SPU shooting suspect once had AK-47, 7 other firearms at home
SPU shooting suspect Aaron Ybarra had access to eight guns at his family home in 2011, including an AK-47 and another semi-automatic rifle, records show. The family later lost possession of the guns and suspected a house guest took them.
Seattle Times staff reporter
The man accused of opening fire at Seattle Pacific University (SPU) last month previously had an AK-47 assault rifle, another semi-automatic rifle and a handgun at his home, according to records obtained by The Seattle Times.
Up until spring 2011, Aaron Ybarra and his family members kept eight firearms in a safe at their Mountlake Terrace home, even though Ybarra had been hospitalized in 2010 after hearing the voice of Columbine killer Eric Harris telling him to hurt people, documents say.
Ybarra was legally allowed to have such weapons because he had not been involuntarily committed for 14 days or more, the state standard for barring a mentally ill person from possessing a gun.
Family members lost possession of the weapons in May 2011, telling authorities they believed a family friend took them from the safe — possibly to feed a heroin habit.
Ybarra used a shotgun at SPU that required reloading after two shots, according to authorities. He shot three students, killing one, but was tackled and subdued by another student while he was reloading, according to records.
Authorities searched the Ybarra home after the shootings but did not “collect any additional firearms,” Dan Donohoe, spokesman for the King County Prosecuting Attorney, said Wednesday.
Ybarra, 26, has pleaded not guilty to one count of premeditated first-degree murder, three counts of attempted first-degree murder and one count of second-degree assault.
An AK-47 comes with a standard 30-round magazine. It also can handle larger magazines, similar to the 100-round drum magazine used by Colorado theater-shooting defendant James Holmes when he killed 12 people and injured dozens more in 2012.
It’s unclear from records which family member owned the AK-47, but Aaron Ybarra was the owner of an SKS semi-automatic rifle, according to a written statement by his mother to police. In 2011, the family safe also included a semi-automatic handgun, two other rifles and three shotguns.
His mother said in her handwritten statement to Mountlake Terrace police that Aaron and his brother Joel were “competitive shotgun shooters and have always had access to the safe and have been very responsible.” Aaron Ybarra had worked for years at a gun range.
The mother, Janice Ybarra, also told officers, who were investigating the missing guns, that Joel had a drug problem.
“People have told me because of that to not have guns in the house, but I didn’t remove them because this was my sons lifetime hobby, they treasured + cared for those guns and I never worried,” she wrote.
The family did not return calls seeking comment this week.
Authorities eventually found that the friend suspected of having the guns had pawned a power drill taken from the Ybarra home. He had been staying at the Ybarra house in 2011 as he looked for another place to live. He has misdemeanor drug and theft convictions.
Joel Ybarra, 24, told police he and his friend had used heroin together and were both addicted to the drug, but Joel denied trading the guns for heroin or having any role in the disappearance of the guns.
He said the safe might have been left unlocked by accident. His mother theorized Joel’s friend had possibly seen them enter the combination to the safe.
Mountlake Terrace Police Detective Daniel MacKenzie said authorities were never able to recover the weapons in that case.
A King County deputy prosecuting attorney, in an August 2012 memo, declined to bring possession of stolen-property charges against the family friend over the electric drill, saying it was “not clear whether the property was stolen.”
The memo added that “there is a very real possibility that the drill, along with many of the other items that are missing, were negotiated for in a drug trade.”
Mike Baker: 206-464-2729 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @ByMikeBaker