Five people were fatally shot Friday night in the Cascade Mall in Burlington, and officers fanned out searching for the shooter, according to the Washington State Patrol.
The gunman killed four women in the cosmetics department of the Macy’s store at Cascade Mall, according to spokesman for the patrol, Sergeant Mark Francis.
A fifth victim, a man who had been critically injured in the shooting later died in hospital, Sergeant Francis said on Twitter.
Sergeant Francis said on Twitter that the gunman had left before the police arrived and that the shopping centre, the Cascade Mall, had been evacuated after the 7:45 pm shooting.
He said it appeared that a single gunman was armed with a rifle.
On Twitter, he described the gunman as a Hispanic man who was wearing gray and was headed toward a nearby highway.
The police converged on the mall and were making a store-by-store sweep, looking for survivors, some of whom had locked themselves in dressing rooms and other areas of the mall, too frightened to come out, KIRO, a television station in Seattle, reported. Local reports said the shooting occurred in the mall’s Macy’s store.
“It becomes more commonplace obviously, these shooting situations in our country, but until you’re one of the ones inside a building like that it is really hard to describe,” Sergeant Francis told reporters outside the mall.
Eric Mathews, 40, who was meeting his son there, said it was a typical Friday night at the mall, which is about 100 kilometres north of Seattle. He described it as a “teenage scene kind of thing.”
He arrived around 7:45 pm when the shooting occurred. Mathews and his son, Kai, 16, left just before the mall was locked down, he said.
Four of Kai’s friends were stuck inside after the mall was locked down, he said.
Referring to his son, Mr Mathews said: “Imagine I was late or if he didn’t answer his phone. That stuff is running through my mind.”
Stephanie Bost, an employee at Johnny Carino’s, a restaurant at the mall, said a customer said there had been a shooting about 100 metres away.
“We went on lockdown” and shut the doors, she said.
“We saw people being evacuated from the mall and running out to their cars,” she added.
Sergeant Francis said survivors inside the mall would be bused to a nearby church.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said on Twitter that it was responding to the scene.
Governor Jay Inslee said on Twitter, “Trudi and I send our condolences to the families of the victims and prayers for anyone injured.”