SEATTLE – The suspect in a shooting at a small Seattle university wanted to kill as many people as possible before killing himself, police said.
A judge on Friday found probable cause to hold 26-year-old Aaron Ybarra without bail. The hearing came a day after Ybarra was arrested in the shooting that killed student Paul Lee and wounded two other young people, one critically, at Seattle Pacific University.
In a statement filed in court, Seattle police wrote that Ybarra admitted to detectives after his arrest that he wanted to kill as many people as possible and then himself.
Instead, police say a student building monitor pepper-sprayed and tackled Ybarra as he reloaded his shotgun. Police said the shooter had 50 additional shotgun shells and a hunting knife.
There have been a series of horrific shooting sprees in the U.S. in recent years, amid a fierce debate over the country’s gun laws and its system for dealing with mental health issues.
Several of the attacks shave been on or near U.S. university campuses. About two weeks ago, 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.
Ybarra has a long history of mental health problems for which he had been treated and medicated, said his attorney, public defender Ramona Brandes.
“He is cognizant of the suffering of the victims and their families and the entire Seattle Pacific community,” she said. “He is sorry.”
Ybarra is not a student at the school, police said.
“We are so very shocked and sad over yesterday’s shootings at SPU,” Ybarra’s family said in a statement. “We are crushed at the amount of pain caused to so many people.”
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray identified the student killed as 19-year-old Paul Lee, a “Korean-American student with a bright future.”
Ybarra was hospitalized for mental health evaluations twice in recent years, said Pete Caw, assistant police chief in Ybarra’s hometown, the suburb of Mountlake Terrace.
Officers encountered Ybarra in 2010 and 2012. Both times, he was severely intoxicated and taken to a hospital for evaluation, Caw said.
In the 2012 incident, police found Ybarra lying in a roadway. He told officers he wanted a SWAT team “to get him and make him famous,” a police report said.
Ybarra’s friend Zack McKinley described him as “super happy and friendly,” The Seattle Times reported.
McKinley said the attack was puzzling because Ybarra was happy to have just started a job bagging groceries. Ybarra could get emotionally low but had a good group of friends, McKinley said.
Assistant Police Chief Paul McDonagh said detectives are working to determine the gunman’s motive or intended target.
Friends of Jon Meis, the 22-year-old student who pepper sprayed and tackled the gunman, credited him for saving lives.
“I’m proud of the selfless actions that my roommate, Jon Meis, showed today taking down the shooter,” fellow student Matt Garcia wrote on Twitter. “He is a hero.”
Associated Press writers Rachel La Corte in Olympia and Manuel Valdes and Donna Gordon Blankinship in Seattle contributed to this report, along with AP news researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York.