Police hunt gunman who killed 5 at Washington state mall

2016-09-24 18:11
Emergency personnel stand in front of an entrance to the Cascade Mall at the scene of a shooting where several people were killed (AP).

Emergency personnel stand in front of an entrance to the Cascade Mall at the scene of a shooting where several people were killed (AP).

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Burlington — Police searched on Saturday for a gunman, authorities said opened fire in the makeup department of a Macy's store at a mall north of Seattle, killing four females and one man, before fleeing toward an interstate on foot.

People fled, customers hid in dressing rooms and employees locked the doors of nearby stores after gunshots rang out just after 19:00 on Friday at the Cascade Mall. A helicopter, search teams and K-9 units scoured the area for a rifle-carrying man.

"We are still actively looking for the shooter," Washington State Patrol spokesperson sergeant Mark Francis said at a news conference. "Stay indoors, stay secure."

Police said they were looking for a Hispanic man wearing black and armed with a "hunting-type" rifle and last seen walking toward Interstate 5. The description, including that he appeared Hispanic, was based on statements from witnesses, said Given Kutz, a spokesperson for the Skagit County Emergency Operations Center.

Authorities say the motive was unknown for the shooting about 97km north of Seattle.

The FBI was assisting local authorities as dozens of police officers searched for the suspect. The FBI's Seattle office said on Twitter that it "has no information to suggest additional attacks planned" in Washington state but did not elaborate.

The male victim died early on Saturday at a Seattle hospital. It was unclear where in the mall he was when he was shot. Authorities had previously announced the deaths of the four females. No other details about the victims were provided, including their ages.

Tari Caswell told the Skagit Valley Herald she was in the Macy's women's dressing room when she heard "what sounded like four balloons popping".

‘It was frantic’

"Then I heard seven or eight more, and I just stayed quiet in the dressing room because it just didn't feel right. 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," Caswell told the newspaper.

Stephanie Bose, an assistant general manager at Johnny Carino's Italian restaurant near the Macy's store at the mall, said she immediately locked the doors to the restaurant after hearing about the shooting from an employee's boyfriend.

"He was trying to go to the mall and people were screaming," she said. "It was frantic."

She said he could see police at the doors with assault rifles and said they were no longer guarding the doors as of 21:30.

Francis said at about 20:30 that the mall had been evacuated and emergency medical personnel were cleared to enter. Francis said authorities were still doing a "final clear" of the 40,319-square-meter mall late on Friday night. He said 11 search teams and two K9 units were involved.

The parking lot was closed and emergency management officials told people they would be able to retrieve vehicles on Saturday, though the mall said it would be closed for the day.

Governor Jay Inslee said tragedy had struck the state.

"We urge residents to heed all safety and detour warnings. Stay close to your friends and loved ones as we await more information and, hopefully, news of the suspect's capture," Inslee said in a statement.

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