BURLINGTON — Five people are dead after a shooting Friday night at Cascade Mall, and police this morning are still searching for the gunman.
The mall remains closed today, and the city has cancelled the Burlington Harvest Festival. Some community members were gathering at Maiben Park in a show of support.
Police ask that people avoid the mall while police are working.
The Skagit Multiple Agency Response Team (SMART) is handling the case.
"In the broader community, I think it's a safe community to be in," Lt. Chris Cammock of the Mount Vernon Police Department said a press conference this morning. But police are hoping people will take a look at the photographs of the suspect being distributed and call with any information.
Officials said that they are actively looking for the shooter, who they believe is in his late teens or early 20s. His motive was unknown. Authorities believe there was only one shooter. The weapon was recovered at the scene.
The FBI said there is no evidence of terrorism.
Cammock said the shooter entered the mall, apparently without a gun but about 10 minutes later entered Macy's with a rifle and began shooting.
The victims — four women and one man — range in age from teen to senior, but no identities have been confirmed or released. The Skagit County coroner had not yet been given access to the victims this morning as authorities continued to process the crime scene.
"Probably one of the most difficult moments last night was knowing that we had family of the victims out there (waiting)," Cammock said.
However, it is essential that the crime scene is processed thoroughly so the shooter can be brought to justice, he said.
Burlington Mayor Steve Sexton was emotional as he spoke at the morning press conference about what he called a "senseless act."
"The city of Burlington has probably changed forever, but I don't think our way of life needs to change," he said. "...It was the world knocking on our doorstep."
Police said the shooter opened fire in the makeup department of the women's Macy's store and then fled.
Customers hid in dressing rooms and employees locked the doors of nearby stores after gunshots rang out just after 7 p.m.
The Burlington Police Department’s mobile command center arrived on the scene and the department was joined by the Skagit County Sheriff’s Office and police departments from throughout the area, as well as the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
A helicopter, search teams and K-9 units scoured the area for a rifle-carrying man.
Several teams of officers were sent into the Macy’s to sweep the store, as police guarded every entrance to the mall.
People in the mall and surrounding businesses were told to stay in place while the area was secured.
The mall parking lot was a sea of blue and red lights soon after the shooting, as more than 26 agencies responded.
Doc Barron, who had been teaching a boxing class at the mall, told the Skagit Valley Herald that he heard a commotion outside and a bunch of people yelling and screaming for help.
“Someone ran by and said, ‘There’s an active shooter in the mall,’ and told us to lock our gate,” said Barron, who was able to get out of the mall and was interviewed in the parking lot.
Tari Caswell was clearly shaken up as she stood outside the mall soon after the shooting.
She said she was in the Macy’s women’s dressing room when she heard “what sounded like four balloons popping, and I thought that was strange because I hadn’t seen any balloons.”
“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.”
Burlington-Edison High School called off its football game, and the field was evacuated soon after the shooting.