BURLINGTON, Wash.—Police searched Saturday for a gunman who authorities said fatally shot five people in a mall north of Seattle before fleeing toward an interstate highway on foot.
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. A helicopter, search teams and K-9 units scoured the area for a rifle-carrying man.
“We are still actively looking for the shooter,” Washington State Patrol spokesman Sgt. Mark Francis said at a Friday night news conference. “Stay indoors, stay secure.”
Authorities said four females, whose ages were not given, died after the gunman opened fire in the makeup department of a Macy’s store. An adult male who was wounded in the shooting died early Saturday, officials said. His location in the mall was unclear.
Police said they were looking for a man wearing black and armed with a “hunting-type” rifle and last seen walking toward Interstate 5. The description, including that he appeared to be Hispanic, was based on statements from witnesses, said Given Kutz, a spokesman for the Skagit County Emergency Operations Center.
Authorities said the motive was unknown for the shooting about 60 miles (97 kilometers) north of Seattle.
The FBI was assisting local authorities as dozens of police officers searched for the suspect. The FBI’s Seattle office said on Twitter that it “has no information to suggest additional attacks planned” in Washington state but did not elaborate.
Though the four female victims were in the makeup area, it is unclear where the male victim was when he was shot.
Tari Caswell told the Skagit Valley Herald that she was in the Macy’s women’s dressing room when she heard “what sounded like four balloons popping.”
“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. And then I heard a lady yelling for help, and a man came and got me and another lady, and we ran out of the store,” Caswell told the newspaper.
Stephanie Bose, an assistant general manager at Johnny Carino’s Italian restaurant near the Macy’s store at the mall, said she immediately locked the doors to the restaurant after hearing about the shooting from an employee’s boyfriend.
“He was trying to go to the mall and people were screaming,” she told The Associated Press. “It was frantic.”
She said he could see police at the doors with assault rifles and said they were no longer guarding the doors as of 9:30 p.m.
Francis said at about 8:30 p.m. that the mall had been evacuated and emergency medical personnel were cleared to enter. Francis said authorities were still doing a “final clear” of the 434,000-square-foot (40,000-square-meter) mall late Friday night. He said 11 search teams and two K9 units were involved.
The parking lot was closed and emergency management officials told people they would be able to retrieve vehicles Saturday, though the mall said it would be closed for the day.
Gov. Jay Inslee said tragedy had struck the state.
“We urge residents to heed all safety and detour warnings. Stay close to your friends and loved ones as we await more information and, hopefully, news of the suspect’s capture,” Inslee said in a statement.
The Cascade Mall is an enclosed shopping mall that opened in 1990, according to the mall’s website. It features J.C. Penney, TJ Maxx, and Macy’s stores, among other stores, restaurants and a movie theater.
On Sept. 17 a man stabbed 10 people at a Minnesota mall before being shot and killed by an off-duty police officer. Authorities say Dahir Ahmed Adan, 20, stabbed the people at the Crossroads Center in St. Cloud, Minnesota.