The young man accused of fatally shooting five people at a Washington state mall had a history of violence against his family and girlfriend, who told police he had links with “bad people in Turkey,” according to documents obtained by The Associated Press. The reports reveal suspect Arcan Cetin had an interest in beheadings by the Islamic State militant group and followed their activities in the news.
An hour before the Sept. 23 shooting in Macy’s in Burlington, Washington, the reports say he bought a ticket to the film “Snowden” at the mall’s theater. He went into the theater and propped an outside door open with his cellphone, suggesting he may have planned a repeat of the Aurora, Colorado, mass shooting by James Holmes.
After Cetin went outside, a person in the theater gave the partially crushed phone to an employee at a kiosk. Cetin walked back inside and asked the worker if anyone had found a phone. She handed it to him and he left, records said.
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Soon after, authorities say Cetin went into Macy’s on the other side of the mall and shot a girl near a clothing rack and a man he encountered as he walked to a makeup counter. There, he shot two women who clung to each other in front of the counter and an employee as she hid behind it, according to police reports and surveillance video. He set the rifle on the counter and left.
Police captured Cetin the next day a block from his Oak Harbor, Washington, apartment. He’s being held on a felony warrant accusing him with five counts of first-degree murder. Formal charges are expected in January. Bail was set at $2 million. His stepfather told reporters after Cetin’s initial court appearance that he suffers from psychological problems.
Hundreds of pages of police interviews and search warrants reveal a history of violence against and by Cetin dating back to his years in Turkey before moving to the U.S. with his mother when he was 7. Cetin told police his uncles used to hit him. One of those uncles is now in prison for murder, the police report said.
Cetin’s ex-girlfriend told police that people warned her against dating Cetin when they worked together at the commissary. Co-workers said “he talks about how he would kill people when he gets angry,” she told police, but she dated him anyway and their relationship turned violent.
“He would grab my arm and I’d have bruises at work,” she said. “And during, like, intimate times tried choking me until I passed out.”
“How frequently would he choke you?” asked the officer.
“Every time,” said the girlfriend. She also said Cetin attacked his father for looking at her. The AP is not naming her because she alleges she was abused by Cetin. She did not immediately return a call from AP Thursday.
Cetin wanted to take her back to Turkey but she refused, she told police. Cetin’s mother didn’t want him to have any contact with his biological father or other relatives, but Cetin found his father and told his girlfriend that his dad was affiliated with “bad people in Turkey” — “like the ISIS,” she told police. Cetin was in contact with them on Facebook, she said, but she didn’t speak Turkish and didn’t understand what they said.
She broke up with him in early 2015 because of his violent behavior and he threatened to rape and kill her, she told police. He continually contacted her, she said, and described abusing his dog and having sex with an older neighbor. She used to work at Macy’s but has moved from the area.
Cetin’s “open source profile” changed after the breakup, police said in search warrants reviewed by AP. On his Tumblr page in July, he had a photo: “Mein Kampf Cyberpunks Julian Assange,” which was Assange’s book altered to add “Mein Kampf,” the name of Adolf Hitler’s autobiography.
Police asked Cetin, who described himself as a devout Sunni Muslim, whether his Turkish relatives had ties to terrorist groups and he said no. He also said he didn’t have any contact with those relatives.
“Cetin did admit to taking an interest in ISIS beheadings with he watched on the Internet and he also stated that he listens to the news and reads articles about ISIS,” the police report said. Police asked him if he thought what terrorists did was wrong, he said yes, the report said.
“He was asked if he was to be labeled a Muslim terrorist for these shootings would this be okay for him and he said `I can’t answer that,”’ the police report said. “He was asked if terrorist groups such as ISIS inspired him to commit these murders and he again said `I can’t answer that.”’
Cetin said he didn’t know any of the shooting victims and showed no remorse while speaking about the people he had killed, the police report said. “In fact, at times he would smirk and smile and appeared to be unsympathetic,” the officer said.