Before 15-year-old Jaylen Fryberg opened fire on his friends and cousins on Friday morning, he sent them text messages inviting them to lunch, a law enforcement official says.
When Fryberg arrived with his relative’s .40-caliber Beretta, the five victims were sitting together at a round cafeteria table at Marysville-Pilchuck High School, near Seattle. At 10:39 a.m., Fryberg opened fire.
Zoe Galasso, 14, was shot in the head and died at the scene. Two days later, a second 14-year-old victim, Gia Soriano, died from her gunshot wounds. Three others remain hospitalized. Shaylee Chuckulnaskit, 14, and Andrew Fryberg, 15, are in critical condition, and Nate Hatch, 14, is in the intensive care unit, although his condition has improved from serious to satisfactory, according to the Seattle Times.
Snohomish County Sheriff Ty Trenary said in a news conference that after shooting his five victims, Jaylen Fryberg turned the gun to his own head.
“We know that the shooter had arranged to meet with friends at the lunch hour on Friday,” Trenary said. “It is our understanding that he did so via texting.”
“Witnesses confirmed that the five victims were at the table when the shooter opened fire, striking the victims before turning the gun on himself,” he added.
As the Marysville community struggles to deal with the tragedy, Trenary said that investigators are still sifting through the large number of text messages and phone records leading up to the incident.
“The question everybody wants is, ‘Why?'” Trenary said, according to the Associated Press. “I don’t know that the ‘why’ is something we can provide.”
On Twitter, Hatch, who was shot in the jaw, wrote a message of forgiveness. The AP verified the authenticity of the Twitter feed with a friend.
Days after the shooting, Fryberg’s motive remains a mystery. His social media presence suggested that something recently had caused him to release a torrent of angst. Friends have also speculated that a recent breakup might have played a role.
But people who knew Fryberg expressed surprise that a well-liked football player and homecoming prince would turn to violence.
“He was a really good drummer and singer,” Killian Page, who like Fryberg is a member of the Tulalip Tribe, told the Seattle Times. “Everyone thought he was going to be big in the tribe.”
“He had a short fuse, but he was a really good kid,” Page added.
After Friday’s shooting, the Marysville-Pilchuck football team’s game against Oak Harbor for the WesCo North Division title was canceled. Oak Harbor initially offered to forfeit the game, giving Marysville-Pilchuck first place, but each team will now advance to the playoffs on Friday. According to the Seattle Times, Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll extended an offer for both schools to practice at the team’s facilities.
“Our hearts just opened immediately to try to help in any way that we can,” Carroll said. “When they are faced with an opportunity about a playoff situation and the other school decides to forfeit the game, what an extraordinary gesture. And I think it’s a gesture in every direction and an understanding and compassion that it’s good to be recognized. And we hope that we can do whatever we can in our support, our fans’ support.
“You feel so helpless, but we wish that we could do something to ease the pain of all of the people that have been troubled.”
At Marysville-Pilchuck High, classes have been suspended for at least the next week. But students, community members and family have gathered at the chain-link fence that surrounds the school to build a makeshift memorial with flowers, teddy bears, candles and balloons.
Some not only mourn for the victims of Friday’s rampage, but for Fryberg, who by most accounts was a happy young man with a promising future, gone too soon.
“There are people who are angry at Jaylen,” said Ryan Edwards, an older student at Marysville-Pilchuck, according to the Seattle Times. “But we’re here to show support and love for everyone.”
[This post has been updated.]