SEATTLE — For the first time since the Seattle Pacific University shooting in 2014, the victims on Monday publicly described the terrifying moments when police say Aaron Ybarra opened fire, killing one student and injuring two others.
“He was holding a gun,” Anna Sophia Cutturilo-Hackney testified, adding that she could see the rifle pointed at her but luckily wasn’t shot.
She identified Ybarra as the shooter to jurors.
Cutturilo-Hackney says she was talking to her friend Thomas Fowler Jr. outside Otto Miller Hall when Ybarra approached them.
“He said, 'Get inside.' I thought it was a joke. I thought he was telling us to get inside because we were skipping class,” Cutturilo-Hackney said.
Prosecutor Jessica Berliner told jurors that Ybarra got even more angry when students didn’t take him seriously. Cutturilo-Hackney said she turned back to talk to Fowler when she heard the first loud bang.
Just inches away, Ybarra shot 19-year-old freshmen Paul Lee in the neck as he was walking into Otto Miller Hall.
Lee had headphones, witnesses say, and Lee must have heard Ybarra but, like the other students, may have not realized what was going on.
“I saw Paul fall to the ground, he was hit in the face,” Cutturilo-Hackney said.
Shrapnel from the same bullet that killed Lee injured her friend Fowler.
Fowler testified next, saying he was hit by pellets in the neck, chest and face.
As Ybarra reloaded, the two friends took off.
Police say the 26-year-old shooter then walked inside Otto Miller Hall, shooting and injuring a female student.
“He had the gun pointed at me, I heard the click. The gun went down, it looked like he was manipulating it somehow,” Cutturilo-Hackney said.
Prosecutors say if it wasn’t for student John Meis taking down the suspect, more lives would have been lost.
“John ran out, pepper sprayed the defendant, tackled him and took away his gun,” Berliner said.
The defense is saying Ybarra committed the mass shooting, but that he was mentally ill.
“He told cops he didn’t even know if the shootings were real or not,” defense attorney Romana Brandes said.
Brandes told jurors that her client suffers from brain damage and was gripped by delusion and psychosis.
The defense says Ybarra sought out professional help before the shootings for schizophrenia. She says Ybarra heard voices telling him to kill and started fixating on other mass shooters.
Two doctors tried to involuntarily commit him but the defense says the county refused to evaluate Ybarra and the family lost the opportunity to get him help. Ybarra’s private doctors continued to treat him and at one point the medications worked but when he turned 26, the defense says, he had to get off his parent’s insurance. That’s when the treatments went away and the demons took over.
The prosecution says that’s not a sufficient defense for Ybarra. They say mentally ill is not legally insane.
They point to evidence showing Ybarra plotting out the attack nearly three weeks before the June 5, 2014, shooting.
Surveillance images show him touring the campus. Three students who encountered Ybarra and even gave him a tour of the campus testified.
They described Ybarra as appearing excited and ‘normal’ during his tour on campus.
On the day of the shooting, the victims say, the shooter showed little emotion.
“He looked pretty monotone, I didn’t see any other emotions,” Cutturilo-Hackney said.