MARYSVILLE — The final text message to his family may be the closest anyone will ever get to understanding the why about Jaylen Fryberg.
The popular freshman began writing the text during school the day before he shot five of his closest friends in the head inside a Marysville Pilchuck High School cafeteria last October.
He tapped send on his smartphone just before pulling his father’s handgun out of his backpack in the cafeteria.
“I needed to do this tho… I wasn’t happy. And I need my crew with me too. I’m sorry. I love you,” the boy wrote.
Jaylen had instructions for his parents.
He told them to apologize to the families of Andrew Fryberg and Nate Hatch “for me taking them with me. But I need my ride or dies with me on the other side. And all the other friends if they get caught in this (expletive) tomorrow … They’ll all be laying next to each other.”
He spelled out his funeral arrangements, down to the songs he wanted played. “Play the randy wood and the Kevin yazzie first and play the POPPIN (expletive) next and ask (redacted) for some poppin (expletive) to play.”
He told his family to bury him, Andrew and Nate in a row, as simply as if arranging seats at a dinner table.
• • •
The text and other details of the Oct. 24 shooting were included in 1,400-page report released Tuesday as part of a records request. The document includes transcripts of interviews with some key witnesses, officers’ reports and evidence, including Jaylen’s texts.
A court hearing is scheduled for Thursday to determine if additional documents related to text messages between Jaylen and his then 15-year-old girlfriend will be released. A break-up between the two is one reason many students at the school thought Jaylen may have done what he did. “The motive of the shooting/murders is uncertain but the investigation by the Snohomish County Multiple Agency Response Team confirmed it was planned,” Washington State Patrol detective Jeff Rhue wrote in the report’s summary.
• • •
Investigators pieced together the days leading up to the shootings. Jaylen was suspended from school earlier in the month after he and another football player exchanged blows. Jaylen complained that the boy had made racist remarks.
Friends also said Jaylen was upset about the break-up, which happened the night of homecoming. Detectives found a string of text messages the two exchanged.
On Oct. 21, three days before the shootings, he sent his girlfriend a text saying: “Ohk well don’t bother coming to my funeral.”
The next day, his texts grew cryptic and darker.
“I set the date. Hopefully you regret not talking to me”
“You have no idea what I’m talking about. But you will”
“Bang bang I’m dead”
She asked Jaylen to quit texting her. He replied, “No. You don’t care. I don’t care.”
When she stopped responding, Jaylen tried to reach her through another friend.
On the morning of the shootings, he used Facebook to send that friend a photo of a gun sitting between his legs. He told the friend to have the girl “call me before I do this.”
By then, his plan was well in motion. Getting a handgun and extra bullets was as simple as reaching into the center console of his dad’s pickup truck where the weapon was stored.
• • •
A search of cell phone records shows Jaylen began writing his final text at 1:02 p.m. on Oct. 23. He modified the message again at 7:44 a.m., about 10 minutes after his mom had dropped him off at school for the day.
A cousin told investigators that he spoke with Jaylen about an hour before the shootings. He said the boy seemed like he was in a good mood and was laughing. Jaylen even joked with his cousin, who had dyed his hair blond.
Beneath the surface, Jaylen was brooding.
At 10:37 a.m., Jaylen sent his father, Ray Fryberg Jr., a text seconds before sending his last one. “Read the paper on my bed. Dad I love you.” Detectives never recovered the note, if there was one.
Before two minutes had passed, Jaylen stood up and pointed the .40-caliber gun at Shaylee, who was to his left, and pulled the trigger. She crumpled to the floor as Jaylen continued firing clockwise around the table, shooting Zoe, Andrew, Nate and Gia.
He ran out of bullets. Two other girls at the table scrambled for cover. More than a hundred other students fled for safety.
Social studies teacher Megan Silberberger was in the cashier’s office, about 15 yards away when she heard gunshots. She went inside the cafeteria and saw Jaylen reloading the pistol. She ran toward him. He looked at her, put the gun under his chin and fired before she could stop him. He toppled to the ground, dead.
Contrary to some early reports, Silberberger did not tackle Jaylen or wrestle him for control of the weapon. The young teacher told detectives she “did not see him shoot any students. I only saw him shoot himself when I came towards him.”
Nate, who was shot in the jaw, was the only one of Jaylen’s targets to survive.
He was conscious when paramedics reached him. While on their way to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle an Everett paramedic asked Nate who shot him.
“My friend,” Nate said, pausing. “He was like a brother to me.”
