Updated: 2:25 a.m. Friday, June 6, 2014 | Posted: 3:33 p.m. Thursday, June 5, 2014

Police: Seattle shooter visited Columbine, 'wanted to shoot up a school'

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Seattle Pacific University shooting photo
Ted S. Warren
Police and other officials stand behind police tape at the scene of a shooting Thursday, June 5, 2014, at Seattle Pacific University in Seattle. A lone gunman armed with a shotgun opened fire in a building at the small university, killing one person before he was subdued by a student as he tried to reload, police said. Police say the student building monitor disarmed the gunman and several other students held him until police arrived at the Otto Miller building. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

By KIRO 7 Staff and The Associated Press

Quick Facts: 

  • Four people shot, one dead, after Seattle Pacific University shooting
  • Lone gunman had visited Columbine High School and wanted to shoot up a school, police said.
  • Suspect, Aaron Ybarra, 26, was not a student at the university.
  • Second young man tried to take gun away from shooter.
  • School is about 10 min. from downtown Seattle with about 4,000 students.
  • This is the first Seattle school shooting since April 2007.

A lone gunman armed with a shotgun opened fire Thursday in a building at Seattle Pacific University, wounding multiple people before a student subdued him with pepper spray as he tried to reload, police said.

The 26-year-old gunman, Aaron Ybarra, was obsessed with the Columbine High School shootings and had even traveled to the Colorado site where two student gunmen killed 15 and injured another 21 fellow students in April 1999, police sources told KIRO 7.

Ybarra was not a student at SPU where the shootings happened about 3:25 p.m. Thursday. In a statement Thursday night, police said they had "not found any connection between the suspect, Seattle Pacific University or any of the victims."

Police say a student building monitor at SPU disarmed the gunman and several other students jumped on top of him and pinned him down until police arrived at the Otto Miller building.

Fellow students identified that student as Jon Meis, though police have not confirmed Meis’ name. An assistant chief said Thursay night there were several people who helped stop the shooter.

That confusion with a student trying to disarm the gunman was what led to an early police alert about a second shooter, a source told KIRO 7.

A 19-year-old man died at the hospital and a woman in her 20s was taken to surgery in critical condition, Harborview Medical Center spokeswoman Susan Gregg said. Friends identified her as Sarah Williams, an SPU student.

A 24-year-old man and a 22-year-old man were in satisfactory condition. They were not immediately identified.

The afternoon shooting came a week before the end of the school year, and the situation was particularly tense when police initially reported that they were searching for a second suspect. They later said no one else was involved, though the investigation was ongoing.

The university locked down its campus from roughly 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. and alerted students and staff by to stay inside. Some students were taking finals in the same building where the shooter was.

“This is not a drill,” an e-mail to students read. “The threat is real.”

The school canceled activities and classes for the remainder of Thursday and Friday. A prayer service started at 7 p.m.

"We're a community that relies on Jesus Christ for strength and we'll need that at this time," said Dan Martin, president of Seattle Pacific University, which is located at the edge of a leafy Queen Anne neighborhood about 5 miles from downtown Seattle.

Martin choked up when he talked about the student who put himself in harm's way to protect others.

Jillian Smith was taking a math test on the second-floor of Otto Miller Hall when a lockdown was ordered.

She heard police yelling and banging on doors in the hallway. The professor locked the classroom door, and the 20 or so students sat on the ground, lining up at the front of the classroom.

"We were pretty much freaking out," said Smith, 20, a sophomore. "People were texting family and friends, making sure everyone was OK."

Smith said they sat in the classroom for about 45 minutes, before police came and escorted them out of the building. On the way, they passed the lobby where she saw bullet casings and what appeared to be blood in the lobby carpet and splatter on the wall.

"Seeing blood made it real," Smith said. "I didn't think something like this would happen at our school," she added.

Ashley Springer, 26, was in a classroom with her professor and a few other students when a woman with a bullhorn came into the room and told them to lock the door, pull down the shades and turn out the lights.

Springer, a senior, called SPU "a really close community." About 4,000 students attend school, a Christian university about 10 minutes from downtown Seattle.

David Downs, a 22-year-old senior who is graduating next week, said he had just left campus 30 minutes before the shooting.

"I'm in utter shock," said the Seattle Pacific basketball point guard player. "It's so unbelievable to me that this could happen on our campus. It's the last thing I would have ever thought could happen here."

"It puts things in perspective," he said. "Anything can happen, even on a small Christian campus."

Thursday’s incident is the first Seattle school shooting since April 2, 2007 when Rebecca Griego was killed by her ex-boyfriend at the University of Washington's Gould Hall. In that case, the shooter then killed himself.

The incident follows a spate of recent shootings on or near college campuses.

Last month police said Elliot Rodger killed six people and injured seven before turning his gun on himself in a rampage in Isla Vista, California, near two universities.

Seven people were killed and three injured when a 43-year-old former student opened fire at a tiny Christian school, Oikos University, in Oakland, California, in 2012. A gunman killed five people and injured 18 when he opened fire in a Northern Illinois University lecture hall in 2008.

In 2007, 32 people were fatally shot in a dorm and classroom at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia before the gunman, Seung-Hui Cho, killed himself.

Manuel Valdes and Phuong Le reported for The Associated Press. KIRO 7 reporters Amy Clancy, Natasha Chen, Alison Grande, Linzi Sheldon, Rob Munoz, Henry Rosoff, Gary Horcher, Graham Johnson and executive producer Casey McNerthney contributed to this story.

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