Just hours after a gunman shattered the year-end peace at Seattle Pacific University, killing one, wounding several others and placing the Christian campus on lockdown, a nearby church rang with love and lament.
The words of hymns flashed on a screen at the front of First Free Methodist Church, where students and faculty came together for a hastily called prayer service to mourn for their friends.
The campus had always been a refuge. Until this day.
"When the darkness closes in, Lord, still I will say, blessed be the name of the Lord," they sang. And they cried. And they raised their arms high. And when the hymn ended, new words hit the screen: "#PrayforSPU."
FOR THE RECORD:
This article says Harborview Medical Center identified the deceased as 20 years old. The hospital later said he was 19 years old.
Thursday was a day of grief and heroism, pain and terror and prayer on this graceful, grassy campus with about 4,000 students on the north slope of Queen Anne Hill. Thoughts of finals week and graduation to come were rudely elbowed out by images of bloodshed and sounds of gunfire.
Shortly before 3:30 p.m., police said, a 26-year-old man entered the lobby of Otto Miller Hall wearing a black sweat shirt and carrying a shotgun, a knife and extra ammunition. Authorities say he immediately began firing.
"He began to reload his shotgun, and a student confronted him and was able to subdue the individual," Seattle Police Captain Chris Fowler said, adding that at some point the suspect was hit with pepper spray. Others joined in and "pinned him to the ground until the police arrived."
Police said the suspect is not a student at the university, but they did not identify him by name.
Harborview Medical Center said four victims had been brought to the hospital from campus, including a 20-year-old man who died shortly after arrival. A 20-year-old woman was in critical condition Thursday evening and undergoing surgery, the hospital said.
Two others, a 24-year-old man and a 22-year-old man, suffered minor injuries and were in satisfactory condition, it said. Police did not identify the victims, nor did they give the name of the student security guard who was sitting at the building's reception desk when the gunman burst in. That student's actions probably kept the rampage from worsening, police said.
Students who were in the hall described hearing a kind of muffled explosion about 3:35 p.m., but many figured at first that it was simply a science experiment gone awry.
"Then I heard someone yelling," said Blake Oliveira, 21. "I heard someone run by the door. A couple of minutes later, we heard security say, 'We have a victim.' We waited, and a cop came and escorted us all out."
"I took off my sandals in case I needed to run," the computer science major said shortly after the shootings. "I saw piles of blood on the ground."
Chris Howard, a 22-year-old mechanical engineering student, was working on a project with classmates when a friend walked into the lab. The young man "had two marks on his neck," Howard said, and "they were bleeding too much."
The students used a first-aid kit to treat the victim, who they said did not appear to have gunshot wounds. But Howard was worried and left to look for someone with better training than he had. That's when he came upon a scene he will not soon forget: a fellow student trying to aid a woman whose chest was covered with blood.
"They told me to put the victim's head on my lap," Howard said. "She was talking. 'Oh, God, I'm going to die.' 'Please get my family on the line.' I picked up her phone. I called the entries for 'Mommy' and for 'aunt.' They all went to voice mail."
During a briefing after the shooting, university President Daniel J. Martin, in tears, told reporters that his first reaction "was heartbreak that a senseless act like this could happen on campus."
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, appearing sad and angry, excoriated what he called the plague of gun violence that had visited this leafy city in the Pacific Northwest yet again. "Today should have been a day of celebration," he said. "Instead it's a day of tragedy and loss.... Friends, we have been here before."
Classes were canceled Thursday afternoon and all day Friday, and the school arranged for counselors to meet with any of the students who desired. Prayer services were scheduled for the days ahead.
The first one was Thursday night at the church. Students filled the pews, lined the brick walls and sat in chairs placed behind the altar. They prayed for the young man who died and for his family and friends. They prayed for the wounded.
And they prayed for the gunman — or, as Bob Zurinsky, assistant director of the university's worship center and leader of the service, described it, "for the one who today perpetrated this madness. Love him in spite of his hatred. Bring him not just to justice but to repentance and to spiritual fullness."
Frank Spina, a professor of biblical studies, told those gathered that his "beloved institution" has been "violated today" by an act of "madness and insanity and evil."
"There's no explaining it," he said. "This is not God's plan. This is not God's will. This is not God's way of teaching us a lesson. Any lesson we could have learned out of this could have been learned otherwise."
"It's a day to scream," Spina said. "It's a day to lament."
La Ganga reported from Seattle and Dave from Los Angeles.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times