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Jon Meis: Seattle student who subdued gunman finding 'hero' label hard to accept

Jon Meis with his fiance.
Jon Meis with his fiance.
GoFundMe / Facebook

Jon Meis is a hero, by all definitions of the word. He just doesn’t know it yet. The Seattle student placed himself at risk in order to subdue a crazed gunman who had opened fire last week on the campus of Seattle Pacific University.

The courageous 22-year-old student took down 26-year-old accused gunman Aaron Ybarra, who police say has no connection to the university. Ybarra opened fire in an academic building on the campus, killing one and wounding three others. If not for Meis, most certainly Ybarra would have continued his motiveless bloodshed.

Meis released a statement Monday, saying he finds his newfound “hero” label hard to accept, stating that the “devastating reality” is that “a hero cannot come without tragedy.” Meis credits his faith, and encourages “that hate be met with love.”

His full statement, as carried by

To my brothers and sisters at Seattle Pacific University, and my brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the nation and the world,

Words cannot come close to expressing the tragedy that occurred this past week on our campus. Like everyone else, I would hear of these horrible events on the news, but go home knowing that it could never happen to us. On Thursday, my life changed. I was thrown into a life and death situation, and through God's grace I was able to stop the attacker and walk away unharmed. As I try to return to a normal life in the aftermath of this horrible event, I pray above all things for strength for the victims and their families.

While my experience left me in physical shock, I know that many people are dealing with much greater grief than I have experienced, and in honesty I probably would not be able to handle myself right now if I had personally known the victims.

I know that I am being hailed as a hero, and as many people have suggested I find this hard to accept. 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.

However, 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. Nonetheless, I would encourage that hate be met with love. When I came face to face with the attacker, God gave me the eyes to see that he was not a faceless monster, but a very sad and troubled young man. While I cannot at this time find it within me to forgive his crime, I truly desire that he will find the grace of God and the forgiveness of our community.

I would like to truly thank the responders who secured the building and the medical staff who looked after myself and those who were injured. After being in this situation myself, it is even harder to imagine what it would be like to have a job where one's life is willingly put on the line every day. To our police, emergency responders, and armed forces, you have my greatest respect.

I am overwhelmed with the incredible generosity that has been showered upon me. It has been deeply touching to read the comments online and realize that my actions have had such a strikingly widespread effect. Moving forward, I am strongly requesting that any future donations be given to the victims through Seattle Pacific University.

I am grateful for the prayers and support coming from our home city and afar. In these next few days, weeks, and months, please continue to pray for everyone in the Seattle Pacific community. We serve a truly awesome God and I firmly believe that it is through Him alone that we will find the strength to heal from this tragedy.

Jon Meis

Student, Seattle Pacific University

Meis pepper-sprayed Ybarra during Thursday's assault. Ybarra later told police that he had planned to kill as many as possible in the school before committing suicide. Authorities say that Ybarra said he was “sorry” for his actions.

Writes NBC News: “The 26-year-old with a history of mental health issues was ordered held without bond pending an arraignment this week on one count of premeditated murder and other assault charges. Ramona Brandes, Ybarra's public defender, read a statement on Friday saying her client has suffered from mental illness for years and was ‘delusional’ during the shooting.”

A GoFundMe site that had a stated goal of $5,000 to send Jon and his fiancé on a honeymoon has already blown by the target amount. Over $50,000 has been donated thus far.

The site summary reads:

On June 5th, 2014, Jon Meis successfully subdued and disarmed an active gunman on Seattle Pacific University's campus. Seattle Police say if he didn't take action that day, there was almost certain to be more loss of life. He and his fiance are getting married on June 21st and this page is here simply for those in the community who wish to show gratitude toward this local hero. This couple hasn't asked for anything, but many wish to contribute to their future – here is the place to do so.

Meis has urged that future donations go toward the victims at Seattle Pacific University. Donations to the GoFundMe page have since been closed, but links to Seattle Pacific’s Support Page have been activated in order to honor the hero’s wishes.

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