SEATTLE -- Video surveillance of the 2014 shooting at Seattle Pacific University shows a male student pepper spraying the shooter, seizing the shooter’s shotgun and then detaining him until another person arrived to help.
The King County Prosecutor’s Office on Tuesday released 18 DVDs of surveillance video captured on June 5, 2014, and prior days. A three-minute excerpt shows the take-down of Aaron Ybarra, the 27-year-old Mountlake Terrace man who shot and killed one student and injured two others at the Seattle school’s campus.
KING 5 and other news organizations went to court to obtain the videos, which the prosecutor’s office had acquired as part of its investigation and ongoing prosecution of Ybarra. KING 5 is reviewing the material and has not decided not to air the footage in full, recognizing that it could be disturbing to many viewers, especially the SPU community.
A three-minute clip released Tuesday shows Ybarra enter the lobby of Otto Miller Hall on SPU’s campus. Ybarra is holding a shotgun. He points it at a student who is sitting at a table reading. The student does not notice Ybarra.
Ybarra then waves the gun around the room, where another student can be seen sitting at a different table. Neither student reacts to Ybarra’s presence. The video suggests neither noticed him at first.
Less than a minute after he entered the building, a female student can be seen descending a set of stairs. When she reaches the ground floor, Ybarra points his shotgun at her and fires. The video shows her flinching, then pausing. She remains standing for a few seconds before she turns and runs out of the room. The two students seen studying at separate tables also flee the room at that time.
At the moment the woman who is shot turns to leave the room, SPU student Jon Meis can be seen running into the lobby, approaching Ybarra from behind. Meis is wearing a t-shirt and shorts, and has no shoes on.
Meis is holding what police later said is pepper spray. As he enters the room and charges Ybarra, Meis sprays Ybarra. Ybarra falls to the floor as Meis grapples with him. Meis quickly disarms Ybarra and runs out of the room to secure the shotgun in a separate office.
Ybarra is seen rolling on the floor battling the effects of the pepper spray. Meis reenters the room and tackles Ybarra again as Ybarra struggles to pull a knife out. A male student descends the stairs into the lobby and walks over to Meis and Ybarra, kicks away the knife and helps Meis hold Ybarra down.
Police say Ybarra killed one male student outside of Otto Miller Hall prior to entering the building. Pellets from that outside shot also injured another student.
Ybarra later described to police how he had planned the shooting well in advance. He said his victims weren’t chosen specifically but he felt they each disrespected him when he approached them with his shotgun.
Ybarra claimed to have visited the campus before the incident and convinced two female students to give him a private tour. He said he checked for possible escape exits students could use in Otto Miller Hall during the shooting.
The day before, Ybarra said he drove by the hall to make sure students were using the building at that time.
He told police he had a general hatred for the world and battled alcoholism. Ybarra had stopped taking his medications and seeing his psychotherapist before the shooting.
Police later found a journal of Ybarra’s that described his plans.
"I will express how I really feel about humanity," he wrote.
Ybarra faces prosecution for murder, three counts of attempted murder and one count of assault. Trial is set to begin September 2016.
Authorities advise anyone in an active shooter situation to run if they can. If they can't run, they should try to hide. If they can't hide, they should try to fight. Fortunately for others on campus that day, Meis decided to fight.
In March 2015, The Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation selected Jon Meis as one of three 2015 Citizen Honors Program honorees for disarming and subduing Ybarra.
Seattle Pacific University officials released a statement Tuesday regarding the release of the surveillance video.
“We are disappointed by the release of the surveillance videos of the June 5, 2014, shooting on our campus. We, along with others, have pursued legal action to stop the videos' release in order to protect individual privacy and prevent the emotional distress these images will have on our community. Seattle Pacific University remains strong and resilient as a result of God’s faithfulness to us. Our foremost concern continues to be the welfare and safety of not only our students, faculty, and staff, but of the victims and witnesses of the tragedy.”