MARYSVILLE — A freshman homecoming prince, reportedly angry about a girl, pulled out a gun and opened fire in a crowded cafeteria at Marysville-Pilchuck High School Friday morning, killing one classmate and wounding four others before fatally shooting himself.
At 10:39 a.m., as hundreds of students gathered for lunch on the sprawling campus, Jaylen Fryberg walked up to a cafeteria table, pulled out a gun and shot three teen girls and two teenage male cousins, witnesses and authorities said.
Josiah Gould, 14, said he was sitting in the cafeteria eating his lunch when he heard a loud pop. At first he thought someone had blown up and popped a lunch sack. After hearing a couple more pops, he looked across the room.
“I could see Jaylen standing up with a gun, and he started shooting,” Gould said. “They were sitting down and he was behind them shooting. After that I just ran.”
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Zach Yarbrough, a junior at the school, said he saw Fryberg “extend his arm across a round table and fire his gun three to four times.” Yarbrough ran to a nearby classroom.
After the shooting ended, an all-too-familiar scene played out: Hundreds of students ran away or huddled in classrooms, swarms of police converged with weapons drawn, and anguished parents rushed to a nearby church to see if their kids were safe.
Fryberg and a girl were confirmed dead. The girl’s name was not released.
Two boys and two girls were taken by ambulance to Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett. As of Friday night, the two girls were alive and in intensive care with gunshot wounds to the head, said Dr. Joanne Roberts, chief medical officer for Providence. It will be several days before a prognosis could be made, she said.
The wounded boys were identified by family members as Andrew Fryberg, 15, and Nate Hatch, 14 — both cousins to Jaylen Fryberg. Both also were shot in the head. They were initially taken to Providence and later transferred to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where Andrew was in serious condition and Nate was in critical condition.
“He shot people he cared about,” said friend and football teammate Dylen Boomer.
Family members of the five teenagers shot Friday shared little about their loved ones in the immediate wake of the incident.
“We have a lot of praying and soul-searching to do,” said Don Hatch, grandfather of Nate Hatch and grand uncle of Andrew Fryberg.
Well-wishes and prayers popped up on social media pages of the three girls, though their identities as victims weren’t confirmed by authorities or relatives.
A Facebook page of one of the girls, peppered with smiling “selfie” photos, had more than 1,300 friends. Similar photos were seen on the Facebook page of another. Both girls listed Lil Wayne and Katy Perry among their favorite music acts.
“We just booked it”
Friday’s school shooting was the second of the year in Washington. In June, a 26-year-old Mountlake Terrace man opened fire with a shotgun at Seattle Pacific University, killing one student and wounding two.
Amid the chaos of Friday’s shooting, a young teacher attempted to halt the shooter and pulled a fire alarm, according to a food-service employee at the school, who declined to be named. The teacher was identified in some news reports as Megan Silberberger. She declined to comment when reached by The Seattle Times.
Freshmen Brandon Carr, 15, and Kobe Baumann, 14, said they were just outside the cafeteria when the shots were fired.
“We started hearing these loud banging noises, like someone hitting a trash can,” Carr said. They heard screaming and yelling.
“Once I knew it was gunshots, we just booked it,” Carr said.
They eventually joined about two dozen kids inside a classroom with police and FBI agents. Police told them to stay there. “Everybody in the classroom was just freaking out crying,” Carr said. Eventually they were allowed to leave and were loaded onto buses.
Some of the school’s 1,200 students were directed to evacuate by walking across the fields with their hands up. Others were told to stay inside classrooms until police could complete a sweep of the campus. It took more than two hours before police declared the school safe.
Families gathered at a nearby church, where they eventually were reunited with their children.
“I never thought I would be standing here,” said Heather Parker, whose 17-year-old son, Corbin, had already phoned her and said he was fine. “He’s pretty shook up,” she said. ‘He just said, ‘I’m OK.’ He was trying to calm me down.”
Honors and anguish
Fryberg came from a prominent Tulalip tribal family and was considered by some a future leader. Earlier this month he was named homecoming prince, and an online video shows him being introduced on the football field, wearing a white “homecoming royalty” sash.
Another student, Jarron Webb, 15, said Fryberg had been angry about a romantic relationship. Fryberg’s Twitter feed was full of anguished comments in recent days.
Another student said Jaylen had been temporarily suspended from the football team last week for beating up another kid who used a racial slur about him.
At a news conference Friday night, Marysville Police Chief Rick Smith said despite media and eyewitness reports, he did not want to confirm Jaylen Fryberg as the shooter, nor provide any information about him or his motive.
Devoting any time to the shooter, Smith said, “would simply dramatize someone who perpetuated a violent crime, cruel act, in a place where children should feel safe.”
Tulalip Tribes Chairman Herman Williams Sr. said the community was reeling as the latest to experience a school shooting. “We can always say we watch it on TV but, my, here it comes walking through our door,” he said.
Marysville School District Superintendent Becky Berg said the high school will be closed next week. She said all school-district extracurricular activities also have been canceled.
“Truly, when one of our children is hurting, we are all hurting,” Berg said.
On Friday night, community members gathered for a standing-room-only vigil at The Grove Church in Marysville.
“We’re here to lift people up,” Kerri Shepard, 19, said. “People need this right now.”
This story includes information from Times staff reporters Jim Brunner, Jennifer Sullivan, Christine Clarridge, Mike Baker, Leah Todd, Lewis Kamb, Coral Garnick, Paige Cornwell, Daniel Beekman and Ron Judd, Times researcher Miyoko Wolf and assistant metro editor John de Leon.Jim Brunner: 206-515-5628 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @Jim_Brunner