World & Nation

Student who tackled gunman at Seattle university breaks his silence

Jon Meis
Medics escort Jon Meis, right, away from the shooting scene at Seattle Pacific University on June 5. Meis pepper-sprayed and tackled the gunman.
(Dean Rutz / Seattle Times)

The Seattle Pacific University student hailed for tackling the gunman in last week’s fatal attack on campus said he is finding it “hard to accept” being called a hero.

Jon Meis, who has tried to avoid the spotlight since Thursday’s rampage, issued a statement through the university Monday.

“What I find most difficult about this situation is the devastating reality that a hero cannot come without tragedy,” he said.

The attack killed one student, identified as 19-year-old Paul Lee of Oregon, and sent three others to the hospital with injuries. One remains hospitalized: Sarah Williams, 19, has been moved out of intensive care and is listed in satisfactory condition, according to Harborview Medical Center spokeswoman Susan Gregg.


“I pray above all things for strength for the victims and their families,” Meis said.

Meis, 22, a senior majoring in electrical engineering, was working as a building monitor when the gunman came in. Authorities said he had a shotgun and a knife and began firing immediately.

As the man stopped to reload his firearm, Meis pepper-sprayed him and pinned him to the floor. Authorities say others joined Meis in subduing the man, but they described his actions as key to stopping the rampage.

“When I came face to face with the attacker, God gave me the eyes to see that he was not a faceless monster, but a very sad and troubled young man,” Meis said. “While I cannot at this time find it within me to forgive his crime, I truly desire that he will find the grace of God and the forgiveness of our community.”


On Friday, a judge ordered the suspect, Aaron R. Ybarra, 26, held without bail on suspicion of premeditated first-degree murder and first-degree assault. His public defender last week said Ybarra had a long-standing mental illness for which he had been treated in the past. Prosecutors described him as a man with a propensity for violence who had intended to kill many more people.

A fundraising page set up on Meis’ behalf had received more than $50,000 by midday Monday. “I am overwhelmed with the incredible generosity that has been showered upon me,” Meis said in his statement. “I am strongly requesting that any future donations be given to the victims through Seattle Pacific University.”

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