People who know Arcan Cetin, the 20-year-old suspect in the Cascade Mall shootings, say he’s occasionally inappropriate and found it hard to make friends.
OAK HARBOR, Island County — The 20-year-old Oak Harbor man being held on suspicion of shooting five people to death at the Cascade Mall was socially awkward and troubled in high school, where he was shunned for vulgar behavior and found it hard to make friends, according to people who knew him.
Arcan Cetin was arrested Saturday near his apartment and more than 24 hours after police say he walked into a Macy’s department store with a rifle and shot five people, killing three women and a teenage girl outright and mortally wounding a man, who died later after being flown to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.
Cetin was identified as a suspect from tips and after police examined surveillance video from the Burlington, Skagit County, mall and tracked him to a vehicle in the mall parking lot, police said. Skagit County authorities alerted the Island County Sheriff’s Office, which arrested Cetin without incident around 6:30 p.m.
Police said Sunday that one of those tips came from Cetin’s stepfather.
Cetin has not been charged, and the motive for the shootings remains elusive, police have said. He was booked into Skagit County Jail at 10:40 p.m. Saturday, according to the jail’s roster.
He is expected to appear in Skagit County District Court on Monday.
The Skagit County coroner said autopsies and formal identification of the victims likely won’t be completed until Tuesday. However, their identities have become known through social media and word-of-mouth, and confirmed by friends and family.
The victims ranged from a 16-year-old girl, Sarai Lara, a Mount Vernon High School sophomore who had survived cancer as a young girl, to a 95-year-old woman, Beatrice Dotson, who was at the mall with her 64-year-old daughter, Belinda Galde, also killed.
Galde worked as a probation officer out of Arlington for Snohomish County District Court, according to the Washington State Courts website.
The district court issued a statement late Saturday calling her death “an unimaginable and tragic loss.”
“Belinda was a devoted and esteemed public servant for our court since 1989,” working to “ensure public safety and dedicated her life to assisting those who stumbled along the way in life,” the statement says.
“She was an amazing kind and caring individual who was much adored by her friends, her co-workers and the thousands of probationers who she helped find a better way to live,” it added.
Also killed was Chuck Eagan, a longtime Boeing maintenance worker from Lake Stevens who, according to a relative, was shot while helping his wife, who fell while running. He was nearing retirement, the relative said.
The fifth victim is believed to be Shayla Martin, 52, of Mount Vernon, who worked as a makeup artist at Macy’s.
Suspect’s criminal record, odd behavior
Skagit County court records show Cetin has a criminal record that includes domestic-violence assault charges in both Burlington and Island County, with the victim identified as Cetin’s stepfather.
It’s clear from the court docket that Cetin was struggling with substance abuse and emotional or mental-health issues, and that the court, prosecutors and defense team were trying to get him help.
Island County District Court records show Cetin was told by a judge on Dec. 29 that he was not to possess a firearm.
The case was eventually resolved with a deferred prosecution, meaning that the charge would eventually be dismissed if Cetin didn’t violate the court’s conditions. As of August, Cetin was in compliance with the court’s orders, had been seeing a counselor and had been paying his fines.
Cetin was a 2015 graduate of Oak Harbor High School, and interviews with people who knew him say he was awkward and occasionally inappropriate.
Austin Hendrix, 19, who now lives in Seattle, graduated from Oak Harbor High with Cetin in 2015. He described Cetin as “that kid who wasn’t afraid to say something offensive or vulgar.
“In high school, he started harassing kids and not being a nice person, so I disassociated with him,” Hendrix said. “He would grope women in high school and middle school.”
The New York Times quoted former classmate Uhlaine Finnigan, 19, of Port Angeles, who said Cetin would touch girls on their buttocks, “either slapping or grabbing them.”
Dakota Powers, another 2015 Oak Harbor High graduate, said Cetin had participated in the junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) program and was interested in the military, but didn’t like taking orders.
Cetin, he said, was “a bit isolated during the high-school years” and regularly talked about girls and rejection.
Cetin’s social problems extended beyond high school. His neighbor at the Anchor Pointe Apartments, 21-year-old Amber Cathey, described him as a “really weird guy” whom she kicked out of a party at her apartment in July after “he gave everybody a weird vibe.”
“The whole time he was creepy and rude and awkward,” she recalled, adding that their apartments shared a wall and that she often heard Cetin playing the video combat game “Call of Duty” and yelling at the TV.
“I feared living here. I kept a Taser by my door since that night,” she said.
Cathey said she took pains to avoid Cetin after that, but she sometimes saw him coming home late from a job at a local fast-food restaurant. He never had anyone over and didn’t seem to have any friends, she said. Once, he sent her a lewd photo over Snapchat.
“He kept asking me and my friends to come over and play Xbox, and I was like, ‘No, dude,’ ” Cathey said.
Neighbors who live near Cetin’s stepfather’s house in Oak Harbor also reported unnerving behavior when he lived there.
“One time, he walked into my house uninvited. I got my brother to ask him to leave because I was too scared,” said the 19-year-old neighbor, who said she attended middle and high school with Cetin. She declined to give her name, saying their families didn’t get along.
“He’s not a cool character,” she said. “I didn’t like him.”
A man who answered the door at Cetin’s parents’ house Sunday declined to comment.
Police said little more about the investigation Sunday, holding a single briefing in which they provided no new information about a possible motive for the crime. They did acknowledge Cetin had an ex-girlfriend who had worked for Macy’s, but not the store in the Cascade Mall.
Washington State Patrol Sgt. Mark Francis said detectives were still looking at possible connections between the victims and Cetin.
The FBI has said there is no evidence at this point that the attack was terrorism-related. Cetin, who was born in Turkey but moved to the U.S. with his mother when he was a child, is a permanent, legal resident, according to police.
Detectives have declined to provide details on the rifle left at the scene. Surveillance photos showed Cetin entering the mall empty-handed. However, about 10 minutes later he’s seen carrying a rifle into Macy’s.
Francis said authorities believe at this point that he retrieved the gun from his car in the parking lot just before 7 p.m. Friday, shot up the store and drove off as hundreds of police converged on the mall.
The vehicle, a 2005 Chevrolet Cavalier, is in police custody and has been searched.
Francis said detectives have worked through the majority of more than 250 tips police received, and that new witnesses have been developed as a result.
Police were able to track Cetin and identify his car through security video. They have not said if they know what Cetin had been up to in the nearly 24 hours between the shootings and his arrest.
Cetin was arrested Saturday near his Oak Harbor apartment after he was spotted walking down the sidewalk by Island County sheriff’s Lt. Mike Hawley, who made a U-turn and arrested him without incident at gunpoint.
“He said nothing,” Hawley said. “He was kind of zombielike.”