Arcan Cetin kills five people at Cascade Mall in Burlington on September 23, 2016.

  • By Casey McNerthney
  • Posted 6/26/2017
  • Essay 20394
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On the evening of September 23, 2016, Arcan Cetin (1996-2017) walks into the Cascade Mall in Burlington, Skagit County, armed with a Ruger 10/22 rifle, and kills five random victims inside Macy's. Cetin flees through the west entrance and leaves in a blue four-door Chevrolet Cavalier, sparking a multi-county manhunt. As police release his photo from surveillance images, Cetin drives south on Interstate 5 and sleeps in his car in downtown Seattle. The following morning, Cetin listens to a radio report about his shooting, walks around the city, and goes to the Space Needle for a salmon lunch. Police also track his cell phone to Pike Place Market before Cetin drives back toward his hometown of Oak Harbor on Whidbey Island in the late afternoon. Alerts are sent to riders on Washington State Ferries and local law enforcement agencies. Tips lead police to interviews with Cetin's family and acquaintances and Cetin, wearing the same clothes he wore during the shooting, is arrested in Oak Harbor at 7th Avenue Northeast and Oak Harbor Road nearly 24 hours after the shooting.

Shooting in Macy's

At 6:22 p.m., Cetin bought a ticket to The Magnificent Seven at the AMC Loews Cascade Mall 14 movie theater and propped open an outside door with his cell phone. Police later said they thought the 32 people inside the theater were his initial target, but that plan was foiled after Cetin's cell phone was found and turned in to theater staff. A staff member returned the phone to Cetin, who came looking for it shortly before the Macy's shooting.

At 6:52 p.m., Cetin was seen walking through the mall's Macy's department store armed with the rifle, which included a 25-round magazine. He walked through the women's department and shot Sarai Lara (2000-2016), a young cancer survivor who was a sophomore at Mount Vernon High School. Cetin then walked toward some clothing racks and the cosmetics counter, where he shot Wilton "Chuck" Eagan (1955-2016). A longtime Boeing employee, Eagan grabbed the hand of his wife, Pamela, and ran when the shooting started. She tripped and fell and crawled under a table. Chuck Eagan was shot in the head and died early the following morning after being flown to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

Cetin then shot Shayla Martin (1964-2016), a makeup artist who recently celebrated 25 years of work selling dresses and cosmetics at Macy's. Martin was working at the cosmetics counter when Cetin approached. Cetin then found Belinda Galde (1952-2016) who was shopping with her mother, Beatrice Dotson (1921-2016). Galde had worked since 1989 as a probation officer in the Cascade Division of Snohomish County District Court, based in Arlington. Her mother had recently moved to Arlington to live with her. The women hid behind the cosmetics counter when the rampage started. Galde was holding her mother with her back to the shooter when Cetin shot them. Cetin then left his Ruger 10/22 on the cosmetics counter and fled.

Emergency Response

At 6:58 p.m., a 911 dispatcher received the first call about an active shooter, described as wearing black clothing and carrying a rifle. An estimated 200 law enforcement personnel responded from 26 agencies. Reports were mixed as the scene was developing, and the shooter was initially thought to be in a Kia or Hyundai. At 7:33 p.m., when the first report of a shooter was confirmed by State Patrol Sgt. Mark Francis, the shooter was described as a Hispanic man wearing gray, last seen walking toward I-5 from the Cascade Mall. The description was based on a witness description. Ten minutes later, the Skagit County Department of Emergency Management tweeted for people to avoid the mall area and follow all road closures. During the next four hours, State Patrol spokespeople gave varying accounts of the number of people dead and injured.

At 8:24 p.m. medics first entered the mall with a police escort, after the scene was deemed secure. At 9:01 p.m., police conducted a secondary search of the mall's AMC Theatre, and a minute later police dispatchers discussed a possible suspect two blocks west of the mall on Markwood Road. Neither led to evidence.

