The student hailed as a hero for stopping the gunman at Seattle Pacific University last week has issued a statement describing how he is grappling with being labeled a hero in the wake of the tragedy.
“I know that I am being hailed as a hero, and as many people have suggested I find this hard to accept,” Meis said. “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.”
Meis, who said he did not personally know any of the victims, described “the devastating reality that a hero” cannot exist without a tragedy. One person was killed, with others injured, and many people will carry this event forward for the rest of their lives, he said.
He said he will not be speaking with the media, instead issuing a statement Monday through the university.
Though a life was stolen, the gunman “was not a faceless monster, but a very sad and troubled young man,” Meis said. “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.”
The shooting at Seattle Pacific University, a small Christian school near downtown Seattle, killed one student, Paul Lee, and injured two others. Sarah Williams and Thomas Fowler were both hospitalized after the shooting, with Williams in critical condition and requiring several hours of surgery on Friday. Her condition had improved by Monday.
Police said that Meis, a student building monitor, subdued the gunman as he stopped to reload his shotgun. Meis pepper-sprayed and tackled him, while several other bystanders also helped hold down the gunman until police arrived.
People had donated thousands of dollars to Meis after his name was revealed, with many people purchasing items on his wedding registry. A page soliciting money to fund Meis and his fiance’s honeymoon had raised more than $50,000 in donations from more than 1,680 people by Monday afternoon.
Meis said he is “overwhelmed with the incredible generosity” that people have shown him, but he requested that any future donations be given to the victims through the school.
“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…It has been deeply touching to read the comments online and realize that my actions have had such a strikingly widespread effect,” he said.