Previously suppressed surveillance video has now been released, showing a heroic senior at Seattle Pacific University disarming a gunman on campus. The university had fought to keep the videos from being released, as they said it would cause trauma if made public.
Gunman Aaron Ybarra, 28, had already shot and killed one student and wounded another when he walked into the Otto Miller Hall building on the university campus, waving a shotgun and pacing. Ironically, he didn’t shoot the students who were sitting in the room studying, but when a student came down the stairs and walked toward him, he shot her, seriously injuring her. Ybarra stopped to reload his gun, as other students in the room jumped up and ran away.
Seconds after the shot, student safety monitor Jon Meis came running around the corner, shot Ybarra in the face with pepper spray, tackled him and took away his gun. Meis ran with the gun to store it safely away in another room and came back just as Ybarra pulled out a knife. He tackled him again, knocked the knife out of his hand, and held him, with help from another student, until authorities came to arrest Ybarra.
Reportedly, Ybarra had a long history of mental illness, and was not a student at the university. Police recovered a journal where he had written, prior to the attack, that he chose the small Christian college in a town he was unfamiliar with because he “didn’t want to have to attack my own city.” His trial is in September.
Heavy News reports that “Meis was hailed as a hero after the shooting and the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation named him as one of its recipients the Citizen Honors Program in 2015.”
Jon Meis issued a public statement about the incident:
Words cannot come close to expressing the tragedy that occurred this past week on our campus. Like everyone else, I would hear of these horrible events on the news, but go home knowing that it could never happen to us. On Thursday, my life changed. I was thrown into a life and death situation, and through God’s grace I was able to stop the attacker and walk away unharmed. As I try to return to a normal life in the aftermath of this horrible event, I pray above all things for strength for the victims and their families. While my experience left me in physical shock, I know that many people are dealing with much greater grief than I have experienced, and in honesty I probably would not be able to handle it myself right now if I had personally known the victims.
I know that I am being hailed as a hero, and as many people have suggested I find this hard to accept. I am indeed a quiet and private individual; while I have imagined what it would be like to save a life I never believed I would be put in such a situation. It touches me truly and deeply to read online that parents are telling their children about me and telling them that real heroes do exist.
However, what I find most difficult about this situation is the devastating reality that a hero cannot come without tragedy. In the midst of this attention, we cannot ignore that a life was taken from us, ruthlessly and without justification or cause. Others were badly injured, and many more will carry this event with them the rest of their lives. Nonetheless, I would encourage that hate be met with love. When I came face to face with the attacker, God gave me the eyes to see that he was not a faceless monster, but a very sad and troubled young man. While I cannot at this time find it within me to forgive his crime, I truly desire that he will find the grace of God and the forgiveness of our community.
I would like to truly thank the responders who secured the building and the medical staff who looked after myself and those who were injured. After being in this situation myself, it is even harder to imagine what it would be like to have a job where one’s life is willingly put on the line every day. To our police, emergency responders, and armed forces, you have my greatest respect.
Meis received a well-deserved standing ovation at his graduation from Seattle Pacific University in 2014.
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