BURLINGTON, Wash. — When a gunman opened fire inside the Macy’s store at the Cascade Mall in Burlington, five people were fatally shot — and many more thought they were next.
“The cashier Jessica said he’s got a gun, run! So I ran back into the dressing room with my daughter,” Melissa Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez and her daughter hunkered down in the dressing room just seconds after the gunman killed his first victim, 16-year-old Sarai Lara.
“I heard gunshots and they would stop for a second and it would go again and it would stop, that's all I could hear,” Rodriguez said.
She also heard children in the next room crying.
“A mother and her two children were in a different dressing room, the little boy and girl, you could hear them crying and making noise so we kept telling them to be quiet. We said shhhh, we didn't want him to hear us,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez held her 15-year-old daughter tight, convinced that the gunman would barge in.
“I basically figured he was going to come in and kill us any second,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez added that she heard the gunman repeatedly calling out a woman's name, telling the woman to come out.
Police say that after the shooting, suspect Arcan Cetin left his gun on top of a counter at Macy’s and simply walked away before police arrived. He was arrested the next day, Sept. 24, while walking along a road in Oak Harbor, Wash.
Four of the five victims died immediately on the night of Sept. 23. The fifth victim, Chuck Eagan, 61, a Boeing maintenance worker from Lake Stevens, was found alive but died hours later at Seattle's Harborview Medical Center.
“There was Chuck on the floor (of Macy's), he was really hyperventilating,” 20-year-old Abigail Ochoa recalled.
Ochoa didn't hear the shooting and only realized what had happened when she stepped out of the the Macy’s restroom.
She discovered Chuck, who had been shot three times, including once in the head.
“He was breathing, I was trying to keep him alive as much as I could. I grabbed a shirt from the rack that was hanging and right away put it on his head and straightened out his legs and held his hand,” Ochoa said.
The 20 year-old stranger was the last person Chuck Egan saw before paramedics arrived.
“He had a credit card on his chest and it said Pamela and so I started asking him questions, oh, is this your wife? He would just blink at me,” Ochoa said.
Family members say Chuck got separated from his wife during the shooting and died trying to find her.
After Chuck was taken away to the hospital, Ochoa says she saw a woman outside the Macy’s looking for her husband.
“She kept saying, 'Where is my husband?' I said, are you Pamela? And that’s when I found out it was his wife and I tried to comfort her and told her I was holding his hand the whole time,” Ochoa said.
Rodriguez never met Chuck's wife, Pam, but she wants Pam to know Chuck saved many lives that day.
“The gunman is so focused on him that he forgets about all of us, I think he saved a lot of people and I know his wife is really sad he died but he saved a lot of us,” Rodriguez said.
Although the shooting happened on Sept. 23, the trauma is still fresh.
“I haven’t stepped into a mall yet, I haven’t had a courage to,” Ochoa said.
But she had a lot of courage the night of the shooting. She didn’t know where the gunman was but yet she didn’t run. Instead she helped and comforted a critically wounded man she didn’t know.