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Student who subdued Seattle gunman says hero label hard to accept

By Laura Zuckerman

(Reuters) - The student who subdued a gunman accused of killing one person and wounding two others at a private Christian college in Seattle said on Monday he found it difficult to accept being hailed as a hero.

    Police have credited the student, Jon Meis, with preventing further bloodshed by dousing the man who opened fire Thursday at Seattle Pacific University with pepper spray, and then tackling him to the floor while he reloaded his shotgun.

    In his first public comments since the shooting spree at the Methodist college, Meis said he was able to stop the gunman and walk away unharmed "through God’s grace."

"I know that I am being hailed as a hero, and as many people have suggested I find this hard to accept," he said in a written statement.

"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."

    The attorney for the accused gunman, Aaron Ybarra, 26, has said her client suffers from "significant and long-standing mental health issues" that included delusions.

Ybarra, who is charged with first-degree murder and assault, confessed to Seattle detectives that he planned a mass shooting and wanted to kill as many people as possible before killing himself, prosecutors said in legal documents.

Ybarra, who carried at least 50 shotgun shells, also was armed with a hunting knife, police said.

    The rampage was one of a string of mass shootings at schools and other public places across the United States in recent years that have renewed a debate over gun violence and mental illness.

   In 911 recordings from the shooting released by police, one caller said the gunman walked up behind a man and "lifted his rifle and shot directly into the back of his head."

Another caller said she was in her professor’s office and that she believed the shooter was in the lobby of the same building. "Please hurry," she whispered.

   A male student told emergency dispatchers a student "bleeding from a wound on his neck" had just run into his classroom.

    Meis, 22, is to receive a bachelor’s degree at commencement ceremonies planned for Saturday, a college spokeswoman said.

(Editing by Daniel Wallis)

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