The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

‘I needed to do this’: A school shooter’s final texts before gunning down his friends

Plastic cups sit at a memorial at Marysville Pilchuck High School in Marysville, Wash., in October. (Ted S. Warren/AP)

One Friday last October, 15-year-old freshman Jaylen Fryberg sent a series of text messages — first telling his family how he wanted to be buried, and then apologizing to the families whose children he was about to kill.

Investigators have said Fryberg lured them to a round lunch table in a school cafeteria at Marysville Pilchuck High School, not far from Seattle, then shot them in the head, one by one, to take them with him to “the other side.”

Fryberg gunned down five students Oct. 24, 2014, at the school in Marysville, Wash., killing four before pressing the pistol under his chin and killing himself, police said. The new details were released Tuesday in hundreds of pages of documents that include Fryberg’s phone records and tear-filled interviews with his former classmates, many of whom watched the tragedy unfold, according to the Daily Herald of Everett.

[Seattle-area school shooter lured victims to the cafeteria by text message]

Minutes before the massacre, Fryberg sent a photo of a handgun between his legs to someone on social media, asking the person to call him before he did “this thing.”

Then he texted his father: “Read the paper on my bed. Dad I love you.”

Seconds later, he sent a text message he had prepared that morning to family members, telling them: “I want to be fully dressed in Camo in my casket” and to “make sure all of my trust money or whatever goes to my brother.”

“Apologize to [redacted] parents and tell them that I didn’t want to go alone. And who would be better to go with then the one and only [redacted],” he wrote. “Also apologize to Andrews fam and [redacted] fam for me taking them with me. But I needed to ride or dies with me on the other side.”

“I LOVE YOU FAMILY! I really do! More then anything,” he added. “I needed to do this tho … I wasn’t happy. And I need my crew with me too. I’m sorry. I love you.”

Two minutes later, a 911 call came in.

More than 40 other emergency calls would follow.

[‘Blood is everywhere’: Marysville high school shooting 911 calls released]

One former classmate told police: “Jaylen had a blank stare on his face and stood up and leaned against the wall. He began shooting left to right.”

Investigators said Fryberg shot 14-year-old Shaylee Chuckulnaskit in the head, then continued to fire clockwise until he had shot four other students sitting around the lunch table. Witnesses said teenagers started screaming and running from the lunchroom. One teacher ran toward Fryberg.

“He saw me,” teacher Megan Silberberger later told detectives, according to the documents cited by the Seattle Times. “There was a look. I went toward him and he put the gun to his head.”

Moments later, Silberberger took the phone from a frantic high school student and reported the mass shooting to a 911 operator.

“I’m in the cafeteria; I have the shooter. One shooter. … Blood is everywhere. I do not see the gun. I have him down. … I need help now,” Silberberger told the 911 dispatcher.

“I tried to stop him before he shot himself,” she added. “He shot himself.”

In the end, Fryberg killed Chuckulnaskit, 14-year-old Zoe Galasso and 14-year-old Gia Soriano as well as his own cousin, 15-year-old Andrew Fryberg. Another cousin, 15-year-old Nate Hatch, was shot in the jaw but survived after a two-week stint at a nearby hospital, according to the Seattle Times.

[Searching for answers and patterns after the Seattle-area school shooting]

The newly released documents, however, fail to pin down a possible motive.

“The question everybody wants  is, ‘Why?'” Snohomish County Sheriff Ty Trenary told reporters last year. “I don’t know that the ‘why’ is something we can provide.”

And authorities don’t seem to be much closer to finding an answer.

But some say the string of phone calls and text messages leading up to the shooting spree — paired with statements from classmates and teachers — might give the most detailed picture yet of the teenage killer.

A week before the shooting, Fryberg was suspended from school for fighting with a football player who, he said, made racist remarks toward him.

“I beat the crap out of him,” Fryberg reportedly bragged to his coach, according to investigative documents obtained by the Daily Herald of Everett.

[Comfort dogs arrive in Marysville following deadly school shooting]

Around the same time, Fryberg got into a fight with his girlfriend; the two broke up on homecoming night. Fryberg was distraught, his friends said.

“Ohk well don’t bother coming to my funeral,” he texted the girl on Oct. 21, according to documents cited by the Everett newspaper. The next day, he wrote: “I set the date. Hopefully you regret not talking to me.”

“You have no idea what I’m talking about. But you will.” Then: “Bang bang I’m dead.”

When she told him to stop, he replied: “No. You don’t care. I don’t care.”

The ex-girlfriend filed a lawsuit this week to keep their text messages hidden.

“We are talking about the life of a frightened and traumatized young girl,” Seattle attorney Thomas Ahearne told the Daily Herald of Everett.

A hearing is set for Thursday to review the messages and the girl’s argument.