School shootings are always stunning and tragic events, often tied to bullying or some other deep personal hurt experienced by a young man described as a "loner" and with easy access to guns. Which is what makes the latest episode of high school gun violence seem so shocking and inexplicable.
The alleged shooter in Friday's event at Marysville-Pilchuck High School north of Seattle – identified by officials as 14 year-old freshman Jaylen Fryberg – was a popular young man on the football and wrestling teams who recently had been chosen as a member of the school’s Homecoming court.
Ron Iukes, a youth counselor with the nearby Tulalip Indian tribes, said Mr. Fryberg was from a well-known tribal family. His grandfather is director of fish and wildlife for the tribe.
"They're real good people, very loving, a big part of the community," Mr. Iukes told the Associated Press. "Jaylen was one of our good kids. It's just a shock this happened. I've known this boy since he was a baby."
State Sen. John McCoy, a tribal member, said the shooting devastated the tribal community, which numbers about 4,000. "We're all related in one shape or form. We live and work and play together," he said. The student body – nicknamed the “Tomahawks” – includes many tribal members.
The New York Times quotes a former Marysville-Pilchuck High School teacher and coach, who described Jaylen as “an outgoing person that everyone in the school loved.”
Sophomore Shaylee Bass said Fryberg had recently gotten into a fight with another boy over a girl.
"He was very upset about that," Ms. Bass told the Associated Press. Still, she said, "He was not a violent person.”
"His family is known all around town,” she added. “He was very well known. That's what makes it so bizarre."
According to police and school officials, Jaylen Fryberg entered the school cafeteria at about 10:45 Friday morning, walked to a table and shot five people, killing one girl and critically wounding two other girls and two boys – both of whom were his cousins.
When he stopped to reload his handgun, according to one news report, a cafeteria worker tried to stop him – at which point he shot and killed himself. Another report said it was a teacher who tried to intervene.
Jaylen's Facebook posts, tweets, and Instagram photos sketch a young man with typical interests and enthusiasms. He is slim, and his black hair is tied back.
In one photo, he holds a rifle, declaring: "Probably the best BirthDay present ever! I just love my parents!!!"
On Facebook, he writes: "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."
But recently on social media, a darker, angrier side emerged – apparently tied to a breakup with a girlfriend.
On Wednesday, a posting on his Twitter account read: "It won't last ... It'll never last." On Monday, another tweet said: "I should have listened. ... You were right ... The whole time you were right."
At a vigil Friday night at The Grove church in Marysville, the scripture was from Matthew: "Come to me all of you who are weary and heavy burdened, and I will give you rest."
“Any time something happens to one of our kids, it affects everyone,” tribal communications director Niki Cleary told the Seattle Times. “Everybody will be dealing with this for a long time.”