Suspect ‘did not expect to be alive at the end of yesterday’
At Seattle police headquarters Thursday, the alleged gunman who terrorized the Seattle Pacific University campus offered investigators one simple motive: “to kill as many people as possible before committing suicide,” according to a court filing.
Seattle Times staff reporters
The man accused of killing one student and wounding two others Thursday at Seattle Pacific University told police he wanted “to kill as many people as possible before killing himself,” according to a court filing made public Friday.
Aaron Rey Ybarra, 26, told police he “had been planning a mass shooting,” according to a probable-cause affidavit released after his bail hearing in the King County Jail.
King County District Court Judge Mark Chow ordered Ybarra held without bail on investigation of first-degree premeditated murder and first-degree assault. Senior Deputy Prosecutor Jennifer Worley requested the no-bail hold, citing what she called his “propensity for violence” as the reason why her office wanted him to remain in jail.
Worley told Chow that Ybarra could have killed many more people.
Ybarra, who appeared in court dressed in a heavy, green smock corrections officials assign inmates on suicide watch, did not speak during the brief hearing. Prosecutors have until Tuesday afternoon to file criminal charges.
Ybarra is accused of walking into Otto Miller Hall on the SPU campus about 3:30 p.m. Thursday and shooting three students with a shotgun before he was tackled by a fourth student while he paused to reload. In addition to the shotgun, police say, he was armed with a hunting knife and carried more than 50 rounds of ammunition.
Ybarra had a “fascination with mass shootings,” a law-enforcement source briefed on the investigation said Friday.
Ybarra chose Seattle Pacific University for no particular reason as a place to carry out his own plan to commit a mass shooting, the source said. Ybarra was not a student at the school, police said.
In general, there was “no rhyme or reason” to his actions, the source said.
Public defender Ramona Brandes, who is representing the Mountlake Terrace man, said in an interview that Ybarra was unaware of what he was doing until he “heard a girl screaming.”
“Mr. Ybarra has long-standing mental-health issues that were in play,” Brandes said. “He is feeling very remorseful about the pain he has caused these families and these victims. He offers them his apologies.”
“He understands that he will likely spend life in prison,” said Brandes.
Brandes said Ybarra has undergone mental-health treatment in the past. However, she said, it is unclear whether he was currently in treatment.
One of his mental-health providers has not seen him in months, said Brandes, who described Ybarra as suicidal.
William Hayes, the jail’s interim director, said Ybarra is being held in a solitary cell on the seventh floor of the jail, where closely monitored mentally ill inmates are housed.
Brandes said Ybarra had recently been feeling “isolated from his family and society.” But she said she didn’t ask him the reason for the shooting when she met him for the first time Friday morning.
“He did not expect to be alive at the end of yesterday,” she said.
1 dead, 2 wounded
The campus shooting claimed the life of student Paul Lee, 19, of Portland, who died at Harborview Medical Center.
A 19-year-old woman, Sarah Williams, of Phoenix, was upgraded from critical to serious condition on Friday, Harborview spokeswoman Susan Gregg said. Williams was breathing on her own Friday.
“She’s conscious, she’s talking a little bit,” Gregg said.
Her family could not be reached.
Thomas Fowler Jr., 24, of Seattle, also was shot but was released from the hospital Friday.
A fourth man, Jon Meis, was treated and released on Thursday.
Meis, a student and building monitor, is credited with stopping Ybarra. Police said he pepper-sprayed the shooter when the man had stopped to reload his shotgun. Meis then put him in a chokehold and took him to the ground, according to police and a friend who spoke with Meis after the shooting. Other students and faculty members rushed to hold the shooter down until police arrived.
On Friday, police released 911 recordings of people who called to report the shootings. In one, a man tells a 911 dispatcher, “I’m a student at Seattle Pacific University. We’ve heard what sounded like shots being fired ... I heard an explosion and I just had someone run in here and he’s bleeding from the neck.”
In another, a woman said she was driving by the university when she saw “two people standing there and this guy walked up behind one of them, lifted his rifle and shot directly into the back of his head.”
In another recording, a wounded man can be heard calmly telling a 911 operator, “I think I got hit with birdshot or something.”
Mayor targets violence
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, during a news conference, said he would call a special meeting of the City Council in the coming weeks to address what he called a “senseless epidemic of gun violence.”
Murray said he met this week with the families of two Central District murder victims, killed early Sunday, and attended a prayer vigil for them Thursday night. And he said he prayed with students at SPU Friday morning.
Murray said he was responding not just to the two shootings but gun violence that occurs “again and again, week after week, year after year.”
At an hourlong noon prayer service Friday at the First Free Methodist Church, across the street from the SPU campus, students, faculty and other members of the college community were urged to be confident that God will give them comfort and strength.
Megan Reardon, a senior dialectics major, said the shootings “makes you realize how short life is.”
“I mean we’re young, but you realize it could very well have been you or your friends in that situation.”
“It helps that our school is so centered on faith,” Reardon said. “That was the first thing people turned to. It’s something we have to rely on that brings comfort.”
Seattle Times staff reporters Jack Broom, Lynn Thompson, Erin Heffernan, Erik Lacitis and Colleen Wright contributed to this story.
Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @SeattleSullivan. Steve Miletich: 206-464-3302 or email@example.com