EVERETT, Wash. — The reasons suspected mass shooter Arcan Cetin decided to end his own life April 16 at the Snohomish County Jail may never be known. But the means he used — finding a way to exploit a weakness jail officials believed had been addressed — is now part of the public record.
The man accused of shooting and killing five people at Cascade Mall in Burlington last year hanged himself by fashioning a noose from a strip of blanket. It was tied to a bunk in his cell, according to police reports obtained by The Daily Herald under public records laws.
Detainees at the jail in Everett are not issued sheets, which can be easy to tear and weave into rope.
Instead, as part of reforms to make the jail safer, they are provided two blankets marketed as tear-resistant.
“We don’t have a sheet in this place anymore. None,” County Corrections Bureau Chief Tony Aston said in an interview earlier this year.
Cetin, 20, somehow pulled a 4-inch-wide strip from one of the blankets he was issued, the records show. He used it to hang himself while alone in his cell in a maximum-security area of the jail.
The accused mass shooter managed that even as corrections staff were monitoring his status roughly every 30 minutes. His cell also had been searched just hours earlier, an investigation by major crimes detectives with the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office found.
Cetin hanged himself in a way that wasn’t easily detected by peering through the small window in his cell door. He was found lying face down on the lower bunk in his cell. The noose was attached to the upper bunk and hidden from view by a shirt that had been draped like a partial curtain, investigators wrote.
Near his body were two notes reportedly discussing suicide. The contents of the notes were not released by the sheriff’s office, which cited court rulings and privacy provisions of records laws that limit what can be made public when people take their own lives.
Cetin previously had been held in Skagit County where he was charged with killing five people, four of whom had ties to Snohomish County. His attorneys wanted him moved. The Skagit Valley Herald reported that request was prompted by Cetin making comments to others in custody.
Law enforcement in Skagit County asked Snohomish County to take over housing Cetin, according to the sheriff’s office here. He was moved to the jail in Everett on March 10.
In Snohomish County, he was kept in the jail’s medical unit prior to being moved into the single cell March 20, the reports said.
The jail is run by the sheriff’s office. Sheriff Ty Trenary directed his major crimes detectives to investigate the death. They documented the scene and checked the corrections deputies’ logs. They interviewed jail staff, who said Cetin was a cooperative inmate who showed no signs that he was contemplating suicide, the reports said.
However, Cetin was flagged in the corrections system as an inmate who should not be moved with fewer than three deputies present, because of the severity of his murder charges. He was flagged for “medical issues” and “mental health.” Additional details about his condition were redacted from disclosure.
His mental health had come up before. While awaiting trial, Cetin had undergone an evaluation at Western State Hospital. His attorneys requested a separate evaluation, according to Skagit County prosecutors. It is not clear whether that occurred.
On March 16, Cetin told his mother that he was found competent by the hospital to assist in his own defense. He said the final finding was pending paperwork from a doctor, according to the newly released records.
A month later, Cetin called his mother a couple of hours before hanging himself. The call was made during recreation time out of his cell, when inmates can use the phone and take showers. Jailhouse calls typically are recorded. Investigators listened to the recording. They said Cetin made no mention of hurting himself.
During that recreation time, Cetin’s cell was searched. Deputies collected some of his books, because he had exceeded the number allowed.
A short time later, he was taken back to his cell and ate his dinner. He returned his food tray not long after 5:20 p.m., which was the last time he interacted with staff. He was checked on twice more. He didn’t reply when deputies stopped by his cell, which was normal behavior for him.
At 6:50 p.m., corrections deputies began a round of medication checks, when inmates are provided their prescriptions. Cetin did not respond to taps on his glass window.
When deputies entered the room, Cetin’s face was purple and he wasn’t breathing. They lifted his weight to untie the knot on the upper bunk. That took about 15 seconds.
“It looked like (Cetin) created enough pressure on his neck to place himself in positional asphyxiation,” according to one deputy’s notes. That kind of asphyxia usually is associated with deaths of people in custody restraints or infants who suffocate.
Corrections officers pulled Cetin from his cell and on-duty jail nurses started chest compressions. They provided Cetin air through a mask, trying to get him to resume breathing. They also prepared a defibrillation machine in case shocks were advised.
Everett firefighters arrived within 10 minutes and took over CPR. They kept up compressions for at least 30 minutes, records show. At one point, they felt a pulse but it did not continue. They consulted with an emergency room doctor and gave their efforts five more minutes because the patient was so young, the reports said.
In addition to the death investigation, the sheriff’s office conducted a clinical assessment of what happened. That’s called a morbidity review, and it’s required by policy after someone dies in the jail. A sheriff’s office spokesman Thursday said he could not discuss the findings of the review because of medical privacy laws.
Cetin was the first detainee to die in the jail since 2014. Though it made headlines during a string of deaths between 2010 and 2013, the Everett lockup has begun to attract regional attention for successful efforts to make it a safer, more humane place. Gov. Jay Inslee visited in January and said the work could be a statewide model.
The jail hasn’t changed the type of blanket it issues inmates.
Jail staff are encouraged to monitor detainees closely for signs of contemplating self-harm, said Aston, the corrections chief. If somebody is found to be at risk — or if they volunteer that information — they are placed on suicide watch in a secure location with their status checked every 15 minutes. The protocol requires a timer and a running log of staff observations.
Newly arrived detainees also are screened for mental health concerns and monitored by on-site experts to make certain their placement in the jail is as safe as possible for everyone, Aston said. The same type of screening occurs when people are transferred from other lockups. The jail now has an electronic tracking system for inmate’s medical records. That flags detainees who have been deemed at risk of suicide during a previous visit, among other potential concerns.
People who are set on ending their lives, particularly those who mask symptoms to avoid intervention, are a constant challenge, Aston said.
“We are very, very concerned about the ones who aren’t telling us,” he said.