Before opening fire on five students and then killing himself, a popular high school football player in Washington state had texted his victims and asked them to join him at lunch, officials said Monday.
They were gathered at the same table in the Marysville-Pilchuck High School cafeteria Friday morning when freshman Jaylen Fryberg, 15, began firing, Snohomish County Sheriff Ty Trenary said. The .40-caliber Beretta was bought legally and registered by a family member, he said, adding that investigators were still trying to determine how Fryberg got the weapon.
Two of the students Fryberg shot have died. The other three remain hospitalized in critical to satisfactory condition.
Gia Soriano, 14, who was shot in the head, died Sunday at a hospital. The student who died the day of the shooting was identified Monday as Zoe R. Galasso, 14, by the county medical examiner’s office.
Fryberg, who was named a homecoming prince a week earlier, died after shooting himself in the head, the medical examiner concluded Monday, ruling the death a suicide. Trenary said that there was no physical struggle between Fryberg and a teacher who intervened.
Detectives were continuing their search through scores of text messages, phone and social media records as part of the investigation, which will last several months but may never turn up a motive, Trenary said.
“I don’t know that the ‘why’ is something we can provide,” he said.
Social media postings suggested that Fryberg, the son of a prominent family in the Tulalip tribe of Native Americans, was distraught over the recent breakup with his girlfriend.
“It won’t last ... it’ll never last,” he wrote Thursday in his last posting on Twitter.
Two days earlier he wrote: “It breaks me ... It actually does ... I know it seems like I’m sweating it off.... But I’m not.... And I never will be.”
Student witnesses said they heard arguing and then gunshots Friday. Scores of students and staff at the high school 35 miles north of Seattle took cover in their classrooms until they were evacuated by police.
On Monday, the school community struggled with the aftermath of the tragedy. Schools in the rest of the Marysville School District observed a moment of silence at 10:39 a.m. Monday, to mark the moment of the shooting, before continuing with classes. A chain-link fence at the campus has become a makeshift memorial, bearing an Indian-style blanket, flowers, notes, stuffed animals and red and white balloons representing the school colors. A group gathered at the memorial and exchanged hugs during the moment of silence.
A “number of schools” in the district had gone on lockdown the day of the shooting, said Aaron Toso, a school district spokesman. “We’ve been hearing loud and clear from students that they want to get back to school, back to routine and back to friends,” Toso said.
At Marysville-Pilchuck High School, however, officials are leaving families time to mourn, and the campus is expected to be closed at least through the week.
“We don’t know yet the plan for moving ahead with classes.... [There’s] not a firm plan of how we’re going to reopen the school,” Toso said.
Soriano’s family said in a statement: “We are devastated by this senseless tragedy. Gia is our beautiful daughter and words cannot express how much we will miss her. We’ve made the decision to donate Gia’s organs so that others may benefit. Our daughter was loving, kind and this gift honors her life.”
The news of Soriano’s death Sunday evening came after about 3,000 students and parents gathered for a community meeting in the high school’s gym.
Shaylee Chuckulnaskit, 14, remained in critical condition Monday at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett.
On Monday morning, Nate Hatch, 14, who suffered a wound to the jaw, was upgraded to satisfactory condition and was awake and breathing on his own, according to officials at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. Andrew Fryberg, 15, was in critical condition at Harborview on Monday. Both boys were cousins of Jaylen Fryberg.
Leaders of the city of Marysville and of the local Tulalip Tribes have promised unity and released a joint statement.
“When one tragedy impacts the Marysville and Tulalip communities and the people who call this area home, we all suffer, and we stand together in times of crisis,” Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring said in the statement. “We live, work and play together, and as time goes by we will heal together.”
Tulalip Tribes Chairman Herman Williams Sr. said, “Our priority is now on our children and young people.”