Associated Press and Herald staff
MOUNT VERNON — The suspect accused of killing five people at a Macy’s department store confessed to police, court documents said, but his motive remained a mystery Monday as a portrait emerged of him as a mentally troubled young man whose parents said they were trying to help him.
Arcan Cetin, 20, appeared in court following his arrest over the weekend on five counts of first-degree premeditated murder for the shooting at the Cascade Mall in Burlington, north of Seattle.
Cetin appeared to express no emotion and said only “Yes, your honor” when asked by a judge if he understood his rights. Bail was set at $2 million and his lawyer said nothing about his client in court and did not speak with reporters.
The hearing followed a terrifying weekend that began Friday night when police say Cetin stormed into the mall and killed five people, leaving Burlington residents panicked for nearly 24 hours until authorities arrested him.
Cetin, described by acquaintances as socially awkward, has a criminal record going back at least two years, and one of his neighbors said he unnerved her so much that she kept a stun gun near her front door.
Cetin after his arrest admitted to detectives he was the man captured on security video carrying a Ruger rifle inside the mall, “and he did bring the rifle into Macy’s and shot all five victims,” court documents released ahead of Monday’s hearing said.
He shot all five victims in one minute and left the rifle with a 25-round magazine on a cosmetics counter before fleeing, the documents said. Four died at the scene and one died in the hospital.
The victims ranged in age from a teenage girl to a woman in her 90s.
Authorities have declined to reveal details about their investigation into the motive for the shooting, but Cetin’s stepfather, David Marshall, told reporters after the hearing that his stepson “has mental health issues” without elaborating.
“The only thing that we want to say at this time is that we both are totally devastated by what happened,” said Marshall, who attended the hearing with Cetin’s mother.
The court documents appeared to paint a picture of Cetin’s stepfather and mother trying to keep their son on track despite his suffering from an unspecified illness and criminal charges he faced for allegedly assaulting Marshall. Cetin came to the U.S. from Turkey and is a permanent legal resident, authorities have said.
Cetin appears to have been under regular court supervision since shortly after he turned 18. He faced multiple charges in Island District Court for misdemeanor assaults, records show.
The first case was brought in October 2014. At the time, Cetin was still in school, the judge was told. His father called the court at one point asking that a no-contact order be lifted because there were challenges finding a place for the young man to stay.
As part of the 2014 case, the court was told that Cetin’s mother had removed firearms from the home. In February 2015, Cetin was given a two-year ban on possessing firearms. He also was ordered to have no criminal violations and to cooperate with evaluations regarding his mental health.
Other assault arrests came in May and June of that year.
From the dockets, its appears cases were addressed with deferred prosecutions. A key focus appears to have been getting Cetin help for mental health concerns and potential problems with substance abuse.
In May 2016, the court was told that Cetin was attending college and working 20 hours a week as a dishwasher. He was ordered to continue to cooperate with mental health counselling, to use no alcohol or drugs and to have no criminal violations.
The last docket entry was Aug. 25, less than a month before the gunfire at at the mall. The court was updated on Cetin’s progress in counselling.
“Def. remains in compliance with weekly sessions,” the docket reads. “Additional evaluations pending with other medical professionals.”
He eventually moved out of his parents’ home and the stepfather told detectives after the shooting that he and his wife had helped Cetin with his rent.
Cetin said his father bought him a laptop, according to the court documents released Monday. His mother visited him regularly at his new apartment and last saw him Wednesday, the documents said.
Despite their falling out, Cetin ate with his stepfather on the day of the shooting before leaving around 4:30 p.m. to go to work, according to the documents.
Less than three hours later, police said in court documents, surveillance video showed Cetin enter the mall through a fast food restaurant, walk through the shopping center and leave through the Macy’s women’s department exit.
He then moved his car closer to the Macy’s entrance and took a rifle out of the car’s trunk, the documents said.
Within moments, surveillance cameras in Macy’s captured the shooter entering through the same women’s department — this time with a rifle.
Cetin first shot and killed a teenage girl near some clothing racks and then walked to the cosmetics counter where he shot a man and three women, the documents said.
Cetin was arrested late Saturday in Oak Harbor, about 30 miles from the mall, by a sheriff’s deputy who recognized him. Cetin’s stepfather told detectives that his Ruger rifle and .22-caliber ammunition were missing, documents said.
Police interviewed the suspect’s former girlfriend and said Sunday night she “has an employment history at Macy’s, but not at the Burlington Mall location.” They did not identify her.
Amber Cathey, 21, lived in an apartment next to Cetin for three months and said she was so frightened of him that she kept a stun gun handy and complained to apartment management. She said she blocked him on Snapchat after he sent her a photo of his crotch.
A Twitter account showed, among other things, selfies, photos of him in younger years and pictures of Turkish food. He once participated in paintball and said he “can’t wait for Halo 5,” the first-person shooter video game. He also tweeted: “Shout out to the ROTC peeps.” A Facebook account showed he liked military-related sites.
Oak Harbor is a city of 22,000 on Whidbey Island with many military families associated with the nearby Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.