As some school campuses across the country — and now even in Seattle — know all too well, gun violence can erupt at the seemingly unlikeliest of places.
We think, “It can’t happen in Seattle,” especially at a school with a strict code of conduct for students. Indeed, it was someone from outside the Seattle Pacific University (SPU) community who entered SPU’s Otto Miller Hall last Thursday (June 5) afternoon and shot and killed freshman Paul Lee, of Bethany, Ore., and wounded two others.
Suspect Aaron Rey Ybarra, 26, of Mountlake Terrace, had attended Edmonds Community College and had no known connection to the school. Yet, he was “hell-bent,” as one law-enforcement official said, on killing as many people as he could at SPU before killing himself. He brought a legally obtained shotgun, a hunting knife and at least 50 rounds of ammunition to accomplish this.
Police have since learned that Ybarra has been intrigued with mass shootings, specifically the 1999 Columbine High School massacre; had been hospitalized twice for extreme intoxication and posing a threat to himself and others; and has struggled with mental health issues and alcohol addiction.
Despite Ybarra’s background, no one who knew him has said he would be capable of such violence.
It’s this last refrain that is often repeated about suspects in many of the other school shootings.
Because of the intricacies of mental health, no one knows whether someone is experiencing mental health issues, is getting the help he/she needs or if that help is enough.
And no place is safe from gun violence. But, as SPU student and building monitor Jon Meis demonstrated, tackling Ybarra as he was reloading his gun, we can all help — even as individuals — to prevent more people from becoming victims of senseless gun violence.
As Seattle faces a growing number of shootings elsewhere outside of schools, it becomes all the more important that we as citizens find the inner strength to stand up against such violence and take back our streets and campuses. Whether it be based in faith, as with the Christian students at the Free Methodist SPU, or through community activism, our united front may make inroads to ensuring that people get help for their mental health issues and that guns stay out of the hands of people incapable of using them responsibly.
As SPU sophomore Jordyn DeLaney told The Seattle Times, “A real evil presence passed through here yesterday, but I believe there is hope.”