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SPU shooter found guilty of first-degree murder, could get 88 to 111 years

SEATTLE — A jury on Wednesday found Aaron Ybarra guilty of murder in the Seattle Pacific University shooting, rejecting the gunman’s insanity defense.

Leaving court, Ybarra nodded his head when asked if he felt bad about the shooting.

“Wished it never happened,” Ybarra said.

Ybarra randomly opened fire on the SPU campus in 2014, killing student Paul Lee as he was walking into Otto Miller Hall. The pellets from the shotgun blast that killed Lee injured Thomas Fowler Jr.

Ybarra also shot Sarah Williams inside Otto Miller Hall. She and Fowler both survived.

The shooting only stopped after student Jon Meis bravely pepper-sprayed Ybarra and tackled him to the ground. That’s when student Justin Serra jumped in to help subdue Ybarra until police arrived.

After a day and half of deliberating, the jury came back with a guilty verdict on all five counts, including first-degree murder for the death of Paul Lee.

Juror Paul Elliott was one of the 12 who rejected Ybarra`s insanity defense.

“The defense did not meet the standard of the state law,” Elliott said.

Elliott believes Ybarra is mentally ill but he says the defense failed to prove that he couldn`t tell right from wrong when he randomly chose to open fire at SPU.

“It was his way of claiming fame,” detective Jim Cooper said.

Cooper got Ybarra to confess shortly after the shooting, and Elliott says that confession tape showed him that Ybarra was in control of his actions.

“It was very clear, he was articulate,” Elliott said.

That was in sharp contrast to when Ybarra took the stand during the trial. He changed his motive for the shooting, saying it wasn`t hate for people that made him kill, it was God. The prosecution says Ybarra's taking the stand helped their case.

“The fact that he testified, highly unusual in an insanity case we got to get inside his head,” prosecutor Kristin Richardson said.

“He isn`t quite out of it, as the defense was trying to portray him; I think in that way it was helpful,” prosecutor Jessica Berliner said.

Despite the verdict, defense attorney Ramona Brandes says society`s failure to treat those with mental illness is to blame.

“His treatment providers were trying to get him committed and that just wasn’t happening."

Ybarra`s uncle admits the family regrets not doing more.

“Wish that we got him the help he begged for over the years,” Ybarra’s uncle, Richard Hipol, said.

“He has tremendous remorse for what happened, he realizes the gravity and the enormity of what he’s done, what he`s caused the Lee family,” Brandes said.

Too painful to attend, Lee`s family did not show up to court on Wednesday but some of the survivors of the shooting did show up.

Fowler, who was injured by the pellets, had no comment after the verdict but other students say the outcome will help heal their community.

Seattle Pacific University released a statement after the verdict, thanking the community for their support.

Ybarra will be sentenced Jan. 27.

Ybarra could get 88 to 111 years behind bars.