Mall Shooting Leaves 5 Dead In Washington State

Elena Weissmann | Contributor

A shooter opened fire at the Cascade Mall on Friday night, killing five people and fleeing the scene of the crime.

Dozens of police officers are currently searching for the gunman, described as a Hispanic man in his 20s or 30s. Authorities believe the man acted alone, though it’s possible that he received help, a spokesperson for the patrol, Sgt. Mark Francis, said in a midnight briefing outside the mall.

“I’d be extremely diligent and careful if you come in contact with the suspect,” Francis warned. “Stay indoors, stay secure.”

The shooter killed four women in the cosmetics department of a Macy’s department store at the Burlington shopping center, which is located 65 miles north of Seattle. Another man suffered critical injuries but passed away Saturday morning, Sgt. Francis said on Twitter.

The gunman, armed with a long hunting rifle, left before police arrived. The mall was quickly evacuated around 8pm, minutes after the shooting took place.

There has been no indication that the event was terror-related, Washington State Trooper spokeswoman Heather Axtman told NBC News, adding that the motive remains unclear. “We’re still trying to gather as many witnesses as we can to get more information,” she said.

Eric Mathews, 40, intended to meet his teenage son Kai at the mall on Friday night, arriving just as the shooting occurred. The two left before the mall was locked down, but four of Kai’s friends were stuck inside.

“Imagine I was late or if he didn’t answer his phone,” Mathews told the NY Times, referring to his son. “That stuff is running through my mind.”

Tari Caswell was in the Macy’s women’s dressing room when she heard the shots, “like four balloons popping,” she told the Skagit Valley Herald. “Then I heard seven or eight more, and I just stayed quiet in the dressing room because it just didn’t feel right. And it got very quiet,” she added.

The investigation is ongoing, and the FBI has said early Saturday morning that it had “no information to suggest that additional attacks,” were planned in Washington state.

This is the second attack at a U.S. shopping mall in less than a week. Last Saturday an assailant stabbed nine people at a mall in St. Cloud, Minn. before an off-duty police officer intervened.

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