MARYSVILLE, Wash. (AP) — A student recently crowned freshman class homecoming prince walked into his Seattle-area high school cafeteria Friday and opened fire, killing one person and shooting four others — including two of his cousins — before turning the gun on himself, officials and witnesses said.
Students said the gunman was staring at his victims as he shot them inside the cafeteria at Marysville-Pilchuck High School. The shootings set off a chaotic scene as students ran from the cafeteria and building in a frantic dash to safety, while others were told to stay put inside classrooms at the school 30 miles north of Seattle.
The gunman was identified as student Jaylen Fryberg, a government official with direct knowledge of the shooting told The Associated Press. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Students and parents said Fryberg was a member of a prominent family from the nearby Tulalip Indian tribes and a freshman who played on the high school football team. He was introduced at a football game as a prince in the 2014 homecoming court, according to a video shot by parent Jim McGauhey.
Marysville Police Commander Robb Lamoureux said the gunman died of a self-inflicted wound, but he could not provide more details.
Shaylee Bass, 15, a sophomore at the school, said Fryberg had recently gotten into a fight with another boy over a girl.
“He was very upset about that,” said Bass, who was stunned by the shooting.
“He was not a violent person,” she said. “His family is known all around town. He was very well known. That’s what makes it so bizarre.”
Three of the victims had head wounds and were in critical condition. Two unidentified young women were at Providence Everett Medical Center, and 15-year-old Andrew Fryberg was at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, a hospital official said.
Another victim, 14-year-old Nate Hatch, was listed in serious condition at Harborview, the hospital said. Family members told KIRO-TV that Andrew Fryberg and Hatch are cousins of Jaylen Fryberg.
Witnesses described the shooter as methodical inside the cafeteria.
Isabella MacKeige, 18, was having lunch with a friend when they suddenly heard gunshots behind them.
“I heard six shots go off and I turned and saw people diving under the tables,” she told The Associated Press. “In my brain I thought ‘run!’ So I left my backpack, my phone and my purse and got out the door as fast as I could.”
MacKeige and the other students in the cafeteria rushed out the door. Some students got hurt when they tripped and fell in the chaos, she said. They ran across an open field to the fence that circles the schoolyard and climbed over.
She kept running until she felt safe and found a phone.
“I called my mom and she said, ‘stay where you are — I don’t want to lose you,'” MacKeige said.
Brian Patrick said his daughter, a freshman, was 10 feet from the gunman when the shooting occurred. She ran from the cafeteria and immediately called her mother.
Patrick said his daughter told him, “The guy walked into the cafeteria, pulled out a gun and started shooting. No arguing, no yelling.”
A crowd of parents later waited in a parking lot outside a nearby church where they were reunited with their children.
Patrick said after the shooting that his other daughter, a senior at the school, was “hysterical” when she called him from her classroom.
“I thought, ‘God let my kids be safe,” he said.
Some students described Jaylen Fryberg as a happy, popular student, but social media accounts suggested he was struggling with an unidentified problem.
On Wednesday, a posting on his Twitter account read: “It won’t last … It’ll never last.” On Monday, another tweet said: “I should have listened. … You were right … The whole time you were right.”
Marysville-Pilchuck High School has a number of students from the Tulalip Indian tribes.
Ron Iukes, a youth counselor with the tribes, said Jaylen Fryberg was from a well-known tribal family.
“They’re real good people, very loving, a big part of the community,” he said. “Jaylen was one of our good kids. … I’ve known this boy since he was a baby.”
Nathan Heckendorf, a 17-year-old junior at the high school, said he saw Jaylen Fryberg on Friday morning before the shooting and there was nothing to indicate he was upset.
“He looked happy,” Heckendorf said.
State Sen. John McCoy, a tribal member, said the shooting devastated the tribal community.
“We’re all related in one shape or form. We live and work and play together,” he said.
Hundreds of people prayed and sang at a church vigil Friday night for victims and family members.
The Oak Harbor high school football team, which had been set to play Marysville on Friday night, lined the front row of Grove Church in their purple jerseys. The game was canceled and Oak Harbor offered to give the win to Marysville.
“It’s something we need,” Felecia Thompson said about the vigil. “And getting together right away, we can help move through it.”
Associated Press reporter Nigel Duara and photographer Ted Warren contributed to this report from Marysville, and AP writers Gene Johnson and Chris Grygiel contributed from Seattle.