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LIFE AND DEATH: Meis and his fiancée.
The Knot
LIFE AND DEATH: Meis and his fiancée.

Unwelcome fame

News | Student hero dodges public spotlight, financial windfall in Seattle shooting

Issue: "2014 Books Issue," June 28, 2014

Seattle Pacific University student Jon Meis likes to be prepared. That’s why he always carries a can of pepper spray. Meis was ready on June 5 when Aaron Ybarra, 26, allegedly opened fire at SPU, a private Christian school, killing one and injuring two. The 22-year-old Meis used his pepper spray to subdue Ybarra and put him in a choke hold until other students and faculty members rushed to help keep the suspect pinned on the ground. Police said Ybarra, who has a history of mental illness, was carrying a shotgun, ammunition, and knives, and the actions of Meis and others likely saved lives. 

“I was thrown into a life and death situation, and through God’s grace I was able to stop the attacker and walk away unharmed,” Meis, an engineering student, said in a June 9 statement. “When I came face to face with the attacker, God gave me the eyes to see that he was not a faceless monster, but a very sad and troubled young man.”

In the aftermath of the shooting, Meis declined all media interview requests and even asked friends at SPU and his former high school not to divulge facts about his personal life. Yet some details still emerged, including his scheduled wedding on June 21. Well-wishers promptly purchased everything on the wedding registries they found at Target and Crate & Barrel. Jessamyn McIntyre, a Seattle area sportscaster, launched a crowd-funding effort and raised more than $50,000 for Meis’ “honeymoon and future” in four days. 

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In his June 9 statement, released by SPU, Meis called the outpouring of support overwhelming and asked that all future donations go toward the victims—who were all SPU students. He said it is hard to see himself as a hero and thanked emergency responders for willingly putting their lives at risk every day. Meis noted the “devastating reality” that heroes cannot emerge without tragedy. “We cannot ignore that a life was taken from us, ruthlessly and without justification or cause,” he said. “Nonetheless, I would encourage that hate be met with love.”

J.C. Derrick
J.C. Derrick

J.C. is WORLD Magazine's Washington Bureau chief. He spent 10 years covering sports, higher education, and politics for the Longview News-Journal and other newspapers in Texas before joining WORLD in 2012. Follow J.C. on Twitter @jcderrick1.


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