SEATTLE (AP) — College student Jon Meis, who has shied away from the spotlight since he ended a Seattle campus shooting by pepper-spraying the gunman last week, said Monday it's hard to accept his status as a hero.
Meis, 22, and his family have declined media requests since the shooting, with relatives going as far as to ask his high school not to grant interviews about him.
But on Monday, Meis issued a written statement through Seattle Pacific University, where the shooting occurred Thursday.
"I know that I am being hailed as a hero, and as many people have suggested I find this hard to accept," he wrote. "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."
Meis is a dean's list senior at the small, Christian college in a leafy neighborhood north of downtown Seattle. He was working as a building monitor when the gunman walked into Otto Miller Hall and began firing a shotgun.
A 19-year-old student was killed and two others injured, and authorities say the carnage almost certainly would have continued had Meis not acted by spraying and tackling the shooter while he reloaded.
Nevertheless, Meis added: "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 said he is not ready to forgive the gunman, whom police have identified as Aaron Ybarra, 26, from the north Seattle suburb of Mountlake Terrace.
Ybarra is being held without bail and has been on suicide watch at King County Jail. His lawyer says he's sorry about the shooting and that he has a long history of mental problems.
Ybarra had at least 50 additional shotgun rounds, and after he was arrested he told investigators he planned to kill as many people as possible and himself, police said.
Meis wrote that when he came face to face with the attacker, "he was not a faceless monster, but a very sad and troubled young man."
"I truly desire that he will find the grace of God and the forgiveness of our community," he wrote.
Meis also said he has been overwhelmed by generosity and support. An online campaign has raised nearly $50,000 for him, and supporters bought items on a wedding registry for Meis and his fiancee.
He requested that any future donations be directed to the victims of the shooting through Seattle Pacific.