Friends and acquaintances of Jon Meis say they’re not surprised the 22-year-old electrical-engineering student acted bravely to halt Thursday’s shooting at Seattle Pacific University (SPU) — or that a day later he was shunning the media spotlight and asking for prayers for the victims.
When the gunman paused to reload his shotgun in Otto Miller Hall, Meis, who had been working as a building monitor in the lobby, fired pepper spray in the man’s face and tackled him. Others moved in to help pin down the shooter until police arrived.
“Any of us would have expected him to act the way he did. He was the right guy to be working there,” said Ryan Salgado, who has been roommates with Meis for four years, first in a dorm and later in a town house near campus.
Meis carried pepper spray out of habit. “He is very prepared, thank God,” said Dan Keimig, another friend and former roommate.
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Both friends described Meis as physically fit and knowledgeable about guns, allowing him to effectively intervene when the shooter tried to load more shells and continue shooting.
Salgado, who spoke with Meis soon after the shooting, described him as shaken up. “He was in shock — just the whole event. He has never done anything like that before. I don’t think he had processed that yet.”
On Friday, Meis’ heroism at the Christian college was hailed by local leaders and on social media around the world. Discovering Meis is engaged to be married this month, well-wishers spread the word to buy every item on the couple’s online gift registry.
At a City Hall news conference Friday, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray praised Meis, who “put his own life at risk and prevented a situation that could have been far more tragic.”
Even as local and national media clamored to tell Meis’ story, he and his family looked for privacy and asked for attention to be directed at the families of the shooting victims.
Meis family and friends gathered at a family member’s home in a rural part of Renton on Friday, where two young men placed a handwritten cardboard sign at the foot of a white fence post.
“Please give our family space to recover, pray and rest. Do not call or knock at the door at this time. Pray for SPU and the other families involved. Thanks for your honor and encouragement,” the sign read.
“Quiet but brilliant”
Friends know Meis as a private young man who carries a strong Christian faith.
“Jon is a man of actions not of words as was proved by yesterday’s events and this has rung true through our relationship,” Keimig said in an email.
He described his friend as a “quiet but brilliant engineering major whose love for Christ and others has made him the hero he is.”
Meis and Keimig went on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic about two years ago during spring break to see another culture and visit Haitian refugees.
When not studying, Salgado said he and Meis have regular college pastimes: playing video games, working out, going to get bubble tea in the University District or walking to Gas Works Park.
Meis, who made the dean’s list and worked as a teaching assistant at SPU, also interned at Boeing in the 737NG program, according to his LinkedIn profile.
In high school, Meis had been an excellent student and a cross-country runner at Seattle Christian Schoolsin SeaTac.
He maintained a 3.98 GPA and was editor of the yearbook his senior year, according to a bio posted when he was named “Student of the Month” by the Southwest King County Chamber of Commerce.
He also co-founded an Airsoft Club, a sport in which participants wage simulated battles with guns that fire nonmetallic pellets.
Phil Dyck, a cross-country coach at Seattle Christian Schools, said Meis ran for him for four years, and described him in an email as “an outstanding young man.”
Dyck declined to comment further, saying he wanted to honor the Meis family’s request for privacy.
Staff reporters Christine Clarridge and Lynn Thompson contributed to this report. Jim Brunner: 206-515-5628 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @Jim_Brunner