Associated Press and Herald staff
BURLINGTON — Police recovered a rifle at the scene of a mass shooting in a shopping mall here Friday night but do not know where the suspect is or what his motivation was when he fatally shot five people before fleeing toward nearby I-5 on foot.
At a news conference Saturday morning, Skagit County officials said the man can be seen on security video entering Cascade Mall without a weapon. About 10 minutes later, at 6:52 p.m., video shows him entering the Macy’s store with a rifle, where he shot four women ranging in age from teenager to senior. They died at the scene. A man of undisclosed age was also shot. He later died after being flown by helicopter to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.
The names of the victims had not been released Saturday morning, pending identification and notification of kin. But the identities of victims were beginning to emerge Saturday as those who knew them surmised that they were dead.
One of them was likely Shayla Martin, 52, of Mount Vernon. She worked in the cosmetics department at Macy’s and was at work Friday night, her sister, Karen Van Horn of Everett, told The Daily Herald on Saturday.
People fled, customers hid in dressing rooms and employees locked the doors of nearby stores after the gunshots rang out. A helicopter, search teams and K-9 units scoured the area. Police on Saturday did not know where the suspect might be or whether he had any connection to his victims. Burlington, a town of about 8.000 just north of Mount Vernon, is about 38 miles from Everett.
“There are people waking up this morning and their lives are changed forever,” Burlington Mayor Steve Sexton said. They are now supporting police “to bring the son of a bitch to justice who did this to our community.”
Police said they were looking for a man wearing black, last seen walking toward I-5, which is about 50 yards west of the mall. His description, including that he appeared to be Hispanic, initially was based on statements from witnesses, said Given Kutz, a spokesman for the Skagit County Emergency Operations Center. Police later said only that he appeared to have a dark complexion.
At the news conference, Michael Knutson, assistant special agent in charge of the Seattle FBI, said there was no evidence that the shootings were terrorism-related.
Skagit County Coroner Hayley Thompson said the four female victims were still in the store and that autopsies would be performed and identities confirmed when the on-scene investigation was completed.
Mount Vernon police Lt. Chris Cammock, who heads the Skagit Multiple Agency Response Team, said the investigation was in the early stages. He said he hoped the release of video images would “open up more leads and tips from the community so we can apprehend this individual.” The public can call 360-428-3211 or email information to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tari Caswell told the Skagit Valley Herald that she was in the Macy’s women’s dressing 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. 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 told The Associated Press. “It was frantic.”
It took about two hours to fully evacuate and search the mall , said police Lt. Cammock. Some 200 officers from four counties, including Snohomish, were on the scene at one point, he said.
A football game involving the Lakewood High School team at nearby Burlington-Edison High School was halted and the stadium evacuated, Lakewood coach Dan Teeter told The Herald.
The game was in the second quarter. Burlington-Edison was leading 21-7 when the Burlington athletic director, Don Beazizo, literally walked on the field as Lakewood was about to run a play. He announced the shooting and that play was being suspended.
“Once they realized the shooter was not in custody, they started letting people know how to get out,” Teeter said.
Teeter told his players: “We’re going to the locker room, get there quickly.”
The Lakewood football team went to the locker room, where it went into lockdown. They brought all the Lakewood people they saw in with them. “We had parents, bus drivers and cheerleaders in there,” Teeter said.
Once it was determined the game would not go on, arrangements were made for the Lakewood players to depart. Some players went home with their parents and others got on the bus.
“Everyone got home safely,” Teeter said.
About 2,000 people were in the grandstand, according to media reports.
Gov. 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 Friday night.
The Cascade Mall is an enclosed shopping mall that opened in 1990, according to the mall’s website. It features J.C. Penney, TJ Maxx, and Macy’s stores, among other stores, restaurants and a movie theater.
On Sept. 17 a man stabbed 10 people at a Minnesota mall before being shot and killed by an off-duty police officer. Authorities say Dahir Ahmed Adan, 20, stabbed the people at the Crossroads Center in St. Cloud, Minnesota.