Mass Shooting Suspect Dies In Jail, Denying Justice For His Victims

Officials say Arcan Cetin, 20, hanged himself.

A man accused of gunning down five shoppers at a Washington state mall last year died behind bars Sunday while awaiting trial. Snohomish County Jail officials said he appeared to have hanged himself with a bed sheet.

Arcan Cetin, 20, faced five murder charges in connection with a September mass shooting at the Cascade Mall in Burlington. Cetin allegedly entered a Macy’s store with a rifle and began shooting people at random, killing three women, a man and a 16-year-old girl. He was to have faced trial later this year.

“We would have liked to have seen the case go through the entire process and have justice come out at the end,” Rosemary Kaholokula, chief deputy prosecuting attorney for Skagit County, told The Huffington Post. “Certainly there’s a level of disappointment.”

Victims’ family members were notified of Cetin’s death on Monday morning. The news could understandably leave some feeling “cheated,” said Skagit County prosecutor Rich Weyrich, according to the Skagit Valley Herald.

Relatives of victim Chuck Eagan were “in shock over this development,” the family said in a statement. “We pray that the man repented to God before his death.” 

The Snohomish County Jail is investigating the circumstances of Cetin’s death.

Suicide is the leading cause of death in jail, and is largely preventable, a HuffPost investigation found last year. In many cases we reviewed, jail staff appeared to miss key indicators of self-destructive behavior. In others, they failed to follow protocol for inmates who had been determined to be a suicide risk.

Sometimes, this leads to the death of individuals who may not have had to be in jail in the first place. Cetin’s death also shows that lax suicide-prevention procedures can deny justice for victims and their relatives.

Cetin had a history of mental health issues, and had reportedly attempted suicide in November 2015. At a preliminary hearing earlier this year, his defense attorney argued that his client was not mentally fit to stand trial. A court was to consider the results of an independent competency evaluation of Cetin later this month.

The Snohomish County Jail reported no inmate deaths in the one-year period HuffPost examined prior to July 2016. But the jail has faced significant criticism for inmate deaths in the past. A total of 13 inmates died at the jail from 2010 to September 2014, according to a report by The Daily Herald of Everett, Washington. Three of those deaths were suicides.

Gov. Jay Inslee (D) visited the jail in February and commended staff for having improved mental and behavioral health services.

If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National
Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also text HELLO to 741-741 for free,
24-hour support from the Crisis Text Line. Outside of the U.S., please
visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database
of resources.