Seattle shooting suspect wanted to kill as many as possible: Police

SEATTLE -- Police say the suspect in a shooting at a small Seattle university wanted to kill as many people as possible before killing himself.

A judge found probable cause to hold 26-year-old Aaron Ybarra without bail Friday. The hearing came a day after Ybarra was arrested in the shooting that killed student Paul Lee and wounded two other young people at Seattle Pacific University.

In a statement filed in court, Seattle police wrote that Ybarra admitted to detectives after his arrest that he wanted to kill as many people as possible and then himself.

Instead, police say a student building monitor pepper-sprayed and tackled Ybarra as he reloaded his shotgun.

Shooting suspect Aaron Ybarra is led to a court hearing at a King County Jail courtroom June 6, 2014, in Seattle.
Shooting suspect Aaron Ybarra is led to a court hearing at a King County Jail courtroom June 6, 2014, in Seattle.
AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

Ybarra's attorney said he has long had mental health problems and is on suicide watch at the jail.

Public defender Ramona Brandes said Ybarra wanted to apologize for the "suffering he has caused."

Brandes said he had been treated and medicated in the past, though she did not know his specific diagnoses.

On Friday, police said Ybarra was hospitalized twice in recent years for mental health evaluations. One time he was suicidal, reports Rob Munoz of CBS affiliate KIRO

Pete Caw, the assistant police chief in the suburb of Mountlake Terrace, where Ybarra lives, said that officers encountered Ybarra in 2010 and 2012. Caw said both times, Ybarra was severely intoxicated and taken a hospital for evaluation. In the October 2012 incident, police found him lying in a roadway.

Police say Ybarra fatally shot the 19-year-old Lee and wounded two others after entering the foyer of a Seattle Pacific University building Thursday afternoon. When he paused to reload, the student building monitor, Jon Meis, acted.

"There are a number of heroes in this," Assistant Police Chief Paul McDonagh said. "The people around him (the gunman) stepped up."

Ybarra, who was not a student at the school, had additional rounds and a knife, McDonagh said. Police said he had legally obtained the shotgun several years earlier.

The injured included a critically wounded 19-year-old woman who remained in intensive care Friday after a five-hour surgery, as well as 24-year-old man in satisfactory condition, said Susan Gregg, a spokeswoman for Harborview Medical Center. Their identities were not released.

Meis, a dean's list electrical engineering student, was emotionally anguished but not injured in the shooting, Gregg said Friday.

Roman Kukhotskiy, 22, who was in the building when the violence broke out, said: "I was amazed that he was willing to risk all that for us. If Jon didn't stop him, what's to say? I could have been the next victim."

Kukhotskiy said he saw Meis immediately after the shooting, and he appeared shocked and visibly shaken. He said Meis is getting married this summer and has accepted a job with Boeing, where he has interned in previous years.

Meis, who graduated from Seattle Christian Schools in SeaTac, kept a low profile the day after the shooting. An outgoing voice message at a phone listing for his parents' home said: "We ask that you please respect our privacy during this time while we recover." It solicited prayers for students and the family of the man killed.

Salomon Meza Tapia, a friend who serves with Meis on the board of a student engineers group, described him as a hardworking student who is "always super chill."

"I am not surprised he was cool and collected enough to take action," he wrote in an email to the Associated Press. "I was in the building, and I can say he definitely saved our lives. I am thankful to be alive and thank God for Jon Meis' courage and actions."

Meanwhile, Ybarra's family said that they were shocked and saddened by the shootings.

"We are crushed at the amount of pain caused to so many people," the statement said. "To the victims and their families, our prayers are with you."

Jason Wells has known Ybarra for about seven years. They would often discuss their problems, he said.

"When he called me at 3:30 in the morning, I would answer it and talk to him when he said that he felt like he was going crazy," he said. "But never in my wildest dreams would he ever be violent."

Ybarra's friend Zack McKinley described him as "super happy and friendly," The Seattle Times reported.

McKinley said the attack was puzzling because Ybarra was happy to have just started a job bagging groceries. Ybarra could get emotionally low but had a good group of friends, McKinley said.

Late Thursday, investigators searched a house in the north Seattle suburb of Mountlake Terrace believed to be tied to Ybarra.

Ybarra was obsessed with the Columbine High School shootings and had even traveled to the Colorado site where two student gunmen killed 15 and injured another 21 fellow students in April 1999, police sources told CBS affiliate KIRO-TV.

The gun violence follows a spate of recent shootings on or near college campuses.

Last month, according to police, Elliot Rodger killed six people and injured seven before turning his gun on himself in a rampage in Isla Vista, California, near two universities.

Seven people were killed and three injured when a 43-year-old former student opened fire at a tiny Christian school, Oikos University, in Oakland, California, in 2012. A gunman killed five people and injured 18 when he opened fire in a Northern Illinois University lecture hall in 2008.

In 2007, 32 people were fatally shot in a dorm and classroom at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia, before the gunman killed himself.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, noting previous mass shootings in the city, said: "Once again the epidemic of gun violence has come to Seattle."

Student Chris Howard was at Otto Miller Hall when the shooting happened and saw Ybarra pinned on the floor.

"The suspect was calm. Not speaking. Not moving. Not struggling. Just there," Howard said.

The shooting came a week before the end of the school year.

McDonagh said he did not know the gunman's motive or intended target. Detectives are "working as quickly as we can to figure it out," he said.

On Thursday evening, people packed the First Free Methodist Church on campus for a service of prayers and song. So many people crowded into the building that dozens of people gathered on a lawn near the church and formed their own groups as the sun set.

About 4,270 undergraduate and graduate students attend the private Christian university. Its 40-acre campus is in a leafy residential neighborhood about 10 minutes from downtown Seattle. The school canceled classes and other activities Friday.

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