“As soon as he came in the door, I decided we weren’t going to be selling him a gun,” the store’s owner says of Arcan Cetin, charged with killing five people at a Skagit County mall. ”It just didn’t feel right.”
A man charged with killing five people with a rifle at a Skagit County mall Friday was turned away from buying a large-caliber handgun by an Island County gun store just hours before the attack, the store owner says.
The owner said Arcan Cetin, 20, was acting strangely when he entered and asked about purchasing a .45-caliber handgun.
“As soon as he came in the door, I decided we weren’t going to sell him a gun,” said the store owner, who asked to be identified only by her first name, Dawn, and requested her store not be identified.
She said Cetin came through the door sometime between 5 and 5:30 p.m. Friday. The first panicked 911 calls from the Cascade Mall in Burlington were received by Skagit County authorities at 6:53 p.m.
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The gun store is about 28 miles, or about 40 minutes, from the mall.
Washington State Patrol Sgt. Mark Francis said Skagit County task-force detectives have collected surveillance video from the gun store.
Dawn, the store owner, said there was something “off” about Cetin from the moment he walked in.
“It was just the feeling we got from him,” she said. “It was his demeanor.”
Cetin, she said, asked her “if we have .45s and stuff,” referring to a popular and powerful handgun caliber. “I mean, yeah, we have ‘stuff.’ It just didn’t feel right.”
Cetin was referred to a store sales representative, Dawn said, where he almost immediately began asking about background checks. When he was told he would have to undergo one no matter what, Dawn, said, “he sort of puffed up the way men do when you tell them, ‘No.’ ”
Cetin, she said, asked about buying a firearm at a gun show, but was told that under Washington law every firearm transaction — even those between private individuals — requires an instant background check.
Dawn said that once Cetin was told in no uncertain terms that a check would be conducted, he “just walked out of the store.”
She said she later recognized Cetin from the mall-surveillance photos released by police during the manhunt for the gunman.
Dawn said she gave the store’s surveillance video of the encounter to law enforcement. Police also confirmed Wednesday that Cetin’s reported visit to the gun store is part of their investigation.
Cetin, according to court records, was under a court order not to possess firearms and had been involuntarily committed for psychiatric treatment after a suicide attempt, both of which would disqualify him from purchasing a firearm and would likely appear on the background check.
According to the charges, Cetin walked into the Macy’s store armed with a Ruger 10-22 .22-caliber rifle equipped with an aftermarket 25-round magazine, which police recovered at the scene. The standard magazine for the gun holds 10 rounds.
Based on court documents, Cetin’s visit to the gun store likely occurred sometime shortly after he had a 4:30 p.m. dinner with his stepfather in Oak Harbor. According to the charges, the two men had a recent falling-out, but the documents don’t indicate when, nor the nature of the disagreement.
Cetin left after dinner, telling his stepfather he was going to work.
His stepfather later told detectives that he owned a 10-22 Ruger rifle, and that the weapon and some .22-caliber ammunition were missing from the home, according to the documents.
Sometime shortly before the shootings, police say, Cetin is seen on Cascade Mall surveillance video walking into the mall near a Chuck E. Cheese. A short time later, he left the mall through the west entrance of Macy’s, moved his car closer to the department store and removed a rifle from the trunk, the documents say. He then walked back into Macy’s through the same entrance. The documents say he walked up to a 16-year-old girl, Sarai Lara, and shot her as she was looking at clothing on racks.
Cetin walked to the cosmetics department and shot the sole male victim, Chuck Eagan, and three women: Macy’s makeup artist Shayla Martin, 52, Beatrice Dotson, 95, and her daughter, Belinda Galde, 64, according to documents.
The killer left the rifle on a counter and left the mall, police say.
Cetin, a permanent legal resident of the U.S. who emigrated from Turkey with his mother when he was a child, was arrested the next day without incident in Oak Harbor. He is being held in the Skagit County Jail in lieu of $2 million bail.
Meanwhile, police said a search of Cetin’s impounded car Wednesday turned up personal documents, electronics and receipts, but no firearms. Investigators are still examining video from the mall and interviewing witnesses, as well as people who know Cetin.
Detectives are focusing solely on Cetin and have no other suspects, according to the State Patrol’s Francis, who is spokesman for the Skagit Multi-Agency Response Team, which is investigating the mass shooting. He said police have received more than 300 tips.