At 9:12 p.m., the first picture of Arcan Cetin inside the Cascade Mall was released on the Skagit County Department of Emergency Management's Twitter account: a cropped image of him holding the Ruger 10/22 rifle. Cetin's name was not yet known, and he was described as a Hispanic male in a black shirt. Shoppers who were inside the mall were taken to His Place Community Church after speaking with investigators, and at 9:29 p.m. Governor Jay Inslee (b. 1951) released his first statement on the shooting, saying, "Tragedy has struck in Washington tonight. Our hearts are in Burlington where a shooter has taken the lives of at least four people" ("Cascade Mall Shooting in Burlington"). Shortly before 11 p.m., Seahawks coach Pete Carroll (b. 1951) tweeted that he was "deeply saddened by the tragedy in Burlington tonight" ("Cascade Mall Shooting in Burlington").

Abuse and Domestic Violence

Arcan Cetin was born in Turkey and came to Washington in 2003 at age 7. He attended Oak Harbor Middle School and Oak Harbor High School, where he played football. He was also part of the ROTC program, but was removed as a result of behavior that was considered resistant to authority. Cetin later told detectives that a recruiter said he could not join the military because of an injury at birth: Nerve damage prevented him from fully lifting his left arm, and his left shoulder was smaller than his right. As the time of the shooting, Cetin worked two jobs in Oak Harbor: running the grill and other tasks at a Wendy's restaurant and as a dishwasher at Tamayo's restaurant.

Detectives were told he did not have a relationship with his father, was physically abused by his uncles in Turkey, and had an uncle in prison for murder. His mother told police that a child he'd break cats' tails and shoot animals with a BB gun. Cetin took medication for ADHD, depression, and PTSD, which police were told was caused in part by physical abuse from his uncles in Turkey. He had also smoked marijuana for about two years and was seeing a psychiatrist for anger management after a domestic-violence incident against his father in 2015.

Cetin had no criminal convictions prior to the Cascade Mall shooting, but he was the defendant in multiple domestic-violence cases, including one in which no-contact orders were entered for each of his parents, which caused Cetin to live for a time in an Oak Harbor motel. He also had a separate domestic-violence case in Island County and was ordered to undergo a mental health evaluation in April 2015. He was given deferred prosecution that would result in dropping the charge if he complied with mental-health counseling and avoided alcohol and drugs.

In November 2015, Cetin was involuntarily committed to a psychiatric facility at Fairfax Hospital in Kirkland for trying to kill himself by swallowing medication. Evaluators said at the time he was at risk for serious self-harm.

No Explanation, No Expression of Remorse

Cetin told police that on the day of the shooting he had dinner with his parents before leaving between 4:30 and 5 p.m. He stole the rifle from his father's closet and loaded the clip partially full with ammunition from the garage. Skagit County Sheriff's Detective Kevin Sigman wrote in a report:

"Cetin said he didn't know why or how he decided it was time to leave his apartment to go to the mall ... This isn't something that he had been thinking about doing for a while. He said at the time he took the gun from his parent's house he didn't have plans to go shoot or kill somebody" (Skagit County Sheriff's Office investigation records).

At the time of the shooting, Cetin also was being evaluated for autism and schizophrenia. A young man with whom Cetin had a consensual sexual relationship in high school told detectives he believed Cetin was a misogynist who targeted women in the shooting. An ex-girlfriend who told police Cetin was abusive and controlling two years before the shooting used to work at a Macy's in Pierce County, and a witness the night of the shooting said Cetin was calling a female's name as he shot people. In an interview with police two days after the shooting, Cetin denied having mental health problems, said he was not hearing voices, and did not use alcohol or drugs before the shooting.

Cetin also told authorities after his arrest that he was interested in the activities of ISIS and that he searched online for news reports about the terrorist group. Asked if ISIS had inspired his actions Cetin replied, "I can't answer that" (Skagit County Sheriff's Office investigation records). Cetin was Sunni Muslim and read the Quran, but told detectives he was not familiar with ISIS's beliefs and felt like they were a group of terrorists from what he had seen on the news. Cetin told police had he joined the military he would have followed directions, including acts against Muslims.

