Los Angeles, United States | AFP |
Authorities have arrested a Turkish-born man suspected of shooting five people dead, including a teenaged cancer survivor, at a shopping mall in the US state of Washington.
Police named the suspect as Arcan Cetin, a 20-year-old resident of the nearby town of Oak Harbor, saying he was arrested late Saturday about 24 hours after the killings.
The FBI office in Seattle said it had no evidence the shooting was terror-related.
The gunman opened fire with a rifle in the makeup section of a Macy’s department store late Friday, killing four women and a man, according to police. He later left the store on foot, triggering an intense manhunt.
A weapon was recovered at the scene of the violence, Cascade Mall in Burlington, a town of about 8,000 people some 70 miles (110 kilometers) north of Seattle.
Police are still trying to establish a motive.
The youngest victim was named as Sarai Lara, 16, who survived cancer as a young girl. Relatives named another victim as 52-year-old Shayla Martin, who worked as a Macy’s makeup artist.
“We’re really having a tough time right now,” her sister Karen Van Horn told The Seattle Times.
Details emerge on gunman
Authorities had initially described the suspect as a Hispanic man in his late teens or early 20s.
Members of the public called in with numerous tips that helped lead to the arrest, police said, adding that Cetin’s family was cooperating.
While Cetin was born in Turkey, he is a legal permanent resident of the United States, said Lieutenant Chris Cammock, criminal investigations chief for the Mount Vernon Police Department.
He is due in court Monday.
A Facebook page that appeared to belong to Cetin — and which has since been taken down — said he was born in the southern Turkish city of Adana.
It also said went to Oak Harbor High School, which is about a 30-mile drive from Burlington, and had worked at a grocery store on nearby Whidbey Island.
In February, he posted a link to a “Call of Duty” first-person shooter videogame practice session, in an eerie foreshadowing of the real world violence he is suspected of perpetrating.
YouTube users posted lewd comments on that page and Cetin’s Twitter page in response to the mall shooting.
Police said Cetin had one prior arrest, last year, for assault.
It was the latest chapter in America’s epidemic of gun violence.
Burlington Mayor Steve Sexton’s voice trembled as he noted that the randomness of gun violence in America — which causes an estimated 30,000 deaths a year — had hit his small town.
“We suffered a devastating loss of five treasured members of our community who had done nothing more than what we all would have done on any given day: gone to the shopping mall,” he said.
“It changed those families forever. And we keep them in our prayers. It changed our community, I’m afraid, forever.”
The shooting came amid fierce debate in America over gun control laws. It is a hot issue on the campaign trail ahead of the November 8 presidential election.
“We are united in knowing that the status quo is not good enough when it comes to violence in our community,” said Washington Governor Jay Inslee.
“Passivity in the face of this scourge of violence is unacceptable.”
The shooter had walked in without a weapon, and appeared on security cameras about 10 minutes later with a rifle.
The mall was evacuated, police swarmed the area and medics rushed to the scene after the mall was initially placed on lockdown.
Local and regional law enforcement from up to 27 agencies responded to the scene, with about 200 officers on site at the height of the incident.
Police took hours to clear the sprawling building.
“We are devastated by the tragic events that occurred last night at Cascade Mall,” Macy’s said in a statement on its Facebook page Saturday.
At a vigil held for the victims Saturday morning in Burlington’s Maiben Park, Kelly Couture, who exited the mall through a Target store as the chaos was unfolding, told The Seattle Times there were “just sirens and people were yelling and running out of the building.”
The mall was closed Saturday as a mark of respect for the victims.