5 Killed In Shooting At A Washington State Mall; Manhunt Underway

Sep 24, 2016
Originally published on September 24, 2016 12:19 pm

Police say 5 people were killed after a shooter opened fire inside a Macy's at a shopping mall in Burlington, Washington on Friday evening.

Authorities are searching for the suspected shooter, who they say left the scene at Cascade Mall before police arrived. He was last seen walking toward a nearby interstate highway. Skagit County's Department of Emergency Management cautioned people to stay indoors and "stay alert."

"People fled, customers hid in dressing rooms and employees locked the doors of nearby stores after gunshots rang out just after 7 p.m. Friday at the Cascade Mall," according to The Associated Press.

Police spokesman Sgt. Mark Francis told reporters that the man was armed with a "long gun, a rifle-type gun." He initially said the suspect is a Hispanic male in his 20s or 30s. At a press conference on Saturday, however, authorities said they were not certain of the suspect's race.

"He was wearing all black ... and he had kind of a close haircut, his hair was kind of scruffy," Francis said. He released a photo of the suspected shooter on Twitter.

"We believe at this point one lone shooter," Francis said. "This investigation will be ongoing, and whether or not someone helped him out in some way is yet to be determined."

The FBI said on Twitter that it is assisting with intelligence review and manpower and adds that it "has no information to suggest additional attacks planned in WA state." FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Michael Knutson said at a press conference that they have "no indication that there was a terrorism act at this point in time."

Police Lt. Chris Cammock said the suspect walked into the mall without a weapon — and "about 10 minutes later, entered Macy's with a rifle."

Authorities had initially reported four female victims who died at the scene. A 5th victim, who is male, later died in the hospital, as Francis tweeted. The victims' identities have not been released.

"This was a senseless act. It was the world knocking on our doorstep, and it came to our little community here," Burlington Mayor Steve Sexton told reporters. "Our community comes together in times of tragedy, and we're going to do it again."

Burlington is about 65 miles north of Seattle.

This is the second violent incident at a U.S. mall in less than a week. Last Saturday evening, an assailant at a mall in St. Cloud, Minn. stabbed nine people before he was shot dead by an off-duty police officer.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Police are still searching for a gunman who walked into a Macy's in a mall north of Seattle and killed five people. Earlier today, police held a press conference and said that a manhunt is underway for the shooter. Ross Reynolds from member station KUOW went to that press conference. Ross, thanks for being with us.

ROSS REYNOLDS, BYLINE: Happy to be here with you.

SIMON: And what's known about the suspect?

REYNOLDS: Not much. They have some screenshots from surveillance video at the mall which show that the man appears to be in his mid-teens to mid-20s. No identity has been given for him. He has dark hair. He walked in with shorts on. They have recovered a rifle at the location.

SIMON: And police said that he didn't appear to have the gun on him when he first walked in.

REYNOLDS: Yes. They have surveillance video of him entering the mall without the rifle. They say 10 minutes later video picked him up with the rifle at the Macy's doing the shooting.

SIMON: And what's the latest on the search for this man?

REYNOLDS: They don't really have much to say about the search. They have no clues about his identity, and they really don't know where he is. But there are dozens, if not a couple hundred, officers of local, state and national in the search.

SIMON: And I gather the mayor of the community had something to say.

REYNOLDS: Yes. The mayor, Steve Sexton of Burlington, which is where this mall is located, sent his prayers out to the people who were there. And he also said he hopes that law enforcement officials will catch this SOB.

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STEVE SEXTON: 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 in our community. This was a senseless act. It was the world knocking on our doorstep, and it came to our little community here.

SIMON: Obviously, the mayor of Burlington deeply moved at this time of terrible tragedy for his city. Ross, what do we know about the five people who were killed?

REYNOLDS: We know that there were four women and one man. Police declined to give any identification information out. The coroner has not yet had a chance to see the bodies. They say until an autopsy has been done on each of the bodies, they will not be releasing any information about the victims.

SIMON: And to repeat what we know of the story right now, Ross, the shooter is at large, manhunt is underway, there are five people who are dead, no indication now that police know where the shooter is.

REYNOLDS: No and no identity on the shooter. And so far, no information on who the victims are.

SIMON: Ross Reynolds from member station KUOW in Seattle, thanks so much.

REYNOLDS: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.