Cetin never identified a motive, repeatedly refusing to answer some questions police asked. He told investigators he did not remember how many men and women he shot, and "didn't want to answer why he shot the victims" (Skagit County Sheriff's Office investigation records). Detectives said he showed no remorse in interviews and didn't have messages for the victims' families. Cetin told them he didn't tell others of his plan, and that the shooting didn't have a connection to ISIS.

Multi-county Manhunt

On Saturday, September 24, the morning after the shooting, with Cetin still at large, Burlington Mayor Steve Sexton said, "The city of Burlington is probably changed forever, but I don't think our way of life needs to change in our community" ("Cascade Mall Shooting in Burlington"). He praised law enforcement and vowed to find the killer. The FBI announced that there was no evidence that the attack was linked to terrorism. As a vigil got underway in Mount Vernon, police interviewed Cetin's friends and family after receiving tips as to his identity.

After leaving Burlington the evening of September 23 following the shooting, Cetin had driven south without a plan or particular destination. He stopped at a Shell station for gas and a Bartell Drugstore to get cigarettes, a charger, and snacks. He paid with cash. Cetin slept in the front seat of his Chevy Cavalier near the Space Needle in Seattle. After waking up about 7 a.m. with roughly five hours' sleep, he heard about the manhunt on AM 590 and flipped through radio channels to see what was being said. He saw pictures of himself on Fox News and other websites.

The day after the shooting, Cetin walked around downtown Seattle and ate a salmon lunch at the Space Needle. Detectives were pinging his cell phone and determined it was near Pike Place Market at 1:30 p.m. But Cetin did not elaborate on his specific whereabouts in later interviews.

Before Cetin was identified publicly, his photo was circulated in a local law-enforcement bulletin, and as Island County Sheriff's Lieutenant Mike Hawley was looking at the suspect's picture and information, he heard on a police radio that the suspect's vehicle was seen by Oak Harbor police. It was not occupied at the time. Hawley and others went to assist. Hawley said he was at the corner of 7th Avenue NE and Oak Harbor Road when he "saw an individual walking northbound on the sidewalk and I instantly recognized that that is the person I just viewed on my computer" ("Cascade Mall Shooting in Burlington"). He made an abrupt U-turn, hit his lights, pulled his gun, and at 6:20 p.m. took Cetin into custody with the help of a reserve deputy. Cetin had a satchel with a computer inside, but no weapons. Oak Harbor and Mount Vernon police arrived shortly after and took custody of Cetin. Hawley said, "He said nothing ... He was kind of zombie-like" ("Cascade Mall Shooting in Burlington"). At 9:44 p.m., police gave a press briefing, and at the same time reporters had their first look at Cetin, who stared at a TV camera while being moved in a red jumpsuit at the Skagit County Jail.

Death in the Jail

On September 26, 2016, two days after Cetin's arrest, he was ordered held on $2 million bail. On January 4, 2017, aggravated first-degree murder charges were filed in Skagit County Superior Court. Those charges carried a potential death penalty, although Governor Jay Inslee had announced on February 11, 2014, that he was suspending application of the death penalty in Washington during his time in office, saying he hoped it would enable officials to "join a growing national conversation about capital punishment" ("Q&A: Arcan Cetin ..."). Inslee's move only applied to carrying out executions and did not preclude prosecutors from seeking the death penalty, but the three potential death-penalty trials completed since 2014, all in King County, had resulted in sentences of life in prison rather than death.

On March 10, 2017, Cetin was moved to the Snohomish County Jail at the request of his defense attorneys, who said he had made legally compromising comments to fellow inmates in Skagit County. He also was evaluated at Western State Hospital to assess whether he was competent to stand trial.

At 6:50 p.m. on the night of Sunday, April 16, 2017, Arcan Cetin was found in his jail cell unresponsive, hanging by a bed sheet. CPR efforts were unsuccessful, and three days later the Snohomish County Medical Examiner's Office ruled his death was a suicide. A statement given by Chuck Eagan's family to the Skagit County Prosecutor's office said:

"We're understandably in shock over this development. ... While this event puts to rest our fear of his release, we harbor no ill will towards Mr. Cetin or his family and pray for their comfort as we know all too well the pain of grief" ("Cascade Mall Shooter ...").


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