Suspect in Washington state mall shooting in custody

A suspect in a shooting that killed five people at a Washington state mall was arrested Saturday, authorities said. 

The Island County Sheriff’s Office said the suspect was taken into custody in Oak Harbor nearly 24 hours after he murdered four women and one man at the Cascade Mall in Burlington, Wash. The mall is about 30 miles east from where the suspect was captured. 

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Sept. 24, 2016: A suspect in a mass shooting at a Washington state mall is arrested in Oak Harbor, Wash.

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The suspect, who fled the area immediately after the shooting, was not immediately identified. A press conference was scheduled for later Saturday evening. 

Police said the victims were shot at around 7 p.m. local time Friday at the Macy’s makeup counter. The four female victims died in the store. The male victim died early Saturday as police finished sweeping the 434,000-square-foot building. 

Authorities launched a 20-hour manhunt for the suspect, whom witnesses described as a Hispanic man wearing dark clothing and who was last seen walking toward Interstate 5. 

“There are people waking up this morning, and their world has changed forever. The city of Burlington has probably changed forever, but I don’t think our way of life needs to change,” Burlington Mayor Steve Sexton said Saturday at a news conference. “This was a senseless act. It was the world knocking on our doorstep, and it came into our little community.”

As the small city absorbed the tragic news, critical questions remained, including the identity of the shooter and his motive.

The FBI said terrorism was not suspected.

Surveillance video captured the suspect entering the mall unarmed and then recorded him about 10 minutes later entering the Macy’s with a “hunting type” rifle in his hand, Mount Vernon police Lt. Chris Cammock said.

Authorities did not say how the suspect may have obtained the weapon — whether he retrieved it from outside or picked it up in the mall — but they believe he acted alone. The weapon was recovered at the scene.

The identities of the victims — four women who ranged in age from a teenager to a senior citizen — were withheld pending autopsies and notification of family. The identity of the man who was fatally shot was also withheld and may not be released until Monday.

“Probably one of the most difficult moments for us last night was knowing that there were family members wondering about their loved ones in there,” Mount Vernon police Lt. Chris Cammock said.

Burlington, a community of 8,600 people is too far from Seattle to be a commuter town, but its population swells to 55,000 during the day because of a popular outlet mall, retail stores and other businesses. Burlington is the only major retail center within 30 miles in a region where agriculture is king, said Linda Jones, president of the Burlington Chamber of Commerce.

Residents gathered Saturday to comfort each other at a community gathering in a city park.

“It’s too scary. It’s too close to home,” said Maria Elena Vasquez, who attended the gathering with her husband and two young children.

Those who survived were still trying to process what happened as their community became the latest entry on a list of places known by the rest of world for mass shootings.

Joanne Burkholder, 19, of nearby Mount Vernon, was watching the movie “The Magnificent Seven” in the mall’s theater when security guards came in and told them to evacuate immediately. Dozens of panicked moviegoers gathered in the hallway, and Burkholder heard screaming as the officers escorted them to safety in a parking lot.

As she drove home later, she had to pull over because she was shaking so hard, she told The Associated Press.

“I’m just very thankful for my life this morning. I’ve never been so terrified in my life,” she said Saturday, trying to hold back tears as she attended the community vigil.

“You’d think it would happen in Everett or Seattle, but a small town of Burlington, I’d never dream something like this would happen.”

People who believed they may have lost loved ones were being sequestered at a church three blocks from the mall, where counselors and a golden retriever therapy dog were present.

Dozens of people attended a Saturday evening prayer service for the victims. The gathering was held at Central United Methodist Church in nearby Sedro-Woolley, Washington.

The Rev. Cody Natland lit five candles on a table in front of the church, one for each victim.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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