A portrait of violence emerges of suspect in the Washington state mall killings

Ariel Pantoja, 19, left, Bayley Morrow, 18 and Makayla Bentley, 18, light candles at a makeshift memorial outside the Cascade Mall on Sept. 24, 2016, in Burlington, Wash.
(Karen Ducey / Getty Images)

A disturbing portrait began to emerge Sunday of Arcan Cetin, the man suspected of killing five people at a Washington state mall, but authorities appeared no closer to determining the motive for the crime.

Cetin, 20, who came to the United States from Turkey as a child, was described by authorities as having called out women’s names as he allegedly killed them in a hail of bullets Friday night at the Cascade Mall in Burlington.

By the time he was found carrying a computer bag near his home in nearby Oak Harbor about 24 hours later, he was depicted by the sheriff who arrested him as “zombie-like” and docile.

Cetin had been repeatedly charged with domestic violence and was under a court order prohibiting him from possessing a gun. In the puzzles of his social media history, he was described by friends and others as both likeable and unbearable.

If Cetin is the sum of these parts, it may be a challenge to determine what could have driven him to commit the crimes he’ll probably be charged with Monday.


As Lt. Chris Cammock of the police department in Mount Vernon, south of Burlington, said Saturday, he and a task force investigating the shooting have a lot of questions to answer.

“I don’t know what his motivations were to do this. I don’t know what his motivations were to continue [shooting]. I don’t know what his motivations were to stop,” Cammock said.

Authorities have not officially released the identities of the four female and one male victim, but Mount Vernon School District Supt. Carl Bruner confirmed the youngest killed was Sarai Lara, 16, a sophomore at Mount Vernon High School.

“For Sarai and all of the victims of this senseless tragedy,” he said in a statement Sunday, “we stand together with the broad Skagit County community.”

The others reportedly ranged in age from their 50s to 95.

Said Burlington Mayor Steve Sexton, “We have suffered a devastating loss of five treasured members of our community who had done nothing more than what we all have done on any given day — gone to the shopping mall.”

Investigators have not revealed what, if anything, Cetin — who pronounces his first name as “ar-zhan” — has told them since his arrest. But his capture and jailing were greeted with both relief and anger.

Uhlaine Finnigan, 19, a former classmate at Oak Harbor High School, remembered Cetin as someone to avoid in the school hallways. She didn’t want to comment further Sunday but gave permission to use her recollections from a Facebook post after his arrest.

“He’d grab and slap my friends and … even caressed my friends chest, along with other women,” she wrote. “Has been known to be violent towards girls too.”

Another classmate, Austin Hendrix, 19, told the Seattle Times, “He would grope women in high school and middle school.”

And several other former classmates told reporters they liked Cetin well enough during his school days, but found him difficult to know. On Cetin’s Facebook page, a friend wrote that he was both “annoying” and “funny.” Another wrote, “Truth is: You are a very odd character. You were always going on about being Russian and stuff like that, but under that you really supported America (or so it seemed to me) and I always thought that was really cool.”

According to his Facebook page, Cetin is a native of Turkey, not Russia, and goes by the nickname “the Turk.” He came to the U.S. with his parents and is a legal permanent resident, officials said.

The Associated Press quoted a neighbor, Amber Cathey, 21, describing Cetin as “really creepy, rude and obnoxious” — so much so, she said, that she complained to apartment management and kept a stun gun handy. Cathey said she blocked him on Snapchat after he sent her a photo of his crotch.

His Tumblr page, with “arcanmotherrussiavodkaandak47” as part of the Web address, includes a photo of him with an apparent assault-style weapon. He also posted, without comment, a photo of serial killer Ted Bundy at age 4, sitting next to a snowman.

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Court records show Cetin has faced three domestic violence assault charges in Skagit and Island counties, involving disputes with his stepfather. There is no record of any convictions. In December, however, a judge ordered Cetin not to possess firearms. The judge also suggested imposing a no-contact order, but the stepfather objected, saying Cetin was going through “a hard time” and needed the stepfather’s help.

One post on Cetin’s Tumblr page urged readers to repeat the phrase “Subhan Allah” (“Glory to God”) 10 times “and then reblog this, do not stop reblogging it.”

Police had no comment on the suspect’s religious beliefs.

Anderson is a special correspondent.


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7:30 p.m.: Updated throughout with additional reporting.

This article was originally posted at 4:05 p.m.