Suspect in Seattle shooting spree to mount insanity defense

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 23, 2014 1:07 PM

By Jimmy Lovaas

SEATTLE (Reuters) - A man charged with opening fire with a shotgun at a small Christian college in Seattle, killing a student, intends to plead not guilty by reason of insanity, his lawyer said at a court appearance by the suspect on Monday.

Attorneys for the defendant, Aaron Ybarra, 26, have said their client suffers from "significant and long-standing mental health issues" that were a factor in the shooting this month at Seattle Pacific University.

The defense also has previously disclosed that Ybarra, who was not a student at the university, was involuntarily committed to a psychiatric institution in the past.

Ybarra, shackled and dressed in white jail scrubs labeled "ultra security inmate," stood silently with a blank stare during the brief King County court proceedings. He was ordered to remain held without bail.

Ybarra was initially charged with one-count of first-degree murder, two counts of first-degree attempted murder and a single count of assault in the June 5 shooting in which one student was killed and several others were injured at the Methodist liberal arts college.

Prosecutors on Monday filed an additional attempted murder charge accusing Ybarra of pointing his weapon at yet another victim in a failed attempt to shoot that person.

Prosecutors said they would seek a life prison sentence for Ybarra if he were convicted.

Ybarra is accused of opening fire with a double-barreled shotgun on a group of people outside an academic building on campus, killing student Paul Lee with a blast to the back of his head and wounding a second man who was struck with pellets.

Reloading his weapon after the lower-barrel of the gun malfunctioned, Ybarra then entered the building, where he shot and wounded a female student who was coming down the stairs, according to prosecutors.

When the suspect paused to reload again, authorities say, a student safety monitor charged out of his office to douse the gunman with pepper spray, grabbed the weapon away, then tackled Ybarra as several bystanders jumped in to help. Authorities say the gunman also was carrying about 50 rounds of ammunition and a large hunting knife.

In court documents, prosecutors say Ybarra confessed to police detectives that he had been planning a mass shooting in which he wanted to kill as many people as possible before committing suicide.

They said entries in a journal he kept expressed admiration for the massacres committed at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999 and Virginia Tech in 2007.

The rampage came about two weeks after seven people died in a spasm of violence near the University of California at Santa Barbara and a week before a teenage gunman shot a classmate to death and killed himself at a high school near Portland, Oregon.

(Reporting by Jimmy Lovaas in Seattle; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Jim Loney and Will Dunham)