District, but not teacher, dropped from Marysville shooting lawsuit

MARYSVILLE — The Marysville School District has been dropped from the wrongful death lawsuit filed on behalf of the families of five students who were shot in 2014 at Marysville Pilchuck High School.

The motion was made quietly late last month and signed by a Snohomish County Superior Court commissioner. The district was dismissed without prejudice. That means the plaintiffs could add the school district back in the future.

The move signals a strategy to target substitute teacher Rosemarie Cooper. She remains named as a defendant, along with the shooter’s father, Raymond Fryberg. Cooper has claimed that she was told about the shootings days earlier and warned school staff before leaving for the day, an assertion that detectives investigated and determined was untrue.

The plaintiffs’ lawyers, however, said they’ve found evidence that Cooper was informed of the impending violence but did not pass along the information to others.

The district and Cooper share the same insurance policy, Tacoma attorney Lincoln Beauregard wrote in an email to The Daily Herald. “So there was no practical purpose in having the district in the lawsuit,” he added.

The district didn’t get word of the plaintiffs’ motion until after it was approved, said Pat Buchanan, an attorney representing the school district. She was in the process of filing a motion for summary judgment that would have asked a judge to dismiss the school district as a defendant for good.

The district has maintained that there is no evidence supporting claims that it was forewarned about the shootings.

Four young people were killed and a fifth was injured when a freshman opened fire inside a cafeteria Oct. 24, 2014. The teenage shooter then took his own life.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the parents of Andrew Fryberg, Zoe Galasso, Gia Soriano and Shaylee Chuckulnaskit, who were killed, and Nate Hatch, who survived a gunshot to the jaw.

Cooper’s account of being warned beforehand has been discredited by detectives who investigated the high school shootings. The detectives reported finding no evidence to support Cooper’s story, even after searching through the school’s trash for the note she claims to have left and tracking down the boy she claimed tipped her off.

When confronted by detectives, Cooper told them she “can’t be sure” that she actually received a warning, and perhaps was confused from watching so much TV coverage about the killings, records show.

In pleadings, Cooper’s attorneys acknowledged that about a year after the shootings she told a TV reporter that she had been warned about the impending violence by a “young man,” and that when she met with detectives later “they just didn’t want to hear the truth.” The pleadings also say she “does not have a recollection” of being interviewed by The Associated Press about going to the office to report the alleged warning.

Cooper has asked a judge to dismiss her as a defendant. Her attorneys cited a state law that gives school districts and their employees immunity from liability if they make a good-faith effort to report threats of violence.

In keeping with state law, the district is covering Cooper’s legal expenses.

Cooper claims that the shootings were “caused solely or in part by the negligence of others of whom (she) had no control.”

The lawsuit alleges that Raymond Fryberg also is negligent in failing to prevent the shootings. Jaylen Fryberg, 15, used his father’s gun to kill and wound his classmates. The lawsuit alleges that the elder Fryberg left the gun unsecured in his truck.

Raymond Fryberg remains in federal prison after a jury convicted him of multiple illegal weapons charges. Fryberg, 43, was banned from owning any guns because of a 2002 protection order filed in Tulalip Tribal Court.

The lawsuit is scheduled to go to trial in October.

Diana Hefley: hefley@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3463.

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