Shell Casings On The Carpet: Students Describe SPU Shooting Scene

As the sun set on Thursday evening, students from Seattle Pacific University gathered outside. The church service they had wanted to attend following a shooting on their campus was too packed to accommodate them.
As the sun set on Thursday evening, students from Seattle Pacific University gathered outside. The church service they had wanted to attend following a shooting on their campus was too packed to accommodate them.
Credit AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

On Thursday afternoon, Daniel Martin received the text that every university president dreads: His campus was on lockdown. There was a gunman.

Within minutes, administrators at Seattle Pacific University flipped on the security cameras at Otto Miller Hall – the engineering and science building and the scene of the shooting.

A 26-year-old from Mountlake Terrace, a suburb north of Seattle, had entered the building with a shotgun and opened fire. He shot three people and then started to reload.

The photo Jillian Smith took as she was ushered out of Otto Miller Hall by police on Thursday night. As she exited the building, she noticed blood on the carpet and shell casings on the ground.
The photo Jillian Smith took as she was ushered out of Otto Miller Hall by police on Thursday night. As she exited the building, she noticed blood on the carpet and shell casings on the ground.
Credit Courtesy Jillian Smith

A student, described as a building monitor, tackled the shooter and sprayed him with pepper spray. Once subdued, other students pounced, pinning down the gunman, who also had a knife and additional ammunition.

As they held the shooter down, one of the wounded students stumbled into a nearby classroom. The young man was bleeding from the neck.

“He ran in frantic, checking behind him a little bit and basically said to close the door,” said Chris Howard, a student in that machine shop classroom. Howard had been working on a project. “He was concerned about the security.”

They secured the doors, and Howard went to find a first aid kit. Within moments, he saw a woman on the floor with a wound in her chest. She appeared to be seriously hurt.

“I got her head on my lap, her phone is next to her, lying on the ground with bloodstains on the front and basically having conversation, trying to assure her that she would get through this,” he said.

“I asked if she wanted me to call anyone, and she said, obviously, yes. So we started going through her phone calling her mother, calling her aunt, calling her best friend.”

But no one answered. Howard left message after message.

Then the police were there. It took four minutes for them to arrive from the time the first call was made at 3:23 p.m.

As he left the building, he saw the suspected shooter on the ground. He wasn’t struggling, Howard said. “He was just lying there.”

Flowers are placed near a Seattle Pacific University sign at Third Avenue and Nickerson Street.
Flowers are placed near a Seattle Pacific University sign at Third Avenue and Nickerson Street.
Credit KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Meanwhile, one floor above, Jillian Smith, 20, was taking a math test when she heard chaos erupt. Police stormed into the room and ushered the class out. As she ran out, she took a photo of the scene with her phone: blood on the carpet and the walls and shell casings on the ground.

Minutes later Smith was on the street staring back at the building, saying that what had happened had not sunk in.

Medics took four people to Harborview. The hospital’s media line said that the 19-year-old had died.

The 20-year-old woman who had been in Howard’s arms was immediately ushered to surgery. She spent five hours there and is currently in the intensive care unit.

A man with pellet wounds was described as being in satisfactory condition. And the fourth – presumably the student monitor who tackled the gunman – was released.

That evening, just before sunset, students piled into the First Free Methodist Church on campus for a prayer vigil. So many people crowded into the building that dozens gathered on a lawn near the church and formed their own groups.

Howard was there. His hands shook as he wondered aloud about the young woman he had helped. 

Smith was there too. She said she was OK. And then she was completely enveloped into her friends’ arms. 

And at 11:29 p.m., the 26-year-old gunman was booked at the King County Jail in downtown Seattle for homicide investigation.

[View the story "Students Hold Vigil After SPU Shooting" on Storify]