SPU shooting claims life of Korean American

By Julie Ha and James S. Kim

The lone fatality in the June 5 Seattle Pacific University shooting has been identified as Paul Lee, a 19-year-old Korean American student, according to the Seattle Times. Seattle Mayor Ed Murray confirmed the news at a press conference on June 6.

Murray said Lee, a freshman at the university, had a “bright future ahead of him.” KOMO news reported that Lee’s parents own the Hot Pot ’n Sushi restaurant in Portland.

Lee was pronounced dead at Harborview Medical Center, following the campus shooting, which also wounded two other students. Sarah Williams, 19, was upgraded from critical to stable condition on June 6, according to KING 5 News. She sustained wounds to her abdomen and was recovering from surgery in the Intensive Care Unit. By June 9, the Seattle Times reported her condition upgraded to satisfactory. The news station also reported that the other injured student, 24-year-old Thomas Fowler, who suffered pellet fragments to his neck, chin, and side of his upper extremities, was released from the hospital on June 6.

The King County Medical Examiner officially confirmed on June 7 that Lee died from shotgun wounds to the head and neck.

Authorities said that Aaron Ybarra, 26, entered the foyer at Otto Miller Hall, a science and engineering building, at about 3:30 p.m. on June 5 and began shooting. When he stopped to reload his weapon, a student building monitor, Jon Meis, pepper-sprayed him. Meis and other students managed to subdue Ybarra until police arrived.

Ybarra, who police said is not a student at SPU, was arrested and booked at King County Jail for investigation of homicide. A judge ordered him to be held without bail.

Paul Lee’s brother, Albert Lee, posted a message on Facebook, communicating his family’s deep pain, as well as gratitude for all the support people in the community have show them. “At this moment, all we can ask is to continue to remember Paul and all that he has left behind for us,” Albert Lee wrote. “Thank you all for blanketing us with your kind words, we will thank you all individually in due time.”

Albert also addressed his brother, “Paul, you handsome shekki, we miss you and love you more than you know. Keep dancin’ in heaven.” Koreans often use the term shekki, the equivalent of “little sh-t,” as a term of affection.

Paul Lee graduated from Westview High School in Portland in 2013. KATU.com quoted his former Japanese instructor, Brian Bangerter, as saying that Lee was a “ray of light in my classroom for three years. It was impossible be around him and not feel happy. He made class fun for everyone. His laugh and smile were both contagious. Everyone who knew him felt close to him. He will always be remembered for his infectious positive attitude. I know I will never forget him.”

Others who knew Lee took to social media to express their feelings for their lost friend.

“I can’t even believe you’re gone,” wrote Sarrah Rasmussen on Instagram, as reported by KING 5 News. “Ante up, math class, and just seeing you around campus and dancing with you brightened my life immeasurably. I am blessed and honored to have known you. You will live on through all of us and I expect you to teach us your dance from heaven at 6 p.m. tonight.”

Eugene Cho, a pastor at Quest Church in Seattle, wrote on his blog that he only met Lee once and remembered his “wide grin.”

“I don’t really know much about him, but his friends speak the world about him. They speak of his humor, smile, energy, and his faith in Christ,” said Cho. “I wish I had a longer conversation with him.”

According to an AP report, Meis, a dean’s list electrical engineering student, was emotionally anguished after pepper spraying and subduing the gunman, but not injured in the shooting. He was treated at Harborview and released.

The AP also reported that Roman Kukhotskiy, 22, was in the building when the violence broke out. He said Meis is getting married this summer and has accepted a job with Boeing, where he has interned in previous years.

“I was amazed that he was willing to risk all that for us,” Kukhotskiy said. “If Jon didn’t stop him, what’s to say? I could have been the next victim.”

Emil Guillermo, of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, identified Meis as a biracial Asian American. (end)

Associated Press writers Gene Johnson, Phuong Le, Rachel La Corte in Olympia, and Manuel Valdes and Donna Gordon Blankinship in Seattle contributed to this report.

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