Jurors also heard a recording of a phone call Aaron Ybarra made from jail in which he talked excitedly about his newfound notoriety after the Seattle Pacific University shootings. “I’m the big guy on the news,” he said.
During his second day on the witness stand, Seattle Pacific University gunman Aaron Ybarra contradicted statements he made to police after his arrest by testifying Tuesday that he never meant to kill anyone on the small, private campus in June 2014.
When he opened fire on student Paul Lee, Ybarra told jurors it was a “warning shot” aimed at the 19-year-old’s shoulders “because he disrespected me.” But the shotgun blast killed Lee, a freshman from Portland.
Senior Deputy Prosecutor Kristin Richardson pressed Ybarra during cross-examination, reminding him he’d told a Seattle police detective immediately after his arrest that “you wanted to take as many people out with you as you could.”
Ybarra replied: “The pepper spray was too strong,” referring to his capture by student safety monitor Jon Meis. “I was talking too fast … It was making my mind feel worse.”
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He went on to testify that he had a hard time “concentrating on telling the truth” because of the effects of pepper spray.
“The pepper spray was messing me up,” he said.
Asked if he was trying to kill Sarah Williams, a 22-year-old shot in the chest inside Otto Miller Hall, Ybarra said: “No, that was just another warning shot.”
The defense questioning Tuesday centered on Ybarra’s claims that he was compelled by God, Satan and Lucifer to commit a shooting on a university campus as part of a “secret plan.” Meanwhile, the state focused more on Ybarra’s journal entries and statements to police about his anger at those who he claimed had mistreated him, as well as his hatred of the world.
He agreed that he related to the anger and hatred expressed by Eric Harris, one of two student gunmen responsible for the mass shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999.
Respect and disrespect have so far been a continuing theme, with Ybarra saying that Lee and then Williams disrespected him and the shotgun he carried onto the Seattle Pacific campus. For instance, Ybarra said he didn’t shoot one student inside Otto Miller Hall because the student gave Ybarra the respect he deserved.
Williams, on the other hand, looked confused and laughed at him, he testified.
Ybarra said Lee “was cocky, thinking nothing was going to happen” to him. “He got the message he should’ve been careful. … He should’ve did what I told him and he would’ve been fine,” Ybarra said.
Under questioning by Richardson, Ybarra testified he didn’t expect the media attention the shooting received or that he’d be recognized by his fellow jail inmates.
In an apparent effort to show the jury the importance Ybarra placed on being shown respect, Richardson played for the jury a recorded phone call from Ybarra to his brother from the King County Jail, in which Ybarra excitedly talked about his newfound notoriety behind bars:
“I didn’t expect this. I’m the big guy on the news. Some of the inmates get excited to talk to me,” Ybarra said in the recording. “I’m really well-respected here.”
Ybarra, 29, is charged with premeditated first-degree murder, three counts of attempted first-degree murder and one count of second-degree assault for the campus shootings on June 5, 2014. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.