Seattle, WA- On Thursday afternoon, a man armed with a shotgun opened fire at Seattle Pacific University. The man walked into the Otto Miller Hall campus building at around 3:30 and quickly began shooting at several victims, wounding as many as 3 people and killing one.
As the gunman stopped to reload, Jon Meis, a student and building monitor, pepper sprayed the gunman before tackling him and pushing him to the ground. Other students rushed to Meis’ side and held the shooter down until police arrived. The police had initially sought more than one shooter, but they later reported that they were no longer searching for an additional suspect.
“There are a number of heroes in this,” Seattle assistant police chief Paul McDonagh said. “But for the great response by the people of Seattle Pacific, this incident might have been much more tragic.”
The shooter was identified as 26-year-old Aaron Ybarra, who is not a Seattle Pacific University student, according to McDonagh. Ybarra was arrested and booked at King County Jail for investigation of murder.
As is the case in many school shootings, the motive behind the shooting at Seattle Pacific is unclear. Zack McKinley, a friend of Ybarra, told the Seattle Times that the alleged shooter is “super happy and friendly. He’s an awesome guy, someone who would never let you down.”
According to McKinley, Ybarra had a well-rounded group of friends and recently had begun working long hours at a grocery store. “I’m really good at deciphering if someone’s got bad news or in trouble. I’m blown away by this,’’ said McKinley. “He called me yesterday and asked if I wanted to go fishing.”
Ybarra’s father, Ambrose Ybarra, is also bewildered by Thursday’s fatal incident. “We don’t know anything,’’ said Ambrose Ybarra. “We just hope he’s safe. I’m a family man. I just need to put my arms around my family now. We just need to sit down and talk.”
Students closest to Otto Miller Hall where Ybarra allegedly began shooting were the first to hear the gunshots. “I heard a loud bang. At first I thought it was a chemistry project. My teacher thought that, too. Then I put my head to the door and I heard shouting. I decided, that was a gunshot, we need to lockdown,” said Blake Oliveira, a student who was in physics class when he realized what was going on.
Students across the university learned of the situation through a mass emergency text that read “Emergency! A campus lockdown has been initiated. This is not a drill.”
The area that surrounds Seattle Pacific University is not known to be a high-crime location. Seattle police recorded 14 violent crimes in that area over the last four years.
“Today should have been a day of celebration at the end of the school year here at Seattle Pacific University. Instead, it’s a day of tragedy and of loss. Once again, the epidemic of gun violence has come to Seattle, an epidemic of gun violence that has haunted this nation,” said Seattle Mayor Ed Murray.