Relatives baffled after US shooter targets cousins in high school shooting

Relatives baffled after US shooter targets cousins in high school shooting
Members of the community and students grieve beside a makeshift memorial at Marysville-Pilchuck High School.

Relatives of a Washington state teen accused of a high school shooting rampage said on Saturday that they were living in a "nightmare" and struggling to understand why the boy targeted his two cousins and several friends before killing himself.

One girl was killed and four other freshman students were severely wounded in Friday's morning rampage inside the cafeteria at Marysville-Pilchuck High School