Suspect in Washington state mall shooting was ‘zombielike’ during arrest, police say – Washington Post

BURLINGTON, Wash. — Authorities are continuing to investigate a 20-year-old man in custody for the fatal shooting of five people at a mall in Washington state.

Late Saturday, police arrested Arcan Cetin of Oak Harbor, Wash., a city about 30 miles from the Cascade Mall, where a shooter opened fire Friday night in a Macy’s department store.

The attack killed five people and sent a rural western Washington community into shock.

On Sunday, police were conducting searches of Cetin’s vehicle and “a residence in Oak Harbor,” said Washington State Patrol spokesman Sgt. Mark Francis.

The day before, 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.

“As far as where he got the gun, that’s what we hopefully will be able to find out in the next few days,” Francis said. He said police had not determined a motive for the attack or whether Cetin acted with any accomplices. “No indications yet [of either terrorism or that he did not act alone] but the case is still open, it’s still active so anything is possible. Anything could change.”

Police said in a news conference Saturday evening that they identified Cetin as a suspect after processing hundreds of tips and poring over mall security-camera footage. Police were able to match a tip about Cetin’s vehicle with one shown leaving the mall in surveillance videos, Francis said. Police mistakenly reported earlier that the shooter had fled the mall on foot, he said.

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 down 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, Hawley said. “We both jumped out with our guns, and he just froze.”

Cetin was unarmed, did not run or resist arrest, and seemed “zombielike,” Hawley said.

In appeals to the public on Saturday, police initially described the suspect as Hispanic.

However, Cetin’s Facebook page says that 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 United States when he was a young child, according to Reuters.

Several of Cetin’s former classmates confirmed he graduated from Oak Harbor High School in 2015, and described him as a socially awkward teenager who later was given to inappropriately touching female students.

“He had some kind of issues, to say the least,” Miranda Schnecker, who knew Cetin from middle school and high school, told The Washington Post. “He was just very awkward, didn’t know how to connect with people — and a lot of people didn’t know how to handle that, so he wasn’t very popular.”

It was in high school, she said, when Cetin began physically harassing girls in school.

“He would touch them inappropriately when they didn’t want it,” said Schnecker, 20.

Another classmate, Rosie Aguilera, said Cetin would try to touch her and other females at the school “as some kind of joke to him.”

She remembered Cetin as being awkward but also piping up frequently with needling comments in the Algebra 2 class they shared at Oak Harbor.

“He liked to talk a lot,” Aguilera, 19, told The Post in an interview over Facebook. “Most times the things he said threw people off.”

Though Cetin appeared to have a presence on several social media platforms, officials said Sunday they had only confirmed his Facebook account.

Cetin is a legal permanent U.S. resident, officials said. Court records show Cetin has a criminal record, charged with assault three times since 2015. He is expected to appear in Skagit County Court on Monday.

Officials said Sunday they would not comment on Cetin’s criminal history.

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

Officials said that four women died at the scene of the shooting and that a man died of his wounds after being airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. Police said 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. 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 relatives 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 that the teenager had been pronounced dead by police at 2 a.m. Saturday.

Other victims included a makeup artist who worked at Macy’s and an elderly woman, the paper reported.

In a statement Sunday, the Snohomish County District Court identified one of the victims as 64-year-old Belinda Galde, a probation officer who had been an employee with the court since 1989, the Associated Press reported.

The statement said Galde “was an amazingly kind and caring individual” who helped thousands of probationers find a better way to live, according to the AP.

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

Burlington sits between Seattle and Vancouver, near the border. 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.”

As news of Cetin’s arrest spread Saturday night, outrage erupted on Twitter, with many users pointing out that the suspect was not “Hispanic” as police originally reported. Some users accused law enforcement and media outlets of a “cover-up.”

On Saturday morning, Cammock said their initial announcement about the shooter’s ethnicity was primarily based on security-camera images of a man with “dark hair” and with a darker complexion.

“I suppose the race could be anything,” Cammock said. “You can take a look at the photo yourself.”

A senior law enforcement official said Sunday that “there’s no information at this time suggesting any links to terrorism,” though it is still early in the investigation.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. At this point, local law enforcement authorities have the lead in the investigation, though the FBI is ready to assist, officials said.

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.”

This post has been updated. Turnbull reported from Burlington, and Ellen Nakashima contributed to this report. 

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