Suspect in Washington state mall shooting taken into custody
A blurry surveillance photo of a rifle-toting man accused of shooting four women and a man dead at the mall in Burlington, Washington could have been the biggest lead in the hunt for the shooter.
Authorities searched Cascade Mall in Burlington for evidence after Friday night’s rampage, and they had not identified the attacker or his victims.
“The city of Burlington has probably changed forever,” Mayor Steve Sexton said of the town, about an hour north of Seattle. “This is a senseless act. It was the world knocking on our doorstep, and it came to our little community here.”
The mayor urged residents with possible leads to come forward “to help get that son of a bitch who did this to our community.”
The four bodies were removed from the mall Saturday and are in the possession of the Skagit County Coroner’s Office, Washington State Patrol Public Information Officer Sgt. Keith Leary told CNN.
The coroner’s office is in the process of identifying the victims and notifying their families before the names are released publicly, Leary says.
A critical lead in the case comes from grainy security camera footage, which captured the suspect initially appearing to enter the mall unarmed and — about 10 minutes later — walking into Macy’s carrying a rifle.
The suspect “fired multiple times, struck four females ranging in age from a teenager to seniors,” said Mount Vernon police Lt. Chris Cammock, commander of the Skagit County Multi-Agency Response Team.
It’s unclear whether the suspect, who police said appears to be in his late teens or early 20s, knew his victims.
“I don’t know what his motivation was,” Cammock said. “I don’t know what his motivation was to continue, I don’t know what his motivation was to stop, but I certainly intend to find out.”
He said police recovered a rifle at the mall but would not disclose the type or caliber.
A FBI official told reporters there was “no evidence at this time” of a link to terrorism.
The FBI office in Seattle is helping with a review of intelligence. There’s no information to suggest additional attacks were planned in the state, it tweeted.
The gunman vanished into the night Friday along Interstate 5 after the attack, said Sgt. Mark Francis, a spokesman for the Washington State Patrol.
In a statement on its Facebook page, Macy’s said: “We are devastated by the tragic events that occurred last night at Cascade Mall. Our hearts are with our Burlington store, the families and loved ones of the victims, and the entire community. We are working closely with local law enforcement authorities as the investigation continues to unfold.”
Witnesses described chaotic scenes and confusion when the shooting started about 7 p.m. Friday local time
Brandi Montreuil told CNN she was watching a movie at the mall when attendants suddenly told them to leave.
“I didn’t know anything,” she said. “The theater attendant came in and apologized for stopping the movie and said they were asked to have everyone leave immediately.”
At first, she thought it was a drill.
“But you immediately think about what happened in Aurora, Colorado, so you start moving faster,” she said, referring to the 2012 shooting at a movie theater that left 12 dead.
When they got outside, they saw police vehicles but no officers in sight, Montreuil said.
“We didn’t know if it was a fire so we were looking for smoke of some kind. Then a few officers started canvassing through the crowds, asking if anybody saw anything.”
An officer “with a large gun started yelling for people to leave and fast,” she said.
Armando Patino said he was working at a T-Mobile store near Macy’s when he heard the commotion.
“Out of nowhere I just hear somebody yell and then after that, I turn around and just look at the Macy’s and I just hear shots,” Patino told CNN affiliate KOMO-TV in Seattle.
“I hear one shot and then stand kinda still and like two, three other people start running out saying, ‘gun.’ ”
Some people dashed out of Macy’s, unsure of where to go.
“I just moved them into the (T-Mobile) store,” Patino said.
“We went in the back where we have a door … and we just stayed there until they told us to evacuate.”
Officers using K-9 units searched the 434,000-square feet mall throughout the night, including in secure rooms, authorities said.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said law enforcement officers were working to locate the shooter, and urged residents to follow instructions.
“Follow detour warnings, stay close to friends and loved ones as we await more information and, hopefully, news of the suspect’s capture,” he tweeted.