The boys were cousins, as was Andrew, and they lived close to each other on the Tulalip Indian Reservation. Jaylen had invited his cousins and friends to lunch, even persuading some to skip class.
• • • •
Jaylen’s first two months of high school were filled with highs and lows. He was elected homecoming prince of his freshman class. His football coach told detectives that Jaylen’s teammates looked to him as a leader.
Yet the week of the Oct. 17 homecoming dance, Jaylen got into the fight.
“I beat the crap out of him,” Jaylen reportedly told his coach.
Jaylen was suspended for three days — Oct. 15 through 17, but he was allowed to attend homecoming festivities. The suspension ended one week before the shootings.
Jaylen was skipping classes and blowing off assignments, though his parents believed he was a good student. Two days before the shooting, his coach told him he would miss the team’s next game if he didn’t raise his grades. Jaylen was failing two classes.
The day of the shooting was a shortened school day.
Jaylen was quiet on the drive to school, but that wasn’t unusual, his mom told investigators.
Jaylen, as had become his pattern, was tardy for his first-period marketing class. He kept his head down on his desk, which was his habit.
During PE, Jaylen didn’t suit up and spent the period walking around the swimming pool with others who weren’t in uniform.
Jaylen often ditched language arts but surprised his teacher by showing up for the first time in 10 days. He sat in the front of the class and kept putting his head down while using his cellphone. His teacher confronted him twice, telling Jaylen he was being disrespectful.
Jaylen reached into his backpack and said something to the effect of “It doesn’t matter.” His fellow students were kept in class after the bell rang until Jaylen put his phone away.
His art teacher reported that Jaylen didn’t seem the same when he returned from his brief suspension. He was withdrawn and moping. That morning the class took a quiz. Jaylen did not turn his in.
His algebra teacher, who also was his football coach, said Jaylen originally sat in the front of the class, but lately had been slacking off in the back. That morning he skipped and went to the cafeteria, where he’d told his friends to meet him.
• • •
One question that remains unanswered from the investigation is if Jaylen might have been planning to take more lives outside his tight inner circle of friends.
It is clear he planned to kill his cousins, Andrew and Nate, and wrote that Gia, Zoe and Shaylee could “get caught in this (situation) tomorrow.” Others, too, were possible. He wrote: “And idk,” text-speak for “I don’t know.” “They’ll all be laying next to each other.”
In first period that morning Jaylen approached a classmate he knew since kindergarten. The boy told detectives that on three separate occasions that day, Jaylen asked him to skip class and come to first lunch with him.
The boy was almost persuaded to go, but told Jaylen just before lunch that he decided to be in class because he needed to raise his grade.
Two other girls were at the round cafeteria table with Jaylen when he started killing.
One fell to the floor and held Gia.
The other told detectives she sat to the right of Jaylen. She described how he stood up, without saying anything, and began shooting.
She dropped to the floor and screamed his name. She said that she looked up and Jaylen stared into her eyes. Jaylen ran out of bullets. When he began reloading, she ran to the cashier’s office to hide.
After the shootings, officers knocked on the locked door where the girl was hiding with a staff member. Officers yelled, “POLICE!” and told them to open the door with their hands up. The girl grabbed an officer and cried.
• • •
A third search team entered the cafeteria at 12:22 p.m. and found Silberberger and seven food service workers locked in a room behind the kitchen.
Silberberger, 27, wasn’t wearing shoes. She’d wrapped two kitchen aprons around her waist. She later explained that she’d taken off her pants and shoes because of the blood and to make sure she hadn’t been shot.
Silberberger had gone into the cafeteria after the sound of gunfire. She saw students lying on the ground. Jaylen was standing up with a gun in his hand.
“I ran at the student to stop him, and he put the gun to his head in his right hand and he pulled the trigger,” Silberberger told detectives.
She was less than three feet from Jaylen. They made eye contact.
The teacher shouted for a student to call 911. She grabbed another student’s phone and dialed for help. She saw Nate and went to him. She told him to keep calm and to not talk. She told one of the injured girls not to move.
The school’s resource officer came in and rushed Silberberger out of the cafeteria.
Students later told police they didn’t immediately recognize the sound of gunfire. The first shot rose above the cafeteria’s din. Kids looked around. Maybe someone had popped a potato chip bag or lit a string of firecrackers. Perhaps a stack of books had been dropped on the floor or someone was playing with a cap gun.
Witnesses gave contradictory statements about what they’d seen. Some said they heard arguing before the gunfire. Others said everybody at the table appeared to be getting along. The shooter pulled the gun from his backpack. Or maybe he had it tucked under his shirt. Depending on who spoke with police, Jaylen’s expression was described as angry or blank — even calm — as he began stealing lives.
