SPU hero Meis: 'Through God's grace I was able to stop the attacker'

SEATTLE -- The Seattle Pacific University student who police credit with saving countless lives during a shooting on campus Thursday has made his first public comments since the incident, saying it was "God's grace" that he walked away unharmed.

Police say Jon Meis pepper-sprayed and tackled alleged gunman Aaron Ybarra as he stopped to reload after firing a number of shots. Nineteen-year-old Paul Lee was killed and two others were wounded. But police say Ybarra was found with dozens of more rounds of ammunition and stated to officers after his arrest that he had planned on killing as many people as possible.

"Words cannot come close to expressing the tragedy that occurred this past week on our campus," Meis wrote in a statement released Friday through Seattle Pacific University. "On Thursday, my life changed. 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."

He said as he tries to return to a normal life after the shooting, he prays for the strength for victims and their families.

"While my experience left me in physical shock, I know that many people are dealing with much greater grief than I have experienced, and in honesty I probably would not be able to handle myself right now if I had personally known the victims," Meis wrote.

Meis also wrote about how many have hailed him a hero for his actions, with some even raising funds for Meis' upcoming wedding and future.

"I know that I am being hailed as a hero, and as many people have suggested I find this hard to accept. I am indeed a quiet and private individual; while I have imagined what it would be like to save a life I never believed I would be put in such a situation. It touches me truly and deeply to read online that parents are telling their children about me and telling them that real heroes do exist," he wrote. "However, what I find most difficult about this situation is the devastating reality that a hero cannot come without tragedy. In the midst of this attention, we cannot ignore that a life was taken from us, ruthlessly and without justification or cause. Others were badly injured, and many more will carry this event with them the rest of their lives."

Meis asked that those looking to help him should instead focus on the victims.

"I am overwhelmed with the incredible generosity that has been showered upon me. It has been deeply touching to read the comments online and realize that my actions have had such a strikingly widespread effect," he wrote. "Moving forward, I am strongly requesting that any future donations be given to the victims through Seattle Pacific University."

As for alleged shooter Ybarra, Meis says he's not ready to forgive him but hopes he finds God.

"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," Meis wrote. "While I cannot at this time find it within me to forgive his crime, I truly desire that he will find the grace of God and the forgiveness of our community."

Meis finished by thanking the responders and medical staff who helped at the scene Thursday and expressed his desire for the community to find strength in the wake of the shootings.

"I am grateful for the prayers and support coming from our home city and afar. In these next few days, weeks, and months, please continue to pray for everyone in the Seattle Pacific community," he wrote. "We serve a truly awesome God and I firmly believe that it is through Him alone that we will find the strength to heal from this tragedy."

Ybarra is currently being held in the King County Jail without bail for investigation of murder. Shooting victim Sarah Williams has been upgraded to satisfactory condition at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle while other shooting victim Thomas Fowler is home after being treated for pellet wounds.