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Washington mall shooting suspect: ‘Creepy,’ had multiple arrests

Investigators at the apartment complex that has been tied to Arcan Cetin, the suspected Cascade Mall shooter, in Oak Harbor, Washington, on Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016. Authorities carried boxes from a rear, upstairs apartment in the four-unit building. | Martha Bellisle/AP

OAK HARBOR, Wash. — The 20-year-old man suspected of killing five people with a rifle at a Macy’s makeup counter had a string of run-ins with the law in recent years, including charges he assaulted his stepfather. He was described by a neighbor as so “creepy, rude and obnoxious” that she kept a Taser by her front door.

As investigators tried to piece together information on Arcan Cetin, who was arrested Saturday evening after a nearly 24-hour manhunt, a picture emerged of a troubled young man. Court records show more than a half-dozen criminal cases in Island County alone since 2013.

Authorities said the gunman in the attack at the Cascade Mall in Burlington opened fire in the department store’s cosmetics department Friday night, killing a man and four females ranging from a teenager to a senior citizen. The killer then fled.

Cetin said nothing and appeared “zombie-like” when he was taken into custody on a sidewalk outside his apartment complex about 30 miles away in Oak Harbor by a sheriff’s officer who recognized him as the suspect in the rampage, authorities said.

Arcan Cetin, 20, of Oak Harbor, Washington | Washington State Patrol
Arcan Cetin, 20, of Oak Harbor, Washington | Washington State Patrol

Cetin immigrated to the U.S. from Turkey and is a legal permanent resident, officials said.

As the surrounding area absorbed news of the arrest, critical questions remained, including the gunman’s motive. The FBI said early Saturday that there was no indication the shooting was terrorism, but local authorities said later in the day that they were ruling nothing out.

On Sept. 17, a 20-year-old man stabbed 10 people at a Minnesota mall before he was shot to death by an off-duty police officer. Authorities said they are investigating the attack by Dahir Ahmed Adan as a possible act of terrorism.

On Sunday, investigators searched Cetin’s vehicle and apartment complex and were seen carrying boxes from a rear, upstairs unit. The four-unit building was surrounded with yellow police tape. Detectives would not say what they found.

Amber Cathey, 21, lived in an apartment next to Cetin for the past three months and said she was so frightened by him that she complained to apartment management and kept a stun gun handy. Cathey said she blocked him on Snapchat after he sent her a photo of his crotch.

“He was really creepy, rude and obnoxious,” Cathey said. She said she would try to avoid him by walking the long way around to her apartment if she saw his car in the parking lot. The two were in high school together as well, and Cathey said he acted the same way then.

The Seattle Times reported that court records show Cetin faced three charges of assaulting his stepfather. The newspaper said Cetin also was arrested on drunken-driving charges. It gave no details on when the arrests took place or how the cases may have been resolved.

In the assault case, Cetin was told by a judge last December that he was not to possess a gun, the newspaper reported. However, the stepfather urged the judge not to impose a no-contact order, saying his stepson was “going through a hard time.”

Attempts to reach Cetin’s family for comment by phone and social media weren’t immediately successful. It wasn’t clear if Cetin had a lawyer yet. A man who came to the door Sunday morning at an Oak Harbor address believed to be where Cetin’s stepfather and mother live asked an Associated Press reporter to leave the property.

On Sunday in Burlington, Washington, a security guard who works at the Cascade Mall places flowers at a makeshift memorial to the five victims killed in a shooting at the mall on Friday. | Stephen Brashear/AP
On Sunday in Burlington, Washington, a security guard who works at the Cascade Mall places flowers at a makeshift memorial to the five victims killed in a shooting at the mall on Friday. | Stephen Brashear/AP

Social media accounts apparently belonging to Cetin showed he had a fondness for the military and video games.

A Twitter account showed, among other things, selfies, photos of him in younger years and pictures of Turkish food. He once participated in paintball and said he “can’t wait for Halo 5,” the first-person shooter video game. He also tweeted: “Shout out to the ROTC peeps.” A Facebook account showed he liked military-related sites.

Cetin also appeared to have blogs on the site Tumblr that had not been updated in many months. They included seemingly random posts about serial killer Ted Bundy, a collection of selfies, the top-secret Area 51 Cold War test site and photos of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and Islamic State group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The two blogs linked back to each other and one of them linked to what appeared to be his Twitter page.

Cetin took part in his high school’s ROTC program with former classmate Matthew McClimans, who described the suspect as “a pretty normal guy, but he was a little bit weird.”

“Every once in a while he’d make inappropriate comments: Things that are rude or in bad taste,” McClimans said.

Oak Harbor is a city of 22,000 on Whidbey Island with many military families associated with the nearby Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.

Sheriff’s Lt. Mike Hawley said he spotted Cetin Saturday from a patrol car and immediately recognized him as the suspect in the shooting rampage.

“I literally hit my brakes, did a quick turn, I jumped out,” Hawley said

No immediate charges were brought against Cetin, who awaited a court appearance Monday.

Authorities do not plan to make the identities of the five people who died in the shooting until Tuesday, but details about three of the victims have been reported by Washington state media. Here’s what is known about them:

SARAI LARA:

The 16-year-old high school sophomore was the youngest victim of the gunman who opened fire in department store in the small city of Burlington.

Born in Mount Vernon just south of Burlington, Lara was described by her mother Evangelina as bright, all smiles and her mother’s “right hand” at home for the family.

The teen survived cancer and was told by her doctor that she was doing well, Evangelina Lara told The Seattle Times through a translator.

The family has Mexican roots, and Sarai Lara was proud of her heritage, her mother said. She had a wide network of friends at school and helped at home, caring for year 5-year-old sister. “It’s not fair what happened to her,” Evangelina Lara said.

CHUCK EAGAN:

Eagan was a longtime Boeing Co. maintenance worker from Lake Stevens, his aunt, Carol Thrush told The Seattle Times.

She said Eagan and his wife were out for a dinner and shopping at the mall. They had made their way to Macy’s when the shooter opened fire. Thrush said Eagan and his wife ran, but his wife fell down as she was trying to get away.

Eagan was shot as he helped his wife, Thrush said. Eagan had two daughters and three grandchildren, he said. He planned to retire from Boeing next year and hoped to travel.

BELINDA GALDE:

Galde, 64, was a longtime probation officer with the Skagit County District Court.

The court in a statement described Galde as “an amazingly kind and caring individual who was much adored by her friends, her coworkers and the thousands of probationers who she helped find a better way to live.”

Baumann reported from Seattle. Associated Press writers Phuong Le in Burlington, Washington, Gillian Flaccus in Portland, Oregon, Kimberlee Kruesi and Keith Ridler in Boise, Idaho, contributed to this report.