One witness was clear that Jaylen’s hand shook as he put a fresh magazine in the gun before he fired the bullet that ended his life.
The bullets or shrapnel kicked up by gunfire hit others seated nearby. One boy was grazed on his lower leg. Another had a bruise on his upper back. One boy lost his shoes and glasses in the commotion.
Another of Jaylen’s cousins said the noise of gunfire caused him to turn and look toward the table. His initial thought was that someone was pulling a prank, that it wasn’t real. Then another boy yelled for people to run. Jaylen’s cousin did, jumping over a table.
As he reached outside, he realized who the shooter was.
He turned back, but was intercepted by a teacher who pulled him into the nearby school store. He told detectives he thought maybe he could have said something to stop Jaylen.
Marysville police detective Craig Bartl reached the cafeteria minutes after the shootings. He was confronted by the sight of blood and broken young bodies.
Officers checked for pulses. One boy — it turned out to be Nate — had been shot in the face. He was crawling on his hands and knees, apparently trying to get up. There was little or no movement from the others.
The school resource officer was standing over the body of a boy dressed in black. It was Jaylen, who, in keeping with police protocols, had been handcuffed. He had an earbud in one ear.
The officer offered encouraging words to one of the girls, telling her to hold on, that it would be okay. She was barely breathing.
Trays of half-eaten food were abandoned on tables. More than 120 cellphones, backpacks, school books, purses and musical instruments were left behind.
Bomb-sniffing dogs made the rounds. Special needs students were ushered out to the baseball field bleachers, and calls were made for buses that could accommodate wheelchairs.
Officers knocked on doors to get students to emerge from locked rooms. At one point, they had to shine flashlights on their badges through the windows to get a response from those hunkered down and hiding inside.
Two boys dressed in black hoodies returned to campus. They were ordered to drop their backpacks and were handcuffed. They just wanted to find out what was going on.
That afternoon, a detective retrieved one of the bullets from the ceiling above the table where the shots were fired.
It took more than a week for another bullet to turn up.
A student discovered it Nov. 2. He needed to catch up on homework. The bullet had pierced the corner of a library book, gone through a plastic ice pack and slipped to the bottom of the bag.
• • •
Tips poured in and each had to be checked out to separate fact from fiction.
Early on, a substitute teacher told the police and others that, days earlier, a student had warned her of the shooting. She later recanted her statement, saying maybe she heard it on TV and that “it probably didn’t happen,” but she gets confused easily.
A pastor called in with a third-hand report that an unidentified homeless man was somehow to blame. One student had gone on a Seattle television station purporting to be an eyewitness. Police tracked him down and he admitted he’d only heard rumors.
A lawyer from Kentucky wanted to make sure the police looked into violent video games as a potential factor. A woman from Bremerton called about a posting on social media site “Ask.fm.” That company is based in Latvia where a FBI agent was sent to knock on the door.
Mixed in with those tips were calls from actual witnesses and their parents.
• • •
Jaylen was not a loner fueled by anger at the world. Nor was he a social misfit.
The son of a former Marysville School Board member, he was not motivated by hate. Documents released Tuesday don’t suggest that he was seeking fame.
He envisioned his funeral as some giant celebration, he in his casket in expensive camo and a favorite hat, his mourners feasting on deer at “Grams.”
His 10:37 a.m. text to his extended family, sent to more than a dozen in all, included more than 20 instructions.
The finality of the message sent his family into panic.
Within minutes of the shooting roadblocks were in place and the school was in lockdown.
The fire hall down the street soon became a gathering place for Jaylen’s family and relatives of the victims. Jaylen’s parents, Raymond and Wendy Fryberg, were among the distraught waiting for word.
A police officer approached Raymond, not realizing he was Jaylen’s dad. He explained that there was a reunification center at a church nearby for parents to pick up their children.
“You don’t understand,” Raymond told him. “It was my kid with the gun who did the shooting.”
The couple had trouble grasping that their son could have killed himself and his friends. He was well-liked and had just been named homecoming prince, they said.
Later that day, the Frybergs asked that the tribes be able to oversee the removal of their son’s body from the school, to keep in accordance with their customs. Police made arrangements for the medical examiner’s office to have a tribal blanket brought to the cafeteria for use in carrying Jaylen away.
At Providence Regional Medical Center Everett, detectives were collecting the clothes doctors removed from two girls brought in from the school. Plaid purple shirt. Brown Ugg boots. Black leggings.
