After three years of litigation, a lawsuit filed by the families of five students killed or severely injured in a 2014 school shooting near Seattle has ended in an $18 million settlement, according to the Seattle Times.
Washington Families Settle Negligence Lawsuit Against School
On October 24, 2014, 15-year-old Jaylen Fryberg called together five of his friends, including his brother Andrew, in the cafeteria of Marysville-Pilchuck High School. Then he pulled out his father’s .40-caliber Beretta and started shooting. When the shots finally ended, Gia Sorino, Zoe Gallaso, Shaylee Chuckulnaskit, Andrew Fryberg and the shooter, Jaylen Fryberg, were dead. Nate Hatch was shot in the face, gravely wounded, but managed to survive. The victims were all between 14 and 15 years old. Jaylen Fryberg had taken his own life.
The shooting rocked Marysville, Washington, as it would have any town in America. Detectives and prosecutors from the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Department descended on Marysville-Pilchuk, desperate to discover what went wrong. Teachers and administrators were gathered in conference hours and interrogated for hours. Then substitutes were called in for questioning.
Substitute Changes Story On Shooting Warning
One of those substitutes, 69-year-old Rosemary Cooper, delivered a bombshell. As Cooper told the story, she had been approached by a student two days before the shooting and warned of impending violence. Cooper went directly to the front office and notified someone in attendance. Then she wrote a note to the teacher for whom she was subbing. But somehow, none of Cooper’s warnings trickled into the administration. A tragedy that could have been averted wasn’t.
There were problems with Cooper’s story, though. For one thing, detectives couldn’t find any evidence that it was true. No one in the attendance office can remember being approached by Cooper. The teacher she was subbing for says he never got a note.
In the face of doubt, Cooper maintained her story, but the narrative was beginning to show cracks. Over the course of their 10-month investigation, detectives from the Washington State Patrol conducted two interviews with Cooper. In her first interview, Cooper seemed certain, clearly describing how, during a “rowdy” literature class, a quiet student approached her to describe the text another boy had been reading. That text, apparently, read that there would be a shooting at 10:00 on Friday in the school’s cafeteria.
Cooper’s second interview was far less composed, punctuated by hesitation and double-back logic. Cooper remembers writing a note to Mr. Gabrio, but this time, she can’t recall whether or not she mentioned exactly what the frightened-seeming boy had told her. Stranger, Cooper describes walking into the school’s office where other people were already chattering about the possibility of an imminent shooting. The news, it seems, was already circulating through the school’s administration. Bronlea Mishler, a spokesperson for the local police department, says all of this is complete hogwash. “Any report that the school had notification before the shooting occurred,” she told the Seattle Times, “is completely false.” Detectives attempted to vet Cooper’s tale, but ultimately determined that her statements were untrue.
Cooper stands behind her story. The school, in her words, is just trying to throw an elderly substitute teacher (one who had been working only her second day) under the bus. As an employee of the school district, however, Cooper’s apparent negligence was enough to scare the school to the negotiating table. After the families of the shooting victims filed a civil lawsuit against Cooper, the school board agreed to cover any damage awards imposed on Cooper who, as an employee, was covered by the school’s insurance for reasonable actions taken during the course of employment.
Father’s Illegal Gun Leads To Conviction
A second claim, against Fryberg’s father, Raymond, is still pending in Snohomish County Superior Court. The elder Fryberg was convicted one year after the shooting for possessing a firearm, the .40-caliber Beretta used by his son, in violation of a tribal court restraining order.
Jaylen Fryberg’s true motives will probably never be determined. He may have been depressed; a friend remembers him mentioning suicide at least once in the past. His loved ones say he appears to have planned the shooting with care, sending a text to friends and family members in advance with instructions for his funeral. Reports collected by the police suggest that Fryberg may have been emotionally distraught after a nasty breakup. He had also begun fighting with another student. Fryberg, a Native American, had been bullied by some of the school’s white students. Fryberg and his father lived together on the Tulalip Indian Reservation.