Wednesday 22 October 2014

'Hero' student disarmed gunman

Published 06/06/2014 | 02:27

Firefighters remove a victim from the scene of the shooting at Seattle Pacific University (AP /seattlepi.com, Joshua Trujillo)
Brianna Clarke, left, weeps as she talks on her phone while Erin Rutledge (right) an athletic trainer at Seattle Pacific University, is hugged by a colleague (AP)

A student pepper-sprayed and disarmed a lone gunman who had already killed one man at a US university while he paused to reload, helping to prevent more deaths, police have said.

A 19-year-old man was fatally shot and two other young people were wounded after the gunman opened fire in the foyer of Otto Miller Hall in Seattle Pacific University on Thursday afternoon.

When the gunman paused to reload his shotgun, he was pepper-sprayed and disarmed by a student building monitor, while other students helped pin him to the floor.

The suspect taken into custody, named as Aaron R Ybarra, 26, was not a student at the school, police said.

Seattle Pacific University has confirmed the identity of the student who stopped the gunman as 22-year-old Jon Meis.

Mr Meis was acting as a student building monitor when the gunman entered the foyer at Otto Miller Hall and started shooting.

One of Mr Meis' roommates, Ryan Salgado, told The Seattle Times he seemed to be in shock afterwards.

A spokeswoman at Seattle's Harborview Medical Center said Mr Meis was not injured, but was suffering from mental anguish and was treated and released on Thursday.

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

The gunman had additional rounds and a knife, Mr McDonagh said.

Four people, including the young man who died, were taken to Harborview Medical Center.

A critically wounded 19-year-old woman was in intensive care later on Thursday after five hours in surgery, hospital spokeswoman Susan Gregg said.

A 24-year-old man was in a satisfactory condition after being taken to hospital. A Seattle Fire Department official said the man suffered "pellet type wounds" to his neck and chest.

None of the victims was immediately identified.

Ybarra was booked into the King County Jail pending a homicide investigation, according to officials.

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."

Also late Thursday, police who said they were serving a warrant entered a house that was believed tied to Ybarra.

Messages left with friends and relatives of Ybarra via social media were not immediately returned.

The Seattle Times reported that the suspect's father, Ambrose Ybarra, said he did not know anything about the shooting.

Student Chris Howard was at Otto Miller Hall when the shooting happened. He said he saw the wounded woman on the floor being tended to by a classmate. Her chest was bloodied. Her phone was covered in blood, but she asked her helpers to look through her phone for her mother, aunt and best friend.

"She was panicking," Howard said. "She said 'I think I'm going to die.'"

Soon after, police arrived. By then the suspect had been subdued. Howard ran outside and back through the lobby where he saw the man 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.

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 (16-hectare) campus is in a leafy residential neighbourhood about 10 minutes from downtown Seattle.

The school cancelled classes and other activities scheduled for Friday.

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