Authorities in Washington state were working Saturday to piece together why a popular high school student opened fire on classmates sitting at a cafeteria table, killing one and wounding four others — some of them believed to be his cousins — before killing himself.
The Friday incident at Marysville-Pilchuck High School north of Seattle sent students fleeing from the building and sheltering under desks in the latest of a series of school shootings across the United States.
First-year social studies teacher Megan Silberberger intervened in the attack on Friday at Marysville-Pilchuck High School, teachers union president Randy Davis said.
The teacher intercepted the gunman as he paused, possibly trying to reload, student Erick Cervantes told KIRO-TV.
"I'm completely amazed by her actions and I feel for her," Davis told The Associated Press. "I don't know why she was in the cafeteria but I'm just grateful she was there."
The attacker killed one girl and seriously wounded four others — including two of his own cousins — before he died of what police said was a self-inflicted wound.
However, it was not clear if the shooter committed suicide or if he accidentally shot himself in the struggle with the teacher.
A school resource officer also ran to the scene, Davis said.
The shooter was Jaylen Fryberg, a popular freshman at the school, a government official with direct knowledge of the shooting told The Associated Press. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Students and parents said Fryberg was a member of a prominent family from the nearby Tulalip Indian tribe and a freshman who played on the high school football team. He was introduced at a football game as a prince in the 2014 Homecoming court.
But Fryberg left months’ worth of troubling messages on social media, and friends said he had recently been in a fight over a girl. One of his tweets said, "It breaks me ... It actually does ..."
The tight-knit Native American community on scenic Puget Sound struggled to cope with the tragedy.
Students said the gunman stared at his victims as he fired. The shootings set off chaos as students ran outside in a frantic dash to safety, while others huddled inside classrooms.
Authorities said a .40-caliber handgun was recovered at the shooting scene.
Three of the victims had head wounds and were in critical condition Saturday. Two 14-year-old girls were at Providence Everett Medical Center, and were identified by the facility as Shaylee Chucklenaskit and Gia Soriano. Andrew Fryberg, 15, was at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, a hospital official said.
Another victim, 14-year-old Nate Hatch, was listed in serious condition at Harborview, the hospital said. Family members told KIRO that Andrew Fryberg, Hatch and Jaylen Fryberg are cousins.
Two other students were treated at the high school for minor wounds, authorities said.
Students who were evacuated to safety on Friday were slowly returning to the school building Saturday to pick up items they left behind.
Grief counselors were going to be available to both students and educators, the district superintendent said in a statement.
Classmates said they were shocked that such violence had come to their community.
Karalyn Demarest, 17, a senior at Marysville, added a bouquet of flowers to nearly a dozen that were lying against a fence at the school.
"I was in class in a classroom next to the cafeteria," she said. "I just heard screaming.