By Phuong Le and Gillian Flaccus
BURLINGTON — Investigators on Sunday tried to piece together information on the 20-year-old suspect in the deadly Cascade Mall shootings who was apprehended after a nearly 24-hour manhunt.
Washington State Patrol Sgt. Mark Francis said Sunday that authorities were searching an apartment tied to Arcan Cetin and searching his vehicle. Francis said authorities don’t yet know who is on the apartment lease or how long Cetin may have lived there.
Cetin was arrested Saturday evening in Oak Harbor. He said nothing and appeared “zombie-like” when he was taken into custody, authorities said.
As the surrounding community absorbed the news, critical questions remained, including the shooter’s motive.
Island County Sheriff’s Lt. Mike Hawley said he spotted Cetin from a patrol car in Oak Harbor, on Whidbey Island, and immediately recognized him as the suspect who killed five people at the Cascade Mall in nearby Burlington.
Hawley said at a news conference they had received information that Cetin, of Oak Harbor, was in the area. Cetin, who immigrated to the U.S. from Turkey, is a legal permanent resident, authorities said. He had been arrested once before in the county for assault, Hawley said.
“I literally hit my brakes, did a quick turn, I jumped out,” Hawley said. “We both jumped out with our guns, and he just froze.”
Cetin was unarmed and was carrying a satchel with a computer in it. “He was kind of zombie-like,” Hawley said.
The suspect’s arrest capped a frantic search following the slayings of five people the day before.
The first 911 call came in just before 7 p.m. on a busy Friday at the Cascade Mall: A man with a rifle was shooting at people in the Macy’s department store in Burlington, Washington.
By the time police arrived moments later, the carnage at the Macy’s makeup counter was complete. Four people were dead, and the shooter was gone, last seen walking toward I-5. The fifth victim, a man, died in the early morning hours Saturday as police finished sweeping the 434,000-square-foot building.
Authorities said it now appears the rifle was brought into the mall from the suspect’s vehicle that was there, Mount Vernon police Lt. Chris Cammock said Saturday night.
Cetin has not been charged, Cammock said. He will be booked into the Skagit County Jail and is expected to appear in Skagit County District Court on Monday.
The Seattle Times reported that Skagit County court records show three domestic-violence assault charges against Cetin. The victim was identified as Cetin’s stepfather.
The newspaper reported that Cetin also was arrested for drunken driving.
Cetin was told by an Island County District Court judge on Dec. 29 that he was not to possess a firearm, the newspaper reported.
However, the stepfather urged the judge not to impose a no-contact order, saying his stepson was “going through a hard time.”
Attempts to reach suspect’s family and friends for comment by phone and social media late Saturday night weren’t immediately successful.
A man who came to the door Sunday morning at an Oak Harbor address believed to be where Cetin’s stepfather and mother live asked an Associated Press reporter to leave the property.
Neighbor Jon Johnson, 26, said he believed Arcan still lived at the house.
“He lives directly behind us,” Johnson said. “We’ve seen him.”
Johnson said when the suspect was first arrested “we were all like, ‘We’re pretty sure that’s him,’ and … it ended up being him.”
Johnson said they have had many disputes with the stepfather.
“Two years ago on the Fourth of July we were having a function with our friends and (the stepfather) set tires on fire in the backyard,” he said.
Oak Harbor is a city of 22,000 on Whidbey Island. Many military families make their home in the city as Naval Air Station Whidbey Island is nearby. Oak Harbor is about 30 miles west of Burlington.
Initially the suspect in the mall shooting was described as Hispanic, but Cammock said that was based on initial witness statements to the shooting at the mall.