Days after five people were killed in a shooting at the Cascade Mall in Burlington, the Oak Harbor community is still reeling with the knowledge that the man who committed the inconceivable act of violence is one of their own.
Twenty-year-old Arcan Cetin confessed to police after he was arrested in Oak Harbor Saturday, according to the arrest warrant declaration.
Authorities confirmed the identify of the victims Monday. Sarai Lara was a 16-year-old student at Mount Vernon High School. Beatrice Dotson and Belinda Galde were mother and daughter; Galde, 64, was a probation officer who has worked for Snohomish County District Court since 1989 and Dotson was 95 years old. Chuck Eagan, 61, was a longtime Boeing maintenance worker from Lake Stevens. Shayla Martin, 52, was a Mount Vernon resident and a Macy’s employee.
Cetin appeared in Skagit County District Court Monday morning for a hearing on a magistrate warrant, a process that allows prosecutors to hold him for up to 30 days without filing charges. That will allow investigators more time to handle the complex case.
Cetin is being held on suspicion of five counts of premeditated first-degree murder. The judge maintained Cetin’s bail at $2 million.
Cetin was a 2015 graduate of Oak Harbor High School and a member of the school’s NJROTC team. He worked at both the commissary and Wendy’s restaurant at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. His stepfather is a retired Navy man. He had dozens of friends from the community on his Facebook page.
People his age who knew him remember him either as a normal guy or as socially awkward and even creepy.
Court records, police reports and 911 logs show that the young man was troubled. He suffered from mental health problems as well as alcohol and marijuana abuse issues, court records show. Last November his mother reported that he was suicidal and she was concerned that he hadn’t been taking his medication; dispatch records show he was transported to the hospital. Court records show he was hospitalized for mental health issues the next day.
Cetin has a history of gross-misdemeanor assault cases in Island County District Court. In a Oct. 29, 2014 incident, Cetin was allegedly grabbed his mom’s hand and “began to hit himself in the face with it.” When asked why he did that, he said he didn’t know, according to court documents.
On March 27, 2015, Cetin was charged in two cases in connection with an incident that occurred at the Oak Harbor High School. He was accused of “rubbing his foot up and down (other students’) legs in a high school math class as they were working on a project.” When asked about the incident, Cetin was reportedly “not making a lot of sense,” the court documents state.
Cetin was cited for gross misdemeanor assault with sexual motivation.
Then on June 19, 2015, Cetin was charged in an assault case involving his stepfather. He was accused of kissing the man on the lips twice. A supplemental report alleges he “had a difficult time staying on track and often stopped to giggle and laugh as he wrote the statement.”
He reportedly used marijuana prior to each arrest, court records state.
A probation officer determined that Cetin’s risk classification was “medium,” according to the deferred prosecution report.
Cetin had to complete mental-health and substance abuse evaluations to qualify for deferred prosecution, which he was granted in the three cases. The basis for the deferred prosecution, a report states, is that he suffers from “anxiety, depression and attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder” and was being tested to rule out autism.
The report states that Cetin’s drug of choice is alcohol; he drinks until he is drunk, intends to continue using and has “a high loss of control” when drinking.
He also has a loss of control when smoking marijuana, the report states, which he used five or six days a week, the probation officer wrote.
Cetin was seeing a Skagit County psychiatrist. The terms of his deferred prosecution required him to comply with treatment, support groups and probation. That meant weekly medication monitoring, one substance-abuse class a week, two sober support groups a week and monthly meetings with a substance-abuse-prevention counselor.
Cetin had a Myspace page when he was younger that contained photos of him holding guns. His Facebook page was relatively sparse but showed he enjoys video games.
Cetin is an immigrant from Turkey, but he and his family are American citizens, officials said. While the details of Cetin’s problems seem alarming — especially with the knowledge of what he’s accused of — people in the law-and-justice system say it’s not that unusual.
“It’s similar to dozens and dozens and dozens of people like him that we deal with on a regular basis,” said Lt. Mike Hawley with the Island County Sheriff’s Office. Hawley knew Cetin from a medical call earlier this year and arrested him Saturday in the midst of a nationwide manhunt.
“This is not something that anyone would have been able to predict,” he added.
Surveillance video at the Cascade Mall shows that Cetin entered the mall at the Chuck E. Cheese entrance and exited through the Macy’s women’s store. He got a Ruger 10/22 rifle from the trunk of his car, went back inside the Macy’s and started shooting people, according to the arrest warrant declaration.
He first shot a juvenile girl near clothes racks and then walked toward the cosmetics counter, where he shot a man and three woman. He placed the rifle on top of the cosmetics counter, left the store and drove away, the declaration states.
After images of the shooter were broadcast on TV, detectives at the tip line received a call that the suspect looked like Cetin. Another witness provided photos of Cetin and stated there was “much resemblance.”
“Several conscientious and quick-thinking employees and Navy personnel from NAS Whidbey Island identified the suspect from the picture shown over multiple media sources and contacted local law enforcement,” Navy public information officer Mike Welding said.
Detectives learned that Cetin worked at a gym in Oak Harbor and spoke to employees there, who confirmed that the image resembled Cetin. They spoke to Cetin’s father, who said he was missing a Ruger 10/22 rifle and that he had a recent falling out with his son.
Detective then contacted his mother, who “positively identified” her son from the images of the shooter. She told them that he lived in an apartment on North Oak Harbor Street, the report states.
The task force notified law enforcement in Oak Harbor and Island County that they were looking for Cetin last Saturday afternoon. Soon afterward, an Oak Harbor police officer located Cetin’s 2005 Chevrolet Cavalier about a block away from the apartment building.
Lt. Mike Hawley with the Island County Sheriff’s Office was driving on Oak Harbor Road to the site of the car when he noticed Cetin walking on the sidewalk. He and Reserve Deputy Eric Gronbach took the young man into custody without incident. He was carrying a satchel containing a laptop computer at the time.
In an interview with detectives, Cetin allegedly admitted that he shot the five people at the mall.
Investigators haven’t said what Cetin’s motive might have been. The victims appear to be completely random, officials said. A task force of local, state and federal agencies continue to investigate the crime.
The murders made news across the world. Reporters and photographers representing newspapers from all over the nation crowded into the small courtroom in Skagit County Monday along with families of the victims. A TV camera was set up in the courtroom and nearly a dozen TV news crews waited outside to speak with the family members.