The man accused of the Seattle university shooting has told police he wanted to kill as many people as possible before taking his own life.
A judge found probable cause to hold Aaron Ybarra, 26, wthout bail, a day after he was arrested for shooting that killed student Paul Lee, 19, and wounded two other young people, one critically, at Seattle Pacific University in Washington state.
In a statement filed in court, Seattle police said Ybarra admitted to detectives after his arrest that he wanted to kill as many people as possible and then himself.
But instead, a student building monitor pepper-sprayed and tackled Ybarra as he reloaded his shotgun. Police said the gunman had 50 additional shotgun shells and a hunting knife.
There have been a series of horrific shooting sprees in the US in recent years, amid a fierce debate over the country’s gun laws and its system for dealing with mental health issues.
Several of the attacks shave been on or near university campuses. About two weeks ago, according to police, Elliot Rodger killed six people and injured seven before turning his gun on himself in a rampage in Isla Vista, California, near two universities.
Ybarra had a long history of mental health problems for which he had been treated and medicated, his lawyer, public defender Ramona Brandes, said.
“He is cognisant of the suffering of the victims and their families and the entire Seattle Pacific community,” she said. “He is sorry.”
Ybarra was not a student at the school, police said.
“We are so very shocked and sad over yesterday’s shootings at SPU,” Ybarra’s family said in a statement. “We are crushed at the amount of pain caused to so many people.”
Seattle mayor Ed Murray said Mr Lee was a “Korean-American student with a bright future”.
Ybarra was admitted to hospital for mental health evaluations twice in recent years, said Pete Caw, assistant police chief in Ybarra’s home town, the Seattle suburb of Mountlake Terrace.
Officers encountered Ybarra in 2010 and 2012. Both times, he was severely intoxicated and taken to a hospital for evaluation, Mr Caw said.
In the 2012 incident, police found Ybarra lying in a roadway. He told officers he wanted a SWAT team “to get him and make him famous,” a police report said.
Ybarra’s friend Zack McKinley described him as “super happy and friendly”, The Seattle Times reported.
Mr McKinley said the attack was puzzling because Ybarra was happy to have just started a job bagging groceries. He could get emotionally low but had a good group of friends, Mr McKinley said.
Assistant police chief Paul McDonagh said detectives were working to determine the gunman’s motive or intended target.
Friends of Jon Meis, the 22-year-old student who pepper sprayed and tackled the gunman, credited him for saving lives.
“I’m proud of the selfless actions that my roommate, Jon Meis, showed today taking down the shooter,” fellow student Matt Garcia wrote on Twitter. “He is a hero.”