Seattle Pacific University student stopped gunman, saved lives

by Leigh Jones |

One person died and three others were injured Thursday (June 5) when a man with a shotgun opened fire inside a building on the campus of Seattle Pacific University, a Christian university in Seattle, police said. Photo courtesy of Seattle Pacific Universi

Officials are hailing a Seattle Pacific University student as a hero for his role in subduing a 26-year-old gunman who came to the small Christian college campus Thursday afternoon to kill as many people as possible.

Friends describe Jon Meis as quiet, gentle, outdoorsy, and deeply committed to his faith.

When Aaron Ybarra entered the Otto Miller Hall at about 3:30 p.m., armed with a shotgun, knife, and rounds of ammunition, Meis was working as a building monitor, sitting at a desk near the door. When the gunman paused to reload his weapon, Meis unleashed the can of pepper spray he always kept with him. While Ybarra was disoriented, Meis tackled him to the ground and restrained him in a choke hold until police arrived and put him in handcuffs.

Police say Ybarra, who was not a student at Seattle Pacific, was obsessed with the Columbine High School massacre, in which two students killed 15 classmates and injured 21 others in 1999. He had even visited the Colorado school.

Neither Meis nor his family are talking about Thursday's incident, but his friends took to Twitter last night to praise his quick thinking and selfless disregard for his own safety. "I'm so proud to know Jon Meis," Joe Schenck tweeted. "He's always been an incredible friend. Now he's a hero. A selfless, courageous man whom I admire greatly."

Meis is a senior engineering student from Renton, Wash. A family friend told The Seattle Times he's getting married this summer. "He is very quiet, very devoted to his family," Melissa Engstrom said. "He had a lot to lose."

Meis may not have spoken publicly about his actions that  day but people are quickly showing their support through the internet.

The wedding registry for Meis and his fiancé was quickly filling up by people wanting to show support to him.  An an online fundraiser has also been set up and has raised more than $28,000 for Meis by late Saturday afternoon.

The shooting at Seattle Pacific University has left one person dead and three injured. The suspect is in custody after university staffers disarmed him as he paused to reload his weapon.

Police say the lone gunman entered the Otto Miller building and began shooting. The Christian college of about 4,270 students is located in a residential neighborhood about 10 minutes from downtown Seattle.

A Harborview Medical Center spokeswoman said the victim who died was a man in his 20s. Another victim, a 20-year-old woman, is in surgery with critical injuries. The other two victims, a 24-year-old man and a 22-year-old man, are in satisfactory condition.

Police have not released any details about what happened, including whether the suspected gunman might be among the injured. Shortly after the attack, the university issued a statement online saying the campus was on lockdown. According to police, SWAT teams are continuing to clear each building on the 40-acre campus.

Officials initially said they were looking for a second suspect but later said they had called off that search.

Seattle Pacific's provost, Jeff Van Duzer, sent an email June 5 to the Seattle Pacific stating, "As I reread this email, I am struck by how mechanical it sounds. Please forgive me. I'm not sure I know how to put into words tonight the odd mixture of sadness, grief, comfort, community, despair, and hope that I'm feeling. I trust that in the days ahead God will lead us as a community together as we heal and move on from here. In the meantime, I draw comfort from the conviction, if not the experience in the moment, that God is always with us."