Surveillance videos from the deadly 2014 shooting at Seattle Pacific University were released Tuesday by the King County Prosecutor's Office following a joint media request for access, KIRO-TV reported.
On June 5, 2014, a 26-year-old gunman opened fire on the SPU campus, killing one person and wounding three others. But according to public safety officials, the damage could have been much more severe had it not been for a courageous student who thought and acted quickly that day.
The gunman, Aaron Ybarra, later told detectives that the attack was meant to be a murder-suicide.
Ybarra is charged with killing SPU student Paul Lee and injuring three others, including Jon Meis, a student who was working as a building monitor that day. Footage shows Meis using pepper spray to subdue the suspect, who was apparently having difficulty reloading his weapon.
“I had to give that security guy props,” Ybarra told police in a 2014 interview that took place shortly after the attack. “He was pretty brave.”
Meis also spoke with police while being treated at Harboview Medical Center. The young man described how he grabbed the weapon from the suspect and detained him until authorities arrived.
“I could see he was fumbling so I took my pepper spray gun … sprayed him in the face with it,” he said, according to KIRO.
Following the shooting, Meis, a Christian, wrote a statement in 2014 to his "brothers and sisters in Christ" at SPU and beyond:
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.
Meis also thanked the responders "who secured the building" and the medical staff who treated him and others 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," he wrote. "To our police, emergency responders, and armed forces, you have my greatest respect."
Jesus Villahermosa, an active shooter training expert, told KIRO that Meis is an example of how a bystander can prevent further bloodshed in these situations. He added that sharing the video could positively contribute to public safety.
The release of the surveillance footage comes after several media companies appealed to the trial and appellate courts handling the case, citing public record laws and requesting access, KIRO reported.
But not everyone was in favor of the release. University President Dan Martin issued a statement expressing his disappointment that the footage was made public. He recommended that students and faculty not watch them.
“I would ask that you reach out to your classmates and friends to offer support and comfort should they need it,” Martin wrote in a message announcing the release.
KIRO News Director Jake Milstein said that video of the incident and the police response “would have remained illegally hidden if not for local media willing to fight for the First Amendment.”
“At a time when some are trying to limit freedom of the press, I’m pleased the courts upheld and defended the right to know and the First Amendment in this case,” Milstein said. “The public should know that KIRO 7 will continue to fight for open records, government accountability, and a free press.”