The man accused of killing one person and wounding two others in a shooting spree at a small Christian college in Seattle suffers from "significant and long-standing mental health issues" that were a factor in the tragedy, his lawyer said on Friday.
Speaking to reporters after a court hearing in which a judge ordered the suspect, Aaron Ybarra, 26, held without bail on suspicion of first-degree murder and assault, defense attorney Ramona Brandes also said her client had been involuntarily committed in the past because of mental illness.
She added that Ybarra was sorry for the victims' pain.
The probable-cause statement filed in court by prosecutors said Ybarra confessed to police detectives that he was the gunman in Thursday's incident, that he had been planning a mass shooting and wanted to kill as many people as possible before taking his own life.
Local media reports citing unidentified police sources have said Ybarra, who is not a student at the college, was fascinated with mass shootings at other schools, including the 1999 Columbine High School massacre in Colorado.
Police offered no public explanation for why the suspect might have singled out Seattle Pacific University, a Methodist liberal arts college of some 4,000 students.
Ybarra is accused of walking into a building on the campus armed with a shotgun and opening fire on three people before pausing to reload his weapon.
At that point, police said, a student building monitor doused the gunman with pepper spray and tackled him. Several bystanders jumped in to help, seizing his gun. He was arrested minutes later by police, who said the suspect also was carrying a hunting knife and at least 50 rounds of shotgun ammunition.
SUSPECT WAS COMMITTED TWICE
In a statement read to reporters on Friday, Brandes said: "Mr. Ybarra suffers from significant and long-standing mental health issues, including delusions, that were in play during yesterday's tragedy.
"I do not know at this point in time why Mr. Ybarra's illness brought him to Seattle Pacific University, but I can tell you that he recognizes the suffering of the victims and their families. He is sorry for their pain," she said.
Brandes said she did not know the circumstances of his prior involuntary commitment. Police in Mountlake Terrace, a suburb south of Seattle, said on Friday that Ybarra had been detained and committed to mental health facilities twice after erratic behavior in 2010 and 2012, without giving any details.
Citing unidentified police sources, local KIRO-TV said