Parents and relatives converged on the hospital. A command center was set up to coordinate treatment and to identify the victims. Parents huddled.
Longtime Snohomish County sheriff’s detective Brad Pince met with Shaylee’s parents at 3:40 p.m. They described her clothing. She was there, in the surgery.
Pince met with Zoe’s parents. They’d been told she was there. Her mom described the girl’s silver glittery nail polish. Pince shared the worst. Zoe was gone. The dead girl in the cafeteria had silver nail polish.
Nate’s family had been called by another student at the school. The boy was taken to Harborview. His family and Andrew’s family made the drive south from the reservation to the Seattle hospital and waited for word.
Nate began to heal as his friends died, one after the other. Gia on Oct. 26. Shaylee on Oct. 31. Nate went home on Nov. 6. The next day, his best friend, Andrew, was taken off life support.
Today, Jaylen’s dad is awaiting trial on federal gun crimes. Prosecutors allege that he illegally obtained the weapon that his 15-year-old son used to kill.
• • •
On the hill, overlooking Tulalip Bay, a tall, sturdy cedar stands sentry among the headstones. A few yards away, raindrops pool on withered helium balloons: a tribute for his birthday. Andrew would have turned 16 last month. There is no hint on that hillside how his young life ended.
There are plenty of signs that he is loved and missed. Someone has left behind sunglasses, flowers, a painted rock bearing his name. His headstone is within feet of where his father and grandparents rest.
The boy who murdered Andrew was buried in the same cemetery, down the hill. He isn’t next to his cousins as he wanted. He took their lives but they still don’t belong to him.
Andrew is buried among his family.
Nate is going back to school, his whole life ahead of him.
Noah Haglund contributed to this report.
Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jaylen Fryberg’s last text
Here is the content of a text Jaylen Fryberg sent to several members of his family moments before he began shooting his friends on Oct. 24 in a Marysville Pilchuck High School cafeteria. Redactions were made by police. Expletives were removed by the newspaper. Spelling and grammar were not corrected.
My Funeral (expletive):
My 270win goes to (redacted) &(redacted). My 17HMR goes to (redacted). I want to be fully dressed in Camo in my casket. Brand new expensive as (expletive) camo.
I don’t want my family to cancel there trip in December.
Tell (redacted) that I love her with all my heart if I don’t call her.
My dogs name HAS to be (redacted). Because (redacted) name is (redacted). That’s why I picked it. I know my parents thought it’s cause that’s where she was from but it is not.
I want my freshman team to play there (expletive) (expletive) off next Wednesday!
Tell (redacted) he’ll always be my bro. ALWAYS.
Put my hat with the S on it on me in my casket.
Put an insuline bag in my casket with me and burn one for me.
I want mine Andrews and (redacted) graves to all be lined up.
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)
Make sure that all of my trust money or whatever all goes to my brother (redacted)
My password to my phone is 4-5-2-6 stands for I Love (redacted)
Also apologize to Andrews fam and (redacted) fam for me taking them with me. But I needed my ride or dies with me on the other side. And all of my other friends if they get caught in this (expletive) tomorrow. (Zoe Galosso), (redacted), Gia Soriano, (redacted), and Shaylee Chucklenasket, And idk. They’ll all be laying next to each other.
Once again tell (redacted) I love her with all my (expletive) heart.
Please ask (redacted) to not be with (redacted) at all. That is my last dying wish …
To my parents. Give (redacted) ALL of your attention. Don’t you dare tell him no. If he doesn’t want to go to school let him stay home. Just don’t tell him no.
I love all of my family … I hope you all know that.
Tell (redacted) not to be with (redacted) …Tell her my last wish is for her not to talk to him AT ALL and to not be with him …
Songs to play at my funeral.
(Life style, U guessed it, hot nigga, Hookah, The Ruble by randy wood, love by Kevin Yazzie) it needs to be POPPIN!! Play the randy wood and the Kevin yazzie first and play the POPPIN (expletive) next and ask (redacted) for some poppin (expletive) to play.
Make sure everyone’s family goes to grams for a dinner. I need you guy to make that happen. It needs to happen. I need you guys to invite everyone’s parents over to grams for a big dinner. You guys need to cook all that deer meat gram canned and the meet that’s in the downstairs freezer at our house.
I LOVE YOU FAMILY!! I really do! More then anything. Tell (redacted) the same. I needed to do this tho … I wasn’t happy. And I need my crew with me too. I’m sorry. I love you.