MARYSVILLE — Police officers blocked off the area surrounding the Kmart store in the 9600 block of State Avenue in Marysville, just after 6 p.m. on Wednesday, July 10, after employees called 911 to report that a customer had threatened to "shoot everyone in the store."
"We received a call from store employees indicating that there was a man in the sporting goods section who had threatened that he had a gun and was going to shoot everybody in the store," said Marysville Police Cmdr. Robb Lamoureux. "We responded to that and our officers initially went into the store right as customers were being escorted out by employees. They went in with the mindset that there was a guy with a gun in the store making threats and it possibly could be an active shooter situation. They went in with that in mind, tactically."
After store employees reviewed security footage, it was believed that the suspect had left the store prior to police arrival.
"Store employees were reviewing security tape and somebody who had seen or had contact with the suspect did observe the suspect leaving the store on that footage," said Lamoureux. "And at that point we believed that he had already left the store. This was prior to officers even arriving although it was a pretty close time frame. We got the initial call at 6 p.m., it's possible that this incident occurred 10 or 15 minutes before that call. We arrived on scene within one minute and we believe he was already gone."
Officers are not sure if the suspect fled on foot or in a vehicle.
"There was a witness who believed he left with a woman as he exited the store, but the witness did not continue to observe him after he left," said Lamoureux.
Several officers patrolled nearby roadways in the event that the suspect did leave on foot, while a SWAT team completed a tactical sweep of the entire building, which lasted until after 9 p.m.
The suspect is described as being a heavy set, white male wearing a black bandana on his head and a grey button-up shirt. He is approximately six feet tall.
"We definitely have people that are mobile and actively looking for the suspect," said Lamoureux.
Police are still trying to unravel what led the man to threaten those in the store and believe that the suspect may have been angry about the store's security measures.
"What I am understanding is that they do routine security checks and it was announced — either spoken by an employee or over their system — and he felt it was directed at him," said Lamoureux.
If caught, the suspect could be charged with harassment or even more serious charges.
"To threat and imply that you are going to shoot and kill people is serious. Any charges, however, would be up to the prosecutor's office to determine," said Lamoureux.
Marysville resident Janice Hougen was getting a haircut nearby when she noticed an unusual number of police vehicles in the area.
"You know, one or two cars is no big deal, but this kind of response meant something was definitely going on," she said. "I haven't seen anyone come out in a while, though a lot of officers have been going inside."
Amanda Turner, of Marysville, was in the salon with Hougen and became concerned when she realized that police were surrounding the Kmart store.
"I was getting a haircut and I saw all the police cars and though maybe somebody had stolen something," she said. Her concern grew when she realized that her 20-year-old cousin, an employee at Kmart and the mother of a 4-year-old girl, was working at that time.
"I didn't even think she was working today," said Turner. "I still don't know the situation and I am sick to my stomach, my adrenaline is on blast."
Turner tried calling her cousin to see what was going on, and a fellow employee answered to say that her cousin was being interviewed by police officers and was an immediate witness to the suspect's outburst.
"Apparently he looked at my cousin and said he had a pistol and would blow away everyone in the store. I am just sick to my stomach."
Luckily, the witness and other Kmart employees, who could not speak about the incident, were finally escorted from the building just before 9 p.m., and the two were reunited while other workers completed witness statements.
"I feel this area is getting to be really scary," said Kim McMullan, who was stopping at the Fred Meyer store next door when the police were still securing the scene. She said that she is frustrated with crime in Marysville, especially after discovering that four Marysville residents living near her home were arrested this morning on gun trafficking charges.
"There were ATF, FBI and the Sheriff's Department all in the neighborhood," she said. "When I saw all that going on this morning I drove by the house to make sure everything was locked up and safe. When I got home from work, I talked to the kids about it. And then we drove here to get dinner and this is going on."
McMullan is the mother of three children, and her youngest daughter is 10-years-old. "It's not that I don't like Marysville," she said. "It's just been a very trying time. You want to live in a safe neighborhood where she can ride her bike or walk to her friend's house. I know they are trying, it's not the police department's fault. In fact, my heart goes out to all the Sheriff's deputies and police officers and news reporters here tonight. This kind of thing definitely takes a toll."
For information on the recent gun trafficking arrests, read our story here: http://www.marysvilleglobe.com/news/214943951.html.