Wednesday 21 February 2018

Manhunt under way as mall killer flees massacre

US police appeal for help in tracking suspect after five shot dead at Macy's make-up counter

Emergency personnel attend the scene in which several people were killed at the Cascade Mall, Burlington. Photo: AP
Emergency personnel attend the scene in which several people were killed at the Cascade Mall, Burlington. Photo: AP

Matt Mills McKnight

Police in Washington state were last night hunting for a gunman who opened fire at the make-up counter of a Macy's department store, killing five people.

Reports that the gunman shouted a woman's name repeatedly before opening fire could not be confirmed by the police, who described the suspect as possibly Hispanic and being in his late teens or early twenties.

He was captured on camera entering the mall in Burlington, 65 miles north of Seattle at around 7pm on Friday without a gun. But security footage from Macy's showed him 10 minutes later, entering the shop with a rifle.

Four women were killed immediately and a man who was taken from the scene by helicopter died in hospital in the early hours. The victims were aged from "teen to senior", police said.

"The lives of those families have changed forever," said Steve Sexton, mayor of Burlington.

"The city of Burlington has probably changed forever. But I don't think our way of life needs to change.

The Macy’s store where the shooter opened fire. Photo: AP
The Macy’s store where the shooter opened fire. Photo: AP

"This was a senseless act and our community comes together in times of tragedy. I want everyone to know we'll get beyond this."

Chris Cammock, from Mount Vernon police, said he had no idea if the gunman was still in the local area, but the police were not searching for anyone else.

The FBI does not believe the attack is a case of terrorism.

"We've been getting a number of tips and leads in, but we do not have an identity on the individual yet, and could benefit from the community's help," said Mr Cammock.

This video image shows a suspect wanted by police. Photo: AP
This video image shows a suspect wanted by police. Photo: AP

"Probably one of the most difficult moments for us was knowing that there were family members out there and we had to clear the mall.

"At the same time we have to be able to reconstruct this crime scene in a way that when we bring this individual to justice, there is a fair and transparent case. We want to make sure we are careful, cautious and thorough."

Authorities offered no information about a possible motive for the attack, which followed a series of violent outbursts at shopping centres across the United States, including the stabbing of nine people at a Minnesota centre last weekend.

There was no indication from authorities that the rampage was linked to any previous attack, and none of the victims were identified.

Witnesses said on Twitter that police and rescue workers had carefully worked their way through the mall, clearing stores and evacuating shoppers, some of whom locked themselves in dressing rooms.

They also said police were searching for the shooter, who was last seen walking toward a nearby interstate highway.

The mall is located 45 miles south of the border with the Canadian province of British Columbia.

State police released a grainy photo of the suspect taken by a surveillance camera. It showed a young man who appeared to be in his 20s with short dark hair and a pale complexion and carrying a rifle.

Local authorities searched throughout the night for the gunman, who is believed to be armed with a rifle, and warned residents to remain inside.

Meanwhile, police in Charlotte, announced last night that they would release body and dashboard camera footage of the shooting of a black man after several days of demonstrations that have coalesced around demands that the public see the video.

Chief Kerr Putney said at a news conference that the video would be made available through a web link in a news release that was coming out within a half hour of him addressing media. He said that and other evidence they were releasing would corroborate their account of how things unfolded, including that Keith Lamont Scott was holding a gun when he was shot.

He addressed reporters hours after several hundred demonstrators took to the street for a fifth day and marched around downtown Charlotte.

Putney said that he decided to release the footage after receiving assurances from the State Bureau of Investigation that it would not impact their independent probe of the shooting.

Asked whether he expected the footage to quieten protesters, Putney responded: "The footage itself will not create in anyone's mind as to what this case represents... the footage only supports the other information" such as forensic evidence and witness statements.

He also said that his officers didn't break the law but noted that the State Bureau of Investigation is continuing its investigation.

"Officers are absolutely not being charged by me, but again, there's another investigation ongoing," he said.

Putney said that Scott was "absolutely in possession of a handgun," and that officers also saw marijuana in his car - prompting officers to act.

Amid anxiety and unease over the shooting of Scott, demonstrations in Charlotte have gone from violent to peaceful, although demands to see video of the encounter remained at the forefront of discussions for those taking to the streets.

Hundreds of protesters wound through the streets of Charlotte last Friday and yesterday under the eye of armed National Guard troops, led by demonstrators holding a banner calling on police to "release the tapes." There were no violent confrontations like those in prior nights, and police did not enforce a curfew.

Chief Putney says officers were trying to serve a warrant on someone else but then allegedly spotted the dad of seven with a gun and drugs.

A two-minute video, recorded by Scott's wife Rakeyia and released to US media outlets last Friday, showed the events leading up to the shooting, but not the shooting itself.

In the video, the woman can be heard pleading with officers to hold fire as they confronted her husband in a parked car outside a Charlotte apartment complex.

Scott's wife used her mobile phone camera when she saw police confronting her husband in a parked car outside her apartment.

She can be heard on the video telling officers: "Don't shoot him! He has no weapon," as they shouted at Scott to "drop the gun".

Scott's wife also can be heard shouting "Keith, Keith, don't do it," although it is not clear whether she is directing her comments to her husband or police.

The footage captures the sound of four shots but does not show Scott being hit.

It is also not clear from the footage whether he is in possession of a gun, as police have stated.

The family originally contended that Scott was carrying a book, not a gun.

Sunday Independent

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