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Suspect arrested in deadly Washington state mall shooting, authorities say

A suspect was arrested in the shooting at a crowded shopping mall in this small town north of Seattle, authorities said Saturday night, almost 24 hours after a gunman killed five people there and disappeared into the evening darkness.

The sheriff’s office in neighboring Island County said the 20-year-old suspect, Arcan Cetin, was apprehended in Oak Harbor, about 30 miles west of the Burlington crime scene.

The Washington State Patrol confirmed the arrest in a tweet late Saturday, including a state driver’s license photo of Cetin as the “official” suspect.

According to his Facebook page, Cetin is a 2015 graduate of Oak Harbor High and is a native of Turkey, favoring the nickname “The Turk.” Police originally speculated from blurry security video that the shooting suspect was Latino, which was widely reported.

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Arcan Cetin
Arcan Cetin
(Washington State Patrol/Associated Press )

Witnesses who were inside the Cascade Mall described a chaotic scene of screaming and bloodshed after the shooter entered a Macy’s store around 7 p.m. Friday shouting names, then repeatedly fired a rifle in the makeup department.

Four female victims died at the scene, and a man later succumbed to his injuries. Police did not identify the victims but said they ranged in age from a teenage girl to senior citizens.

Media reports identified the girl as Mount Vernon High School sophomore Sarai Lara, 16, and one of the women as Shayla Martin, 52, a Macy’s makeup artist.

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Investigators said that though it was too early to ascribe a motive to the assault, there was no indication at this stage that the killings were an act of terrorism. 

At a late night press conference Saturday, however, officials said they have not ruled out any motive. They also would not confirm or deny reports that the suspect had gone to the mall to shoot a former girlfriend.

Investigators said Cetin was a Turkish immigrant who became a legal permanent resident of the U.S. He had been arrested once for assault, but no details on the incident were provided.

The key to arresting Cetin was discovery of additional mall video that showed him getting into a car. Prior to that, he had last been seen walking away from the mall. Investigators went over video from the city’s street-security system and were able to get a better description of the car. That led to finding Cetin near his home in Oak Harbor.

Island County Sheriff’s Lt. Mike Hawley said he had just received a photo of Cetin sent over the Web by a task force looking for the suspect when he heard Oak Harbor police had spotted the suspect a half block from the sheriff’s office.

Hawley jumped in his car and spotted Cetin on the street, strolling along. Hawley and a reserve deputy in another car hit their lights, pulled up,  jumped out and pointed their guns at Cetin, telling him to get down. He seemed a little dazed – “zombie like,” as Hawley put it – and did not resist.

He did not have any weapons with him when taken into custody, authorities said.

“The city of Burlington has probably changed forever,” Mayor Steve Sexton said at a news conference earlier Saturday.

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Gov. Jay Inslee congratulated the hundreds of law enforcement officers who joined the manhunt for making an arrest within 24 hours of the attack at the mall.

“We are united in knowing that status quo is not good enough when it comes to violence in our community,” Inslee said in a statement. “We don’t have the answer to this violence. But I do know this, passivity in the face of this scourge of violence is unacceptable. Inaction in the face of this violence is unacceptable.”

Investigators released grainy images taken from security camera video, which they said showed the black-clad shooter entering the mall without a weapon, then appearing at the Macy’s about 10 minutes later with a rifle.

After the shooting, the suspect was seen walking west out of the mall’s parking lot toward nearby Interstate 5, but police said they did not have any security video from outside the mall.

Washington State Patrol spokesman Sgt. Mark Francis said more than one person had called in claiming to be the shooter, and that investigators were attempting to determine their identities.

As gunshots rang out Friday night, shoppers fled or hid in place. 

People were screaming and running, said Stephanie Bose, an assistant general manager at a mall restaurant. “It was frantic,” she said.

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Tari Caswell said she was in a Macy’s fitting room when she heard what sounded like four balloons popping. 

“Then I heard seven or eight more, and I just stayed quiet in the dressing room, because it just didn’t feel right,” she told the Skagit Valley Herald newspaper. “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.”

Joe Zavala told TV outlets that he saw “several elderly ladies” lying on the floor of the cosmetics department as he searched frantically for his wife amid the chaos. He eventually found her hiding in a fitting room.

Zavala said he noticed a .22-caliber rifle on a store counter, apparently left behind by the shooter.

Police said they recovered a rifle from the scene, but they did not specify the caliber. 

Emergency personnel gather at an entrance to the Cascade Mall in Burlington, Wash., the scene of a mass shooting on Sept. 23.
Emergency personnel gather at an entrance to the Cascade Mall in Burlington, Wash., the scene of a mass shooting on Sept. 23.
(Stephen Brashear / Associated Press )

More than 200 area police and sheriff’s units responded to the attack. Uncertain of the suspect’s whereabouts, they organized themselves into search teams to clear the 440,000-square-foot mall and escort shoppers and employees to safety.

The mall, with more than 90 shops and eateries, remained on lockdown Saturday as authorities flooded surrounding neighborhoods, searching for the gunman in and around homes, businesses and wooded areas.

“If you see something, say something,” Francis advised residents before Cetin was captured. “But definitely stay locked down in your houses until we can get this guy.” 

Agents from the FBI and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were assisting with the investigation, and bomb-sniffing dogs were brought in.

Jesus Villahermosa, a security expert, told reporters there could be any number of reasons for the shooting, including a workplace dispute, a domestic dispute or terrorism.

“The FBI is going to assume a worst-case scenario,” Villahermosa said, in part because of a string of recent attacks. Mass killings are becoming “a fabric of our culture,” he said.

At a news briefing late Friday, a reporter asked Francis whether he was surprised by such violence in the typically quiet farming and timber town (population about 8,000).

“These things happen quite a bit these days,” Francis said. “I don’t know if I’m surprised or not.”

Anderson is a special correspondent.

ALSO

Death toll rises to 5 in shooting at Burlington, Wash., mall; gunman still at large

‘Don’t shoot him,’ wife pleads to police in video of fatal Charlotte, N.C., shooting

Transcripts of 911 calls reveal Pulse shooter’s terrorist motives

 


UPDATES:

11:30 p.m.: This story was updated with information from an evening press conference by law enforcement authorities.

9:15 p.m.: This article has been updated with information on the suspect.

8:10 p.m.: This article has been updated with details of some of the victims.

7:50 p.m.: This article has been updated with authorities saying they have made an arrest.

4:27 p.m.: This article has been updated throughout.

12:35 p.m.: This article has been updated throughout with staff reporting.

This article was originally published at 9:20 a.m.


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