cancer as a young girl. Her mother, Evangelina Lara, told the Seattle Times the teenager had been pronounced dead by police at 2 a.m. Saturday morning.

Other victims included a makeup artist who worked at Macy's and a woman shopping with her elderly mother, the paper reported.

The fifth mass shooting in Washington this year sent shoppers running out of the mall and plunged a small town into grief.

Burlington sits between Seattle and Vancouver, Canada. Its population is about 8,500 – 62 percent white, 29 percent Hispanic – and the median household income is significantly lower than the state average. The nearest city is Mount Vernon.

"There are people waking up this morning, and their world has changed forever," an emotional Burlington Mayor Steve Sexton said at a news conference. "This was a senseless act. It was the world knocking on our doorstep, and it came to our little community here."

Sexton said he was aching for the moment when authorities "bring this son of a b– to justice."

An FBI spokesman said Saturday that although the bureau could not rule out terrorism as a motive for the shooting, there was no evidence to suggest that it was.

Oscar Garcia, a resident of Mount Vernon, said the youngest victim was a girl who was in the makeup department of Macy's with her mother when the gunman approached.

Police did not confirm that account. Garcia, who described himself as a family friend of about four years, said he spoke with the father. "He's devastated," Garcia said of his friend. "When I talked to him, he was waiting to go see his daughter."

Burlington residents gathered at a local park to pray and honor the victims. The Rev. Ron Deegan, who said that he and his wife were at the movies inside the mall when the shooting occurred, was among them.

Five minutes into the film, police stepped in and ushered everyone out of the theater, said Deegan, who serves as a pastor at three local churches. The granddaughter of a member of one of those churches was working at a beauty salon in the mall.

Workers there herded customers into a restroom when the shooting started. "Looking beneath the door, they said they saw male shoes go by and they held their breath," Deegan said. When police arrived to let them out, several patrons fled with rollers and other products in their hair.

Shoppers who spoke to local media outlets told similar stories of a chaotic scene that followed gunshots in a mall that includes a 14-screen AMC movie theater, Chuck E. Cheese's and the Children's Museum of Skagit County.

"Someone ran by and said, 'There's an active shooter in the mall' and told us to lock our gate," Doc Barron, who had been teaching a boxing class at the mall, told the Skagit Valley Herald.

Tari Caswell said she was in a women's dressing room at Macy's when she heard "what sounded like four balloons popping, and I thought that was strange because I hadn't seen any balloons," the newspaper reported.

"Then I heard seven or eight more, and I just stayed quiet in the dressing room because it just didn't feel right," Caswell told the Herald. "And it got very quiet. And then I heard a lady yelling for help, and a man came and got me and another lady, and we ran out of the store."

Armando Patino told KOMO News that he helped frightened shoppers hide inside the T-Mobile store where he worked after people began realizing there was a gunman in their midst.

"Out of nowhere I just hear somebody yell, and then after that, I turn around and just look at the Macy's and I just hear shots," Patino told the station. "I turn around and run to the store. Some people didn't know where to go. I just moved them into the [T-Mobile] store. We went in the back where we have a door and everything, and we just stayed there until they told us to evacuate."

Search teams using a helicopter and K-9 units scoured the area for the shooter, who fled on foot, authorities said.

Eleven search teams and two K-9 teams spent several hours clearing and securing the mall. Police said they spent over an hour interviewing more than 20 witnesses at the mall.

"One of the most difficult moments last night was knowing there was family out there worried about their loved ones" as investigators shut down the 434,000-square-foot mall and investigated the crime scene, Cammock said.

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