One year after a school shooting on the Seattle Pacific University campus left one student dead and two injured, students, faculty, staff and others gathered in a nearby sanctuary to remember, grieve, worship and pray.
In a church filled to capacity, where sniffles and sobs sometimes punctuated the service, members of the Seattle Pacific University family gathered to pray, worship and remember the anniversary of a school shooting that left one student dead and two injured.
The family of Paul Lee, who was killed in the June 5, 2014, shooting, sat in the front row, while University Chaplain Bo Lim spoke about grief, about unity and also about giving thanks.
“Grief continues to linger in our hearts while we also remember the ways God demonstrated his goodness and faithfulness in the midst of, and following, the tragedy.”
He said crisis and tragedy, as hard as they are to endure, often lead to an opportunity for grace, deliverance and healing.
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Lee was killed when a shooter, later identified by police as 27-year-old Aaron Ybarra, arrived on campus and shot the 19-year-old on the sidewalk in front of Otto Miller Hall.
Another student, Thomas Fowler Jr., was wounded by pellets from the double-barreled shotgun in that blast, while a third student, Sarah Williams, was seriously injured when she was shot inside the hall.
The shooter was subdued by former SPU student Jon Meis, a student-safety monitor at the time who rushed from his office, pepper-sprayed Ybarra’s eyes and then disarmed him, police said.
SPU President Daniel J. Martin gave an update during the service on Meis and the surviving victims.
He said Fowler was on the verge of graduating from SPU and that Williams was no longer in Seattle but was slowly recovering and celebrating “each small movement and milestone.”
He also read a message from Meis that urged people to “live life to the fullest and show love to all.”
Toward the end of the one-hour service, Lee’s father, Peter Lee, of Portland, lighted a candle on a table that also held a small box filled with some of his son’s ashes.
Lee’s father was previously quoted as saying his son disliked violence and had a special love for the vulnerable and wounded, which explained his desire to study psychology.
After the shooting, Lee’s family established the Paul Lee Foundation designed to raise awareness of mental illness and provide support to those who fight it.
Ybarra had a long history of mental illness and told police in an interview after his arrest that he had stopped taking his mental-health medications.
He was charged with one count of premeditated first-degree murder, two counts of attempted first-degree murder and one count of second-degree assault. Last year, his attorney notified the court her client intends to pursue an insanity defense, court records show.
After the service, a group of Lee’s friends gathered at the front of the sanctuary where they cried and took turns holding, and praying over, the box of ashes.
Peter Lee was overheard telling them not to mourn for the rest of their lives.
“The grieving is for us,” he said, gesturing to himself and his wife. “Remember us, and pray for us, on June 5. But otherwise, you go on with your studying, your working and your living.”