Texts from school shooters show threats, pleas for help

AP News
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Posted: Sep 04, 2015 1:24 PM
Texts from school shooters show threats, pleas for help

SEATTLE (AP) — A 15-year-old boy sent a text message to his former girlfriend threatening to kill himself and asking her to "just please talk me out of this" days before he fatally shot four classmates and himself in their high school cafeteria.

The text messages between Jaylen Fryberg and the teenage girl were among the hundreds of pages of interviews, photos and messages gathered during a months-long investigation into the Oct. 24 shooting at Marysville Pilchuck High School and released this week by authorities.

They show evidence of a moody teen and some possible behavior that could have suggested Fryberg was planning violence. A substitute teacher told police she had alerted school officials to student discussion of a possible upcoming shooting the Wednesday before the killings. However authorities have said although it's clear Fryberg planned the massacre in Marysville, 30 miles north of Seattle, their investigation determined no one could have known it was coming.

One expert who studies school shootings said they're hard to predict, but specific actions can be considered "attack-related behaviors." Some behavior might simply be common teenager mood swings, while actions that involve threats may be red flags of an upcoming suicide or shooting.

Many of the students interviewed by police said Fryberg seemed out of sorts leading up to the shootings. Most of his teachers reported that on the morning of the attack, he kept his head on his desk during class.

"A kid who puts his head down on his desk may just mean he's not getting enough sleep," said Dr. Peter Langman, a psychologist and author of studies and books on school shootings. "But if he did Tweet or text that he wanted to kill someone, that's a warning sign."

Fryberg's former girlfriend had sought to keep the text messages from the public, but Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Richard Okrent ruled Thursday there was legitimate public interest in the messages, which were part of the police investigation.

Starting on Sept. 6, 2014, Fryberg and the girlfriend exchanged loving messages and discussed getting engaged. By Oct. 19, they were exchanged messages that said "I hate you."

On Oct. 21, Fryberg sent messages that went unanswered until he threatened to kill himself.

"Just please talk me out of this. The guns in my hand."

Late on Oct. 21, he texted "I will kill him." He kept sending unanswered messages and on Oct. 22, at 10:43 p.m. he texted "I set the date. Hopefully you regret not talking to me."

"You have no idea what I'm talking about. But you will."

She responded on Oct. 24, at 10:38 a.m., around the time of the shooting. "I will be texting dad and letting him know about your whole 'killing yourself' situation."

A substitute teacher told police that on the Wednesday before the shooting, a student told her everyone was discussing a social media post warning there would be a shooting in the cafeteria on Friday at 10 a.m.

Shari Ireton, spokeswoman for the Snohomish County Sheriff's office, said: "After an in depth and lengthy investigation, the only person who knew the shooting was going to take place was Jaylen Fryberg. There is no evidence of any advanced warning."

However the substitute teacher, Rosemarie Cooper, said she stands behind her original statement to police that she warned office staff after a student told her about a shooting.

"I thought when I went to the office they would all take precautions," Cooper told The Associated Press.

Cooper was clear about what happened when she first spoke with police on Oct. 29, according to the transcript of the interview. But after police spoke with the office staff and no one remembered speaking with Cooper, officials called her to the police station for a second interview, and she was less clear about exactly what the boy had said.

But this week, she said she's sure it happened the way she first reported it.

The Marysville School District said after the shooting it heard reports of what Cooper had said she heard, and alerted authorities.

"We were made aware of this allegation early on after the tragedy and immediately reported it to law enforcement, which investigated and reported back to the school district that it was unfounded," Superintendent Becky Berg told The Daily Herald.

Killed in the shootings were Zoe Galasso, 14, who died at the scene, Gia Soriano and Shaylee Chuckulnaskit, both 14, and Andrew Fryberg, 15, who later died at area hospitals.

Ann Deutscher, a lawyer representing the families of the shooting victims, said the documents appear to confirm anecdotal information they had previously received about the days and weeks leading up to the shooting, in particular a fight Fryberg had with another football player and reports of bullying on campus.