Gunman at Washington state school targeted his cousins, relative says
(CNN) — When a gunman opened fire at students in a school cafeteria in Washington state on Friday, he was not shooting at random targets, his relative said.
Jaylen Fryberg, who witnesses said gunned down students at Marysville-Pilchuck High School, is the cousin of two of the wounded, their grandfather said.
“All three of them are cousins, and they live right close to each other,” Don Hatch told CNN affiliate KOMO.
By the time the shooting was over, two people — the gunman and a female student — were dead and four were wounded, according to authorities.
The victims were all under age 18, they said.
The shooter died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, Marysville police spokesman Robb Lamoureux said.
Two girls and two boys are in intensive care in hospitals in Seattle and Everett, said Erin Al-Wazan, a spokeswoman for the Everett facility.
The girls were identified Saturday as Shaylee Chuckulnaskit and Gia Soriano, both 14, according to Providence Regional Medical Center Everett’s chief medical officer Dr. Joanne Roberts. They were in critical condition with head injuries.
At a news conference Saturday, Roberts read a brief statement from Soriano’s family: “Our family is in shock. We appreciate your thoughts and prayers during this tragedy. Our hearts go out to the other victims and their families.”
Roberts said dead tissue was being removed from the girls’ head wounds and surgery was conducted to allow their brains to swell and contract.
“The next three days are going to be crucial,” she said.
Of the victims’ families, Roberts said: “They are having all of the reactions that you or I would have if we were in their circumstances. Much of the day yesterday was spent trying to make identification. That was terribly stressful for them. We’ve seen tears. We’ve seen anger. They are just grieving.”
One of the boys, age 14, suffered a jaw injury and was in serious condition. The other, age 15, was critically injured in the head. Two other students were treated at the school for minor injuries.
Lunchroom in shock
Authorities in Marysville, which is north of Seattle, have not provided details on the shooting or identified the shooter, but students offered up accounts that painted a terrifying, chaotic picture.
Fellow student Jordan Luton was finishing his lunch in the cafeteria when he heard a loud bang.
Then there was another. And another. And another. And another.
He saw freshman Fryberg go up to a table of students, “came up from behind … and fired about six bullets into the backs of them,” Luton told CNN. “They were his friends, so it wasn’t just random.”
Freshman Rachel Heichel was sitting at a table about 60 feet from Fryberg. When the shots started, she turned around and saw the shooter standing there.
“When I saw him, I was like, ‘Oh my God, that’s Jaylen.’ I would have never expected it would have been him, out of all people,” she said.
Student Austin Taylor told CNN affiliate KING that he had just finished eating when he saw the shooter.
“He was just sitting there. Everyone was talking. All of the sudden, I see him stand up, pull something out of his pocket,” he said.
“At first, I thought it was just someone making a really loud noise … like a big loud pop … until I heard four more after that. And I saw three kids just fall from the table.”
School in scramble
Luton was sitting two tables away when the shooting began. “He (Fryberg) turned and looked at me and my girlfriend,” he said, “and kind of gave us a smirk.”
Luton and others hit the ground, some hiding under tables.
Austin said he ducked under a table, too. Then the gunfire paused, and he looked out and saw the shooter was trying to reload.
“When that happened, I just ran in the opposite direction, and I was out of there as fast as I could,” he said.
Others ran out, too.
The shooter left the cafeteria and continued firing, Luton said.
In the hallways, the rest of the school went into a scramble.
“All I heard was people screaming, ‘Run, get out of here. Let’s go,'” Heichel said.
Teachers herded students into classrooms and ordered a lockdown.
A student locked down inside a classroom told CNN by phone that students initially thought it was a fire drill.
Many of them ran out of the building.
Police secure school
Someone called 911, and by 10:40 a.m., police swarmed the building, guns readied.
They went room to room, placing tape over doors to mark the ones they’d secured.
“I’ve got 30 students at the gym ready to go to the northwest,” police could be heard saying over radio. “We’re going there to evacuate more students.”
Then they came upon the gunman’s dead body.
One student told CNN affiliate KIRO that a teacher stopped the gunman from firing on more students when she briefly grabbed his arm. The gunman pulled away, said student Erick Cervantes. “Then I heard another shot,” Cervantes said. He believes it was the shot that killed the gunman.
The Snohomish County sheriff’s office, however, said Saturday that investigators interviewed more than 100 students and confirmed that “a cafeteria worker attempted to stop the shooter.”
The gun used in the shooting has been traced to Fryberg’s father, a law enforcement source told CNN.
The gun was bought at Cabela’s in Tulalip, Washington, a federal source said.
The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said investigators are searching the family home.
A Beretta .40-caliber handgun is believed to have been used in the shooting, a federal law enforcement source told CNN. Investigators recovered a .40-caliber handgun at the scene.
A sheriff’s spokesman said investigators at the scene would secure more evidence. It is closed through next week.
It was hard for Luton to make sense of the shooting.
“I have no idea what his motive was because yesterday at football practice, he was all fine, talking … having a good time,” he said. “And then today, just horrible. I don’t know what went through his head or what caused him to do it.”
Alex Pietsch, a sophomore, told CNN on Saturday that the shooting keeps replaying in his mind.
“It’s still really saddening to know something happened at your school, and it is just really shocking that something like this could have happened to you,” he said. “I remember just hearing the gunshots. … I thought they were firecrackers. I thought someone, you know, was having fun on Friday, but I look back and there is a gun in someone’s hand. And you just see this panic on everyone’s face and they just hit the wall because they just want to get away.”
He ran to the nearest exit, jumped a fence and called his mother, he said.
Of the victims, he said, “They were probably some of the nicest people I knew. Everyone was beautiful inside and out. And (I) just can’t believe this happened to them. They didn’t deserve it. No one deserves this.”
By all accounts, Fryberg was a popular student. Just a week ago, he had been named the high school’s freshman homecoming prince, according to a YouTube video of the ceremony and accounts provided by students to CNN.
“It’s weird to think about, because you see him and he is such a happy person,” Pietsch said. “You never really see him be so angry and so upset. … People were telling me who it was when I was getting in my mom’s car and I was like, ‘What? This is not happening. … This is crazy.’ It was just surprising to me that him out of all people would be the one.”
Multiple social media accounts in Fryberg’s name depict him frequently hunting and using rifles. Those accounts say he was a Native American and a member of the Tulalip tribe.
But a Twitter account in his name gave a very different picture, that of a teenager with a broken heart.
Luton could not confirm reports that Fryberg had been bullied. But two weeks ago, according to Luton, Fryberg got into a fight after somebody said “something racist” to him.
In the evening, tears streamed down cheeks as hundreds gathered at a nearby church for a vigil.
They wept, prayed and sang.