Mayor: ‘It’s been a difficult week for this city’
by Bill Lucia
In the wake of a shooting on Thursday at Seattle Pacific University that left one person dead and a double homicide in the city's Leschi neighborhood last weekend, Mayor Ed Murray said Friday that he will take steps to address public safety and gun violence.
Throughout the day, details continued to emerge about the SPU incident. Murray confirmed that Paul Lee, 19, of Portland was the student who was killed in the shooting. Another student, Sarah Williams, 19, was critically injured. After surgery on Thursday her condition had improved. As of Friday afternoon, she was still in serious condition in intensive care, but was conscious and breathing on her own, according to Susan Gregg, a spokesperson for Harborview Medical Center. A third shooting victim, Thomas Fowler, 24, was in satisfactory condition with fragment wounds to his neck, chin and an upper extremity, Gregg said.
Lee graduated last year from Westview High School in suburban Beaverton, where one teacher issued a statement calling him "a ray of light in my classroom for three years."
During a press conference at City Hall, Murray said, "We stand here at the end of the week with three young men, good members of their communities, excited about their futures, we stand here and they are dead."
The two other men the mayor referred to were Ahmed Said, 27, and Dwone Anderson-Young, 23. They were shot and killed early in the morning on June 1 on 29th Avenue South, near South King Street. Anderson-Young was a 2013 University of Washington graduate, who spoke Japanese. Said was working in the Somali community on HIV and LGBTQ issues, Mayor Murray said today. Anderson-Young was gay, and police have not ruled out the possibility that the killings were a hate crime.
Separate vigils for the two men and the SPU victims were held last night at seven p.m.
"I've been to many prayer vigils in our city," said City Council President Tim Burgess, "but I've never before had to choose between two at the same time."
Shotgun shells litter the floor inside the main lobby of Otto Miller Hall. Photo: SPD
The suspected gunman in the SPU shooting, Aaron R. Ybarra, 26, of Mountlake Terrace, remained in custody in King County Jail on Friday for investigation of murder.
In statements made to homicide detectives after he had been read his Miranda rights, Ybarra admitted to shooting the victims, according to a document released by the Seattle Police Department Friday night.
"He further told detectives that he had been planning a mass shooting and wanted to kill as many victims as possible before killing himself," the document also said.
The document also notes that Ybarra had been arrested once for driving while intoxicated and that he has no prior convictions.
West Precinct Captain and incident commander Chris Fowler said on Friday that Ybarra legally obtained the shotgun used to commit the shootings several years ago. Ybarra also carried a knife and additional ammunition. Fowler said that detectives were still working to establish a motive. He could not confirm how many shots were fired in total, but did say that each of the victims was hit by gunfire inside SPU's Otto Miller Hall.
Jon Meis, a 22-year-old engineering student, who was working as a security monitor in the building, pepper sprayed and subdued the shooter as he reloaded the shotgun. Other students then helped restrain the gunman until police officers arrived. Meis was taken to Harborview after the shooting for examination and was released when doctors found no serious injuries.
Police first received a call about the shooting at 3:23 p.m. Officers were on the scene about four minutes later and entered Otto Miller Hall shortly thereafter.
The Seattle Police Department released chilling 911 call recordings on Friday from the SPU incident.
"I think I got hit with bird shot or something," one of the callers says calmly.
Another female student hiding in her professors office speaks quietly to the 911 operator and says that she thinks she saw the shooter in the main lobby. "Please hurry," she says at one point in a whisper, her voice cracking. "In the lobby, he's in the lobby."
In the Leschi killings, police are still searching for Ali Muhammed Brown (photo left) as a suspect. A 30-year-old black male, Brown is 5 feet 9 inches tall, 190 pounds and has brown eyes. Police said he is believed to be a "transient," with ties to the South King County area. Assistant Police Chief Carmen Best said on Friday that Brown is considered armed and dangerous.
Seattle police arrested another suspect in the case earlier this week. Matalepuna Malu, 26, remains in custody at the King County Jail for a federal warrant and an assault investigation. He has not been charged with the murders.
Detectives also recovered one of the Leschi victim’s vehicles parked on a South Seattle street earlier this week. The Mitsubishi Galant was found abandoned on Wabash Avenue and South Cloverdale Street.
Mayor Murray said that he would convene a special meeting of the City Council in the coming weeks that would focus in detail on how to address public safety and gun violence. He was joined at the press conference on Friday by about two dozen community and nonprofit leaders.
"I don't have a solution today," Murray said, "but I'm convinced that the solution itself will not come from us alone, but it will come from the community working with their elected leaders."
"It's been a difficult week for this city," he added.
Mayor Ed Murray discussed public safety and gun violence at a press conference on Friday afternoon. To his right is City Council President Tim Burgess. In the foreground, wearing the green shirt, is the Seattle Police Department's West Precinct Capt. Chris Fowler. Photo: Bill Lucia
Just before the mayor made his remarks, employees at businesses around 10th Avenue and East Union Street were sheltering in place, as police attempted to apprehend a man who had brandished a handgun in the area. No shots were fired and the police took the man into custody safely.
"We're reaching the point in this nation where we must find a solution," Murray said, referring to the issue of gun violence. "We have no choice."