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Hero acclaimed after ending shooting at Seattle Christian university

CrimePolitics
Engineering student said to be a hero for using pepper spray to stop gunman at Seattle school.
One dead, three injured in attack by gunman at Seattle Christian school.

One was a senior engineering student at a Christian university and the other, a 26-year-old man toting a shotgun that he was trying to reload as the pair were in Otto Miller Hall at Seattle Pacific University. The student used pepper spray on the invading gunman who had already begun his deadly rampage.

On Friday, suspect Aaron R. Ybarra, 26, was being held in the King County Jail as police investigate the shooting that killed one man and injured three others, police said. The engineering student, identified as Jon Meis, 22, was being hailed as a hero for stopping the attack.

“There are a number of heroes in this,” Assistant Police Chief Paul McDonagh told reporters at a news conference Thursday night. “The people around [the gunman] stepped up.”

On Twitter, many Seattle Pacific students called him a hero.

“I'm proud of the selfless actions that my roommate, Jon Meis, showed today taking down the shooter,” Matt Garcia tweeted. “He is a hero.”

Authorities were still searching for a motive in the attack on the school about a week before classes were to end for the summer.

The identity of the 20-year-old man who was killed has not been released. 

The three injured were taken to Harborview Medical Center. In an email Friday morning, spokeswoman Susan Gregg said a 19-year-old woman is in critical but stable condition in intensive care after going through five hours of surgery. A 24-year-old male remains in satisfactory condition. Neither was identified.

Officials also said that an unnamed 22-year-old man was treated at the hospital and released.

The school, on a 40-acre campus about 10 minutes from downtown Seattle, remained closed for classes on Friday with a prayer service scheduled for noon. On Thursday evening, an overflow crowd packed the school’s First Free Methodist Church for prayers.

“We're a community that relies on Jesus Christ for strength, and we'll need that at this point in time,” said Daniel Martin, university president.

Ybarra was not a student at the school. The shooting occurred on campus Thursday afternoon. The Seattle Times reported that the suspect's father, Ambrose Ybarra, said Thursday evening that he did not know anything about the shooting.

“We just hope he's safe,” he told the newspaper. “It's upsetting to have these accusations thrown around. We're in emergency mode. We are trying to stay calm.”

The paper said Zack McKinley described himself as one of Ybarra's closest friends and said the young man was “super happy and friendly.” McKinley said the attack was puzzling because Ybarra was happy to have just started a job bagging groceries at a store.

The modest Mountlake Terrace neighborhood where police served a search warrant after the shooting was quiet Friday morning, save for the television satellite trucks. No one answered at the gray clapboard home where the suspect is believed to have lived.

Neighbor Teri Rhan told the Los Angeles Times on Friday morning that it was hard to miss the commotion Thursday night on the normally quiet street where the Ybarras live. Hours after the shooting, police served a search warrant on the family's house. The street was filled with cars. News helicopters circled overhead.

Rhan, who moved in down the street from the Ybarras 18 years ago, said she watched Aaron grow up. Her son often played water ball with Aaron and Aaron's younger brother and the whole neighborhood would come together for fireworks until such displays were banned in their small city north of Seattle. 

She said she was "shocked" by the revelation that the 8-year-old she once knew was suspected in a shooting rampage. Aaron Ybarra, Rhan said, was "quiet, sweet, kind, generous."

"How can you not be affected by someone you watched grow up?" Rhan asked. "There was no inclination. Everything seemed normal. ... I cannot even comprehend the pain those people are going through...They're wonderful people. Never any problems."

Meis, who was working as a monitor at a desk in the lobby near the entrance to Otto Miller Hall, saw the gunman enter and used pepper spray on the attacker. Some reports say other people helped subdue the gunman but agreed that Meis was the first to respond. Police arrived quickly and took the suspect into custody.

Shortly after the shooting, Meis told his roommate for four years, Ryan Salgado, who recounted the details of the confrontation to the Times.

The incident is the most deadly in Seattle since May, 2012 when Ian Stawicki, 40, shot five people at Cafe Racer in northeast Seattle. He killed four and wounded one, then drove downtown and killed a woman before killing himself.

“Once again the epidemic of gun violence has come to Seattle,” Seattle Mayor Ed Murray told reporters Thursday.

The attack follows other recent shootings on or near college campuses. Last month, Elliot Rodger killed six people and injured seven before turning his gun on himself in a rampage in Isla Vista, Calif., near UC Santa Barbara.

On April 2, 2012, a gunman opened fire at Oikos University, a Korean Christian college in Oakland, Calif., killing seven and injuring three. The gunman is awaiting trial.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times

UPDATE

June 6, 10:09 a.m. PDT: This post has been updated to include comments about the suspect in the Seattle Pacific University shooting.

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