A newly-hired teacher is being hailed a hero after she struggled with a teenage killer during his terrifying shooting spree in the cafeteria of a Washington state high school.
First-year social studies teacher Megan Silberberger intervened in Friday’s attack at Marysville-Pilchuck High School, 30 miles north of Seattle, teachers union president Randy Davis said.
Ms Silberberger intercepted Jaylen Fryberg, 15, as he paused, possibly to reload.
The attacker killed a girl pupil and seriously wounded four others – including two of his cousins – before he died of what police said was a self-inflicted wound.
But it was not clear if he died by suicide or accidentally shot himself in the struggle with Ms Silberberger.
“I’m completely amazed by her actions and I feel for her,” Mr Davis said of his colleague. “I don’t know why she was in the cafeteria but I’m just grateful she was there.”
A school resource officer also ran to the scene, Mr Davis said.
He said he had spoken briefly with Ms Silberberger, who was traumatised.
The Marysville School District released a statement from her, saying: “While I am thankful and grateful for the support from everyone, at this time I am requesting privacy for myself and my family.”
Fryberg, a popular freshman at the school, was a member of a prominent family from the nearby Tulalip Indian tribes and played for the high school football team.
He was introduced at a football game as a prince in the 2014 Homecoming court, pupils and parents said.
It emerged that the teenager left months 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 Fryberg stared down his victims as he fired. The shootings set off chaos as pupils ran outside in a frantic dash to safety, while others huddled inside classrooms.
Lucas Thorington, 14, had known the victims and the shooter since middle school. “He had a good life. He was very well known,” he said.
“I don’t know what happened.”
Authorities said a .40-calibre handgun was recovered at the shooting scene.
Three of the victims had head wounds and are in a critical condition. Two 14-year-old girls Shaylee Chucklenaskit and Gia Soriano, are in Providence Everett Medical Centre, and Andrew Fryberg, 15, is at Harbourview Medical Centre in Seattle.
Providence said the next three days would be key in the girls’ treatment and Gia’s family released a statement, saying they appreciated “your thoughts and prayers. Our hearts go out to the other victims and their families”.
Another victim, Nate Hatch, 14, is in a serious condition at Harbourview. Family members said Andrew Fryberg, Nate and Jaylen Fryberg were cousins.
Two other pupils were treated at the high school for minor wounds.
Witnesses described the shooter as methodical inside the cafeteria.
“I heard six shots go off, and I turned and saw people diving under the tables,” said 18-year-old Isabella MacKeige. “I thought: ’Run!’.”
Marysville-Pilchuck has a number of pupils from the Tulalip Indian tribes. The reservation juts into the eastern rim of Puget Sound, where a series of rocky beaches form its border.
State senator John McCoy, a tribal member, said the community met in private and a prayer service took place last night.
Mr McCoy said the shooter’s grandmother was his secretary for about 15 years.
“The family, both sides, are very religious,” he said. “If I were to walk into their homes right now, they would probably be praying.”
Mr McCoy said everyone was searching for answers. “What triggered him? That’s what we need to find out,” he said. “Because from all we have determined, he was a happy-go-lucky, normal kid.”