He’d stopped taking medications, had given up on counseling and had turned to the bottle to “keep myself calm.”
But no matter what he tried, Aaron Ybarra told detectives, he couldn’t rid himself of the dark thoughts and all-consuming hatred that had invaded his mind.
And so, he said, he finally gave in to them. He made plans to kill.
“I packed 75 rounds of ammunition,” Ybarra told police in a videotaped interview released Tuesday, “cause I thought I was gonna kill and injure more people.”
Hours after a mass-shooting at Seattle Pacific University left one student dead and two others wounded, Ybarra rambled off a detailed statement about the June 5 rampage, describing to two Seattle homicide detectives that the shooting was a last-ditch plan to release the demons inside him before he killed himself.
“If I had a choice to not feel this way, I wouldn’t have done this,” Ybarra told them. “I wouldn’t have wanted to die. I wouldn’t have wanted to kill people. I wanted to live a happy, successful life. But my hate got in my way, the compulsiveness was just overcoming me.”
Ybarra’s statement, captured on videotape, came pouring out during his conversation with police, offering the most detailed account to emerge publicly to date of why and how the 27-year-old Mountlake Terrace man planned his campus attack. Seattle Police released videos and transcripts of their interview with Ybarra to The Seattle Times and other media Tuesday in response to requests under Washington’s Public Records Act.
During the interview, Ybarra told detectives he had been previously diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder and transient psychosis, but his mental illness was “on a higher level than what people really think.”
His OCD made him need certain routines involving his cologne and bedroom furniture, he said. But changes to his routines – such as when his parents replaced his bedroom furniture — “made the compulsions go from good to evil.”
“But I couldn’t stop it,” he said.
In the three years leading up to the rampage, Ybarra said he increasingly became consumed by hatred and began identifying with Columbine school shooter Eric Harris and Virginia Tech mass-murderer Seung Hui Cho. Ultimately, Ybarra said, he could hear the killers’ voices in his head and they helped guide his plans.
Ybarra also described how he stopped going to a psychotherapist because he couldn’t afford the cost. He gave up taking his prescription medications, Prozac and Risperdal, because “I wanted to feel my hate.”
Ybarra noted he also refused recommendations that he involuntarily commit himself because he didn’t like being in the hospital, and he started drinking on a daily basis.
All the while, he said, his dark thoughts deepened, but Ybarra said his friends and family couldn’t understand his feelings or ignored them.
“I’ve been trying to warn people,” Ybarra told the detectives.
In the weeks before the attack, Ybarra said he went to Seattle Pacific to scout the campus. He said he poased as a transfer student from Edmonds Community College, and two female students volunteered to give him a tour of the campus.
“It really helped me out,” Ybarra said.
Initially, Ybarra wanted to target a different college.
“I’ve been planning to attack SPU because I had to stay local,” he said. “Washington State University was supposed to be the main target. I really wasn’t targeting anyone specifically, I just had hatred towards the world. But I didn’t wanna attack my own city.”
Ybarra, who formerly worked at the Kenmore Shooting Range and described himself as a marksman, said he bought the shotgun he used during the attack from a range member about seven years ago. He purchased 75 rounds of birdshot a week before the attack, and hid it from his parents in the bedroom of the family’s Mountlake Terrace home, he said.
On the day of the shooting, Ybarra said he broke down the shotgun and packed it, a hunting knife and the ammunition in his backpack, which he put inside a garbage bag in his truck. He left a journal with writings of his plans in the truck “to get people to understand, even though there was gonna be no forgiveness.”
Once at the campus, Ybarra said he re-assembled the shotgun, loaded it and walked toward Otto Miller Hall. When he attempted to take the students hostage by brandishing the weapon, Ybarra said a male student laughed at him, thinking the gun was fake.
“I was really mad at him for doing that,” Ybarra told detectives. “That was the first guy I shot. When he turned his back.”
Ybarra next entered Otto Miller Hall, shooting a female student after he said she also laughed at his warnings. Ybarra said he was stopped only because a second round in his chamber was “a dud,” forcing him to reload. The break in his attack allowed a student security monitor an opportunity to pepper-spray and subdue Ybarra, otherwise “I could’ve gotten away with it,” he said.
During the interview, Ybarra recalled shooting only two students, not three. He added that while being detained, it “made me feel good” when he heard the SWAT team had arrived.
“”I was meaning to die,” Ybarra said. “but I got caught instead.”
He never got the chance to fulfill his plan. SPU student Jon Meis, who was working at the security desk at the time, thwarted the attack by pepper-spraying Ybarra while he reloaded the shotgun. Meis and another student then held the gunman down until police arrived to arrest him.
During the rampage, student Paul Lee, 19, was shot and killed, and students Thomas Fowler, 24, and Sarah Williams,19, were wounded. Ybarra, 27, now faces a trial on a first-degree murder charge and two counts of attempted murder. He has pleaded not guilty.
Throughout the seemingly cordial conversation with Ybarra, Seattle homicide detectives James Cooper and Dana Duffy provided him with water and paper towels for his eyes, still stinging from pepper spray. After extracting details of the shooting, they also offered him Cool Ranch Doritos and a Coke.
Near the end of the interview, Ybarra asked the detectives how the shooting victims were faring.
“What’s your reasoning,” Duffy asked him.
“Oh, like I thought about what I did and because, since this is supposed to be a suicide matter, I stopped caring,” Ybarra said. “But when I picture his body dropping, her screaming, mmm, it felt a little different.”