Five families whose children were shot by their classmate at Marysville-Pilchuck High School are seeking up to $110 million in damages from the school district and from the father of the gunman.
Five families whose children were shot by a classmate at Marysville-Pilchuck High School are seeking up to $110 million in damages from the school district and the father of the gunman.
The claim for damages was emailed to lawyers for the Marysville School District on Friday morning, some 14 months after Gia Soriano, Zoe Galasso and Shaylee Chuckulnaskit, all 14, and Andrew Fryberg, 15, were killed. Wounded in the gunfire was a fifth student, Nate Hatch, 15.
The claim, which is a precursor to a lawsuit, was filed by Tacoma law firm Connelly Law Offices. The firm was contacted by the families’ former lawyer, Ann Deutscher, about two months ago and asked to take over the case, said Connelly attorney Lincoln C. Beauregard.
“When I was contacted by these families I asked them, ‘What do you want out of this lawsuit?’ They all looked at me and said ‘accountability,’ ” said Beauregard, who is representing the families with colleague Julie Kays.
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Gunman Jaylen Fryberg, 15, invited five friends to sit with him at lunch in the school cafeteria on Oct. 24, 2014. He fatally shot the four and wounded the fifth student before turning the gun on himself.
Some of the families struggled with bringing litigation against the gunman’s father, Raymond Fryberg Jr., because he is a relative, Beauregard said. But, he added, the plaintiffs “felt going forward (with the case) was the right thing to do.”
The crux of the families’ case is that a substitute teacher warned office staff at the school about a rumor of a potential shooting before it happened, Beauregard said. The families believe the school district was negligent for failing to prevent the shootings.
In the claim, the families state that “the involved teachers and staff failed to take responsible steps and/or precautions to provide for the safety of the students on the day of the shooting.”
Police have said they investigated the substitute teacher’s statements but determined they were false and that the woman later backtracked in a subsequent interview.
Beauregard said the families are seeking a range of $60 million to $110 million in damages to be split among them.
“If any teacher, or any staff member, knew about this, there should have been a protocol in place to make sure the children were protected,” Beauregard said.
The Marysville School District, in a written statement released by spokesman Craig Degginger, said:
“While our hearts and prayers go out to the families who have suffered this tragedy, we were very disappointed to learn through our attorneys that a claim has been filed. We have not yet had the opportunity to thoroughly review the claim and thus cannot comment directly on it at this time.”
Beauregard said the claim was delivered to the district on Friday. If the claim is denied, the families will file a lawsuit in Snohomish County Superior Court in 60 days.
The five families blame Raymond Fryberg Jr. for not properly securing his firearm to prevent his son from getting it.
Moments before the shootings, Jaylen Fryberg texted more than a dozen relatives, describing what he wanted to wear at his funeral and who should get his personal possessions, a detective’s search-warrant affidavit said.
Jaylen Fryberg asked relatives to apologize to the families of his friends “who get caught up in the (expletive) tomorrow” — referring to the day after the shooting. He also had sent texts in the previous days to a female friend talking about his death and funeral.
Fryberg came from a prominent Tulalip tribal family and was considered by some a future leader. Weeks before the shooting, he was named a homecoming prince at Marysville-Pilchuck.
Raymond Fryberg Jr. was the subject of a restraining order, which meant he was not allowed to have firearms. Federal prosecutors say he failed to disclose his criminal history and information about the restraining order when he obtained the gun.
In September, Fryberg Jr. was convicted of six counts of unlawful possession of a firearm. One of the firearms, a .40-caliber Beretta pistol, was used by his son in the school shootings.
Fryberg is slated to be sentenced Monday. He faces up to 10 years in prison for each count.
“It’s negligent to own a firearm and not make sure it doesn’t fall into the hands of the wrong person,” Beauregard said on Friday. “From a standpoint of preventing tragedy, and particularly school shootings, one of the points you start with is preventing the wrong people from getting guns in their hands.”