The Homecoming Prince Who Tweeted His Killing Spree
It was a sadly familiar sight on the afternoon news: Students running from campus with their hands in the air, escaping from another shooting on school grounds.
One 14-year-old student, Zoe Galasso, and her 15 year-old killer, Jaylen Fryberg, were dead inside Washington’s Marysville-Pilchuck High School cafeteria. Four others with critical injuries were rushed to local hospitals. Three had been shot in the head and one in the jaw, according to hospital officials.
Two of the victims, 15-year-old Andrew Fryberg and 14-year-old Nate Hatch, were cousins of the shooter, according to relatives. Hospital officials said Shaylee Chuckulnaskit and Gia Soriano, both 14 years old, remained in critical condition.
The violence—at a school whose district had just won a share of a $10 million five-year federal grant to improve safety and mental-health services—brought out the usual throng of Internet detectives, as both media professionals and laymen hoping to satisfy their prurient curiosity before confirmed stories could be published began combing through the gunman’s presence on social media.
There was a lot to see. Fryberg left behind a dense record all-at-once ordinary and disturbing, that leaves more questions than answers.
According to several news reports, Fryberg was a happy and popular kid. He was on the school’s football and wrestling teams and was crowned freshman homecoming prince this month. But there had been trouble recently. According to news reports, Fryberg had just come back to school after being suspended for fighting.
Fryberg was “a really good kid,” and “well liked,” according to someone who knew the family and spoke to The Seattle Times.
The investigation is ongoing, according to Marysville Police Commander Robb Lamoureux, who provided few details at a news briefing Friday afternoon other than to say, “there was only one shooter and that the shooter is dead.”
But students relayed the events and their panic on Twitter.
According to several who posted play-by-plays, around 10:30 a.m. freshman Jaylen Fryberg walked over to a table in the cafeteria, pulled out a handgun, and shot several students in their heads as they sat. Jordan Luton, a witness to the shooting, told CNN that the shooting wasn’t random. “They were his friends,” Luton said.
Though Fryberg owned guns, according to several of his posts, it isn’t clear to whom the handgun used in the shooting belonged. In more than two-thirds of all school shootings, the shooter uses a gun from his own home or that of a relative, according to The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
In one now-ominous photo on Instagram—sure to be used by television news everywhere—Fryberg holds a rifle and wears a serious stare (“Probably the best BirthDay present ever! I just love my parents!!!” he writes).
Fryberg was an avid hunter, according to his Facebook posts. In one he wrote, “Hunting is the BEST sport there is… I don’t always just go out an shoot something. It’s not my favorite part about hunting. My favorite part about it is about just being in the woods. Just me my dad an my brother.”
Fryberg was Native American and according to his Facebook posts, he worked for and was a member of the Tulalip (pronounced Tuh’-lay-lup) Tribes, with a population of about 4,000. In several photos, he wears a feathered headdress.
His tweets and Instagram photos also seem to point to a clear motive, lacking in so many other school shootings. One former friend offered as much on CNN when asked about Fryberg’s intent: “His girlfriend recently broke up with him.” Indeed, from these posts, the shooting seems to born out of that heartbreak.
Much of his feeds are filled with the typically love-eager posts of a teenage boy in a relationship. In February, he posed with Shilene George in a photo with the caption, “I have the best girlfriend in the whole world!!”
But his recent Twitter feed, filled with dozens of angry and depressed rants, showed Fryberg was distressed. “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 able to…”
Jamie Tompkins, an on-air reporter for the local Fox affiliate, tweeted that she had spoken to members of Fryberg’s family, who confirmed there had been a fight over a girl, but also claimed the boy was being bullied.
In August he tweeted, “Your gonna piss me off… And then some shits gonna go down and I don’t think you’ll like it…” Back in June he tweeted, “Fuck It? Might As well Die Now”
Just last night, hours before he would shoot four of his schoolmates then turn the gun on himself, he tweeted, “It won’t last… It’ll never last…”