SPU shootings suspect sought fame through violence

SEATTLE — A heavily armed Mountlake Terrace man accused in Thursday’s deadly shooting at Seattle Pacific University had a history of making violent threats against himself and others, once telling police he hoped a SWAT team would “make him famous.”

Aaron Rey Ybarra, 26, allegedly planned a mass shooting on Thursday on the Seattle private college campus and wanted to kill as many people as possible before taking his own life, according to the arrest report. Ybarra allegedly had a shotgun, a hunting knife and at least 50 rounds of ammunition on him when he was taken into custody, the arrest report says.

John Meis, an SPU student, is credited with subduing Ybarra with pepper spray, putting an end to the rampage.

Ybarra was ordered held without bail after an appearance Friday in a King County courtroom. A second hearing was set for next week. He remains in the King County Jail for investigation of homicide.

One young man was killed in the shooting and two other people wounded. The slain man was identified Friday as Paul Lee, a 19-year-old Korean-American from Portland. Lee’s parents are en route to Seattle from Korea, Seattle officials said.

“We are still establishing the motive for this tragedy,” Seattle police Capt. Chris Fowler said.

Ybarra obtained the shotgun legally several years ago, Fowler said.

Mountlake Terrace police have encountered Ybarra at least three times in the past few years, records show. In 2010 and 2012, police took Ybarra to a hospital, recommending that he be involuntarily committed because of suicidal behavior. Last August, officers were summoned to his house because another family member allegedly was suicidal.

Ybarra also has a history of driving offenses, including a DUI arrest.

He is a former Edmonds Community College student who previously attended a home-school program in the Edmonds School District, which serves Mountlake Terrace.

In October 2010, Ybarra reportedly was intoxicated and Mountlake Terrace police became concerned he might harm himself, Cmdr. Doug Hansen said.

At the time, Ybarra listed his place of employment as the Kenmore Shooting Range. He was a clay-pigeon trapper and score keeper who ensured people followed safety rules that included eye and ear protection when shooting, a member there said.

That night in 2010, Ybarra reportedly had called 911 from a location along Cedar Way. He said he was suicidal, wanted to hurt others and “had a rage inside him.” He was allegedly “very intoxicated” and reported having previous suicidal thoughts. He was taken to a local hospital for a mental health evaluation.

In October 2012, police reportedly found Ybarra intoxicated and lying in the middle of his street, records show. A passerby had called 911.

Ybarra told officers he wanted the “SWAT team to get him and make him famous. (He) said no one cares about him. He said he wants to die,” officers wrote.

Ybarra again was taken into custody for a mental health evaluation, Hansen said. The gun range was not listed as his employer in that incident.

Ybarra also was arrested for drunken driving and for driving on a sidewalk in July 2012, according to Edmonds police records.

In that case, he admitted drinking eight beers and four shots of whiskey at a Mountlake Terrace bar and that he was picking up more beer from a convenience store to drink at home. His blood alcohol level was roughly double the legal limit.

He was booked into the Snohomish County Jail and later released. He then missed a court hearing and a warrant was issued. He was ordered to get an assessment for alcohol abuse and to not to use alcohol or drugs for two years.

He was told that if he complied with court orders, he would be charged with reckless endangerment rather than DUI.

Ybarra completed alcohol treatment and attended a DUI victims panel. The case was scheduled for review later this year.

In January 2011, Ybarra also was cited by Edmonds police for allegedly driving without proof of insurance. That case was dismissed a few weeks later.

Late Thursday, Seattle police served a warrant at Ybarra’s house in Mountlake Terrace. Property records show the family has apparently owned the place for more than 15 years.

“So far, police have not found any connection between the suspect, Seattle Pacific University or any of the victims,” Seattle police said in a statement on the department’s website.

One of those wounded at Seattle Pacific University remains at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. Sarah Williams, 19, was in serious condition after a five-hour surgery, hospital spokeswoman Susan Gregg said. Thomas Fowler, 24, has been discharged, she said.

The third shooting victim, Lee, died Thursday after arriving at the hospital.

EdCC President Jean Hernandez said in a statement Friday that she was “shocked and deeply saddened” by the news that a former Edmonds Community College student was linked to the SPU shootings.

“All of us in higher education grieve together when an event such as this occurs on a college campus,” Hernandez said. “The fact that the shooter was a former student at our college brings it even closer to home.”

Ybarra earned a certificate of completion in aerospace manufacturing through an online program.

He also attended classes at the college from fall 2005 through spring 2010, and again in 2012.

Hernadez said she reached out to SPU president Daniel Martin to offer her condolences and assistance.

In 2006, Ybarra attended a home-school program in the Edmonds School District called Cyberschool. It is now known as Edmonds Heights K-12.

He withdrew that year and did not receive an Edmonds School District diploma.

“The current program’s community is deeply saddened by the news of what occurred at SPU yesterday,” school district spokeswoman DJ Jakala said.

Public defender Ramona Brandes said Friday that Ybarra is on suicide watch at the jail. She said he has long-standing mental health issues and has been treated and medicated in the past, though she did not know his specific diagnoses, according The Associated Press.

Brandes says she’ll be exploring those mental health issues as she moves forward with his case. Brandes says Ybarra wants to apologize for the “suffering he has caused.”

Reporter Diana Hefley contributed to this story.

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446, stevick@heraldnet.com.

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