Newly released surveillance footage shows moments of horror and heroism at Seattle Pacific University after a gunman opened fire on students two years ago.
The video, released Tuesday by the King County Prosecutor’s Office, includes the so-called “three-minute video,” which shows a man identified by police as Aaron Ybarra shoot a student before being wrestled to the floor by another student in Otto Miller Hall.
One student was killed and two others were injured in the June 5, 2014 attack.
The videos, which were released after a lengthy court fight, add a new dimension to incidents already described by police and others.
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The Seattle Times is releasing only a small scene from the video that shows the extraordinary, lifesaving actions of student-safety monitor Jon Meis. The Times is not releasing any images that show the shooting or victims.
Seconds after Ybarra shot and seriously wounded a young woman inside Otto Miller Hall, Meis comes around a corner armed with a small can of pepper spray. As Ybarra breaks open his double-barrel shotgun to reload, Meis sprays him in the eyes and tackles him, pulling the shotgun out of his hands.
Meis is seen running with the shotgun around a corner, and coming back into the foyer unarmed just as Ybarra is fumbling with what authorities later say is a hunting knife. Meis grabs Ybarra and holds on until a security guard comes and kicks the knife out of reach.
Police released 18 DVDs, containing dozens of hours of surveillance, the release of which has been the subject of a contentious legal fight.
Killed was Beaverton, Oregon, student Paul Lee, 19. Another student, Thomas Fowler Jr., was wounded by pellets in that blast, while a third student, Sarah Williams, was seriously injured when she was shot inside the hall.
Victims of the shooting as well as the university had tried to block the city from releasing the videos. Media outlets, including The Times, sought the videos under the state’s Public Records Act.
Aaron Ybarra has been charged with one count of premeditated first-degree murder, two counts of attempted first-degree murder and one count of second-degree assault. He is scheduled to be tried in September.
Attorney Brad Thoreson, representing the victims, argued that release of the video violates victims’ privacy rights and could inspire a copycat school shooter. The video shows the gunman shooting students and pointing a firearm at others.
Attorney Michael R. McKinstry, representing the university, called the shooting a “terrorist” act and said the video’s release would give other criminals clues as to the capabilities of school surveillance systems.
A month after the shooting, a King County Superior Court commissioner issued a restraining order barring local media outlets from obtaining a copy of the surveillance video, accusing the city’s four TV news stations of seeking the graphic video to boost ratings. However, that ruling was overturned by an appellate court.
Ybarra, 28, of Mountlake Terrace, had a long history of mental illness and told police in an interview after his arrest that he had stopped taking his mental-health medications.
He was charged with one count of premeditated first-degree murder, two counts of attempted first-degree murder and one count of second-degree assault. His attorney has notified the court her client intends to pursue an insanity defense, court records show.
He is scheduled to be tried in September.
Ybarra chose the small Christian college because he was unfamiliar with it, according to his journal recovered by police after the shooting.
“I can see that University of Washington and Seattle University represent Seattle more,” he wrote. “I didn’t want to have to attack my own city.”
Ybarra wrote about his failure to benefit from therapy, how he wanted revenge on people who humiliated him, and how his actions would hurt his family “but it must be done.”
Police had earlier released videos and transcripts of their interview with Ybarra in response to requests under the Public Records Act.