Brother of SPU shooting victim shares story of family's grief and healing
BEAVERTON, Ore. -- The family of a teen shot and killed at Seattle Pacific University one week ago is sharing their story of grief and compassion for the first time.
In his only televised interview, the victim's older brother told KATU's Hillary Lake that he met with the man credited with risking his life to save others during the shooting at a vigil Wednesday night.
"I felt like me being there, more than my words, just my presence, would not only help me with joining that community that has been so supportive but also for them, me being there, I feel like I needed to be there," Albert Lee said.
Albert Lee, 22, flew to Seattle to represent his family at the vigil. His younger brother, Paul Lee, 19, was shot and killed last Thursday afternoon by 26-year-old Aaron Ybarra.
"He was entering the building and the shooter had come up from behind him," Lee said.
At the memorial, Lee had a chance to speak for a few minutes with John Meis, who police said subdued Ybarra with pepper spray after the initial shooting. Lee said he and Meis talked about how "beautifully the community has come together" in the wake of the tragedy.
"I told him that he was definitely a hero in my book because not only did he do an action that risked his own life but he also saved the pain that we're feeling from so many other people," Lee said.
The Lee family is still processing Paul's death, but they refuse to let it shape the rest of their lives in a negative way. The family is focused on remembering how much love and light Paul brought with him everywhere he went.
"Paul is a man of few words, but I think people around him knew when he talked it was going to carry some weight," said Lee.
Albert Lee said he learned about Paul's death when his sister Alicia, 12, called him on his cellphone. A college student himself, he was in the middle of a class at the University of Oregon's School of Journalism and Communication.
"I felt like I was in a dream. My body went completely numb. The first thing I did was asked to put mom on the phone and she's asking me like, 'Is this real? Call the hospital and make sure it's him,'" Lee said.
Paul loved to dance, and anyone who knew him got joy from watching him move.
"I think dancing was a way for Paul to really express himself without talking, and people seeing him dance, and just the fire in his soul when he's dancing," Lee said.
Paul also wanted to study psychology, and eventually become a counselor, an ironic twist to his senseless death. Paul wanted to help the same type of people as the man who killed him.
Albert Lee said he can't make sense of it, "I think it's something that I'll never really understand."
The entire Lee family, dad Peter, mom Mira, sister Alicia, and Albert, have all made the choice not to harbor hate. Instead, their energy is focused on remembering Paul.
"Things always happen for a reason and you might not understand that but what you can do is you know, move on, and take a positive and make that something bigger and beautiful," said Lee.
That something beautiful is the "Paul Lee Foundation," a nonprofit organization to help people suffering from mental illness. The Lee family plans to use some of the money that's been donated to them in the wake of Paul's death to start the foundation.
The family said in a statement, "Paul's sacrifice opened a door which we will now enter, inspired to make a lifetime commitment."
Anyone interested in making a donation to the "Paul Lee Foundation" can do it at any Wells Fargo Bank.
The Lee family is grateful for all the prayers and support that's come their way from the public over the past week."I think there's a lesson in everything. And for me, I think the lesson is to live like Paul in a way where he wasn't afraid to love, he wasn't afraid to expose who he was and he wasn't afraid to act out of love instead of fear ... I want to ask the community to take the time to embrace the ones around you and love right now," Lee said.