Seattle Pacific University shooting leaves one dead and three injured

"We're relying on Jesus for strength" says university president

Published 06 June 2014  |  
Jordan Stead/AP/Press Association Images
Following the lift of a lockdown in the wake of a school shooting, Caleb Gustin, 19, centre, leads Seattle Pacific University students in prayer.

One student was killed and several more injured in a shooting at Seattle Pacific University (SPU) yesterday.

The Seattle Police Department has confirmed that an adult male has been arrested and is being held in custody after opening fire with a shotgun shortly before 3.30pm on June 5.

The suspect has been identified as 26-year-old Aaron Ybarra, who is not a student at the university but is reportedly obsessed with the Columbine massacre of 1999; a tragedy during which 15 students were shot at a high school in Colorado.

Wearing a black hooded jumper, trainers and jeans, the gunman entered the foyer of Otto Miller Hall yesterday afternoon and began shooting. While reloading his gun, he was then overpowered by student Jon Meis, who pepper-sprayed Ybarra before putting him in a chokehold.

A Christian university, SPU has over 4,000 students enrolled at its campus. Four were taken to hospital following the shooting where one 20-year-old male was later pronounced dead. A 20-year-old woman is said to have undergone surgery for a life-threatening bullet wound, while two other young men are in a stable condition.

Police have praised Meis for his bravery, with spokesman Paul McDonough telling a news conference, "But for the great response at Seattle Pacific University this incident might have been much more tragic".

In an interview with the Seattle Times, SPU President Daniel Martin said those involved in stopping Ybarra "acted without regard to their own safety on behalf of others".

"We are a community and we care for others. Those that were involved did just that," he added.

Another student, 21-year-old Blake Oliveira, who was taking part in a physics class at the time of the shooting, told the Seattle Times that he and his classmates locked the door to their classroom and closed the blinds, but prepared themselves to defend fellow students should the gunman break in.

"The Bible tells you that to die for their brothers is the greatest thing a man can do," Oliveira said simply.

Students and locals gathered at the First Free Methodist Church on the SPU campus last night to pray in the wake of the tragedy.

The Associated Press reports that people overflowed onto the grass outside, forming their own prayer groups. Martin is quoted as saying, "We're a community that relies on Jesus Christ for strength, and we'll need that at this point in time".

Immediately following the incident, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray condemned the shooting. "Today should have been a day of celebration at the end of the school year here at Seattle Pacific University; instead it's a day of tragedy and of loss," he said yesterday.

"Once again, the epidemic of gun violence has come to Seattle – the epidemic of gun violence that is haunting this nation."

Just two weeks ago, 22-year-old Elliot Roger shot and stabbed students at the University of California, killing 6 before turning the gun on himself.

This recent spate of gun-related violence has resulted in calls for the US to amend its gun laws, which many believe aren't strict enough.

#PrayforSPU is trending on Twitter, with Seattle-based pastor Judah Smith of City Church tweeting, "Join me and #prayforSPU".

"Thoughts & prayers go out to the Seattle Pacific Univ. community & all affected by this tragedy. We stand with #SPU in this difficult time," added head coach of the Seattle Seahawks, Pete Carroll.

Blogger Rachel Held Evans shared her thoughts on the tragedy. "Another day, another shooting. This one hits close to home for the Christian college community. This doesn't have to happen," she tweeted.

"Praying for my friends at SPU."

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