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Cascade Mall shooting: Suspect confesses to killings, police say

BURLINGTON, Wash. — Arcan Cetin, the suspect facing five counts of murder in a Burlington mall shooting, has confessed to the killings, police say.

He was arraigned Monday on the charges, and bail was set at $2 million. Each count is punishable by a fine up to $50,000 and 20 years to life in prison.

Wearing a blue button-down with his hands shackled in front of him, Cetin spoke only to say, “Yes sir,” in response to a judge’s questions. He was ordered to be back in court October 26.

Prior to his appearance, Q13 News obtained an arrest warrant declaration from the Mount Vernon Police Department that said, “During a post Miranda interview with detectives, Cetin said that it was him in the video and he did bring the rifle into Macy’s and shot all 5 victims.”

Cetin is accused of using a Ruger 10/22 with a 25-round magazine. His father told police that his Ruger 10/22 was missing, along with some ammunition, court records say.

The 20-year-old Turkish immigrant remains in Skagit County Jail.

250+ tips

About 7 p.m. Friday night, police say Cetin opened fire in a Macy’s store at the Cascade Mall in Burlington, located 65 miles north of Seattle.

After Cetin fled the mall Friday night, authorities embarked on a manhunt that lasted nearly 24 hours. During that time, the public sent police more than 250 tips via phone and email. Authorities said some of those tips got them in touch with witnesses who provided key information in their search for Cetin.

On Saturday night, Cetin was walking down a street near his home in Oak Harbor, nearly 30 miles southwest of the mall. As Lt. Mike Hawley of the Island County Sheriff’s Office cruised past, he spotted and approached Cetin.

Instead of running, Cetin simply froze and complied, Hawley said.

“He said nothing,” Hawley said. “[He was] just kind of zombie-like.”

Motive unclear

According to authorities, Cetin emigrated from Turkey and is a legal permanent resident of the United States. It’s unclear when he moved to the United States.

As of Monday, state authorities said they could not yet rule out terrorism or any other motive given that the investigation was still in its early stages. Before the suspect’s arrest, an official with the FBI had told reporters there was currently “no evidence” that linked the shooting to a terrorist group.

Cetin has been arrested once in the past year, for simple assault, authorities said.

In addition, Cetin has an ex-girlfriend who worked for Macy’s, but not for its store at Cascade Mall, said Sgt. Mark Francis, a state patrol spokesman. Authorities have not yet identified a link between the suspect and the victims.

Initially, Cetin walked into the Cascade Mall via a Chuck E. Cheese’s without a weapon in his hand, authorities said. After scoping out the scene, Cetin left the mall, moved his vehicle closer, entered and, within one minute, killed the juvenile near some clothing racks, according to the arrest warrant declaration.

He then walked to a cosmetics counter and shot four more victims, the declaration said.

“The suspect placed the rifle that he used on top of the cosmetics counter, exited the Macy’s women’s store through the west entrance, got into his vehicle and then left the store,” it said.

Authorities, uncertain at the time where Cetin allegedly got the weapon, collected evidence from the mall overnight Friday and all day Saturday. Eventually, they identified the car he used by matching information received from a tip with surveillance footage obtained from local business.

‘Devastating loss’

Burlington Mayor Steve Sexton, who had urged residents to inform the police so they could "get that son of a bitch who did this to our community," said Sunday resident must now find a way to move past the "devastating loss" of five treasured community members.

"That was us in that mall last night -- any one of us at any time," Sexton said. "It changed those families forever. ... It changed our community forever."

Gov. Jay Inslee praised the hundreds of law enforcement personnel involved with capturing Cetin in less than 24 hours. Speaking after Sexton, he noted that the entire state of Washington stood with Burlington.

"Passivity in the face of this scourge of violence is unacceptable," he said.

Suspect appears in court

There are still plenty of questions authorities hope to answer in the coming days. At a news conference early Sunday, authorities did not discuss the state of his mental health, or if he had any connections to the victims.

According to Francis, investigators executed a search warrant at Cetin's home where they collected "personal documents, electronic devices, and other evidence."

Investigators did not find any additional firearms at Cetin's home, Francis said.

Now authorities intend to flesh out the timeline of Cetin's alleged actions. Over the weekend, Francis said detectives interviewed Cetin. This week they plan to focus on speaking with witnesses, family members and friends. Between those efforts, they hope to finally uncover a motive.