Authorities search for clues in Washington mall shooting

2016-09-25 22:17
Rachel Marsh and Selena Orozco carry flowers as they attend a prayer service for the victims of the mall shooting. (Ted S Warren, AP)

Rachel Marsh and Selena Orozco carry flowers as they attend a prayer service for the victims of the mall shooting. (Ted S Warren, AP)

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Oak Harbor - Investigators on Sunday tried to piece together information on the 20-year-old suspect in the deadly Washington state mall shootings who was apprehended after a nearly 24-hour manhunt.

Washington State Patrol Sergeant Mark Francis said on Sunday morning that authorities were searching an apartment tied to Arcan Cetin and searching his vehicle. Francis said authorities don't yet know who is on the apartment lease or how long Cetin may have lived there.

Cetin was arrested on Saturday evening in Oak Harbor. He said nothing and appeared "zombie-like" when he was taken into custody, authorities said.

As the surrounding community absorbed the news, critical questions remained, including the shooter's motive.

Island County Sheriff's Lieutenant Mike Hawley said he spotted Cetin from a patrol car in Oak Harbor, Washington, and immediately recognised him as the suspect who killed five people at the Cascade Mall in nearby Burlington.

Hawley said at a news conference they had received information that Cetin, of Oak Harbor, was in the area. Cetin, who immigrated to the US from Turkey, is a legal permanent resident, authorities said. He had been arrested once before in the county for assault, Hawley said.

"I literally hit my brakes, did a quick turn, I jumped out," Hawley said. "We both jumped out with our guns, and he just froze."

Cetin was unarmed and was carrying a satchel with a computer in it. "He was kind of zombie-like," Hawley said.

The suspect's arrest capped a frantic search following the slayings of five people the day before.

The first 911 call came in just before 19:00 on a busy Friday at the Cascade Mall: A man with a rifle was shooting at people in the Macy's department store in Burlington, Washington.

By the time police arrived moments later, the carnage at the Macy's make-up counter was complete. Four people were dead, and the shooter was gone, last seen walking toward Interstate 5. The fifth victim, a man, died in the early morning hours of Saturday as police finished sweeping the 40 300m²  building.

"There are people waking up this morning, and their world has changed forever," Burlington Mayor Steve Sexton said on Saturday at a news conference.

'Hard time' 

Authorities said it now appears the rifle was brought into the mall from the suspect's vehicle that was there, Mount Vernon police Lieutenant Chris Cammock said on Saturday night.

Cetin has not been charged, Cammock said. He will be booked into the Skagit County Jail and is expected to appear in Skagit County District Court on Monday.

The Seattle Times reports that Skagit County court records show three domestic-violence assault charges against Cetin. The victim was identified as Cetin's stepfather.

The newspaper reports Cetin also was arrested for drunken driving.

Cetin was told by an Island County District Court judge on December 29 that he was not to possess a firearm, the newspaper reported.

However, the stepfather urged the judge not to impose a no-contact order, saying his stepson was "going through a hard time".

Reporter asked to leave

A man who came to the door on Sunday morning at an Oak Harbor address believed to be where Cetin's stepfather and mother live asked an Associated Press reporter to leave the property.

Neighbour Jon Johnson, 26, said he believed Arcan still lived at the house.

"He lives directly behind us," Johnson said. "We've seen him."

Johnson said when the suspect was first arrested "we were all like, 'We're pretty sure that's him,' and ... it ended up being him."

Johnson said they have had many disputes with the stepfather.

"Two years ago on the Fourth of July we were having a function with our friends and [the stepfather] set tyres on fire in the backyard," he said.

Oak Harbor is a city of 22 000 on Whidbey Island. Many military families make their home in the city as Naval Air Station Whidbey Island is nearby. Oak Harbor is about 50km west of Burlington.

Initially the suspect in the mall shooting was described as Hispanic, but Cammock said that was based on initial witness statements to the shooting at the mall.

'Hunting type' rifle 

Surveillance video captured the suspect entering the mall unarmed and then recorded him about 10 minutes later entering the Macy's with a "hunting type" rifle in his hand, Cammock said.

The identities of the victims - four women who ranged in age from a teenager to a senior citizen - were withheld pending autopsies and notification of family. The identity of the man who was fatally shot was not immediately released.

Earlier on Saturday as police scrambled to find the shooter, the small city of Burlington, about 100km north of Seattle, waited and worried.

The community of 8 600 people is too far from Seattle to be a commuter town, but its population swells to 55 000 during the day because of a popular outlet mall and other stores and businesses.

"It's too scary. It's too close to home," said Maria Elena Vasquez, who attended a gathering in a city park Saturday with her husband and two young children.

The Seattle Times reported one of the victims is a 16-year-old girl. Sarai Lara's mother said she had survived cancer as a young girl and was a happy student.

Authorities say another victim was a probation officer.

The Snohomish County District Court in a statement identified Belinda Galde as an employee with the court since 1989. The statement says the 64-year-old Galde "was an amazingly kind and caring individual" who helped thousands of probationers find a better way to live.

Read more on:    arcan cetin  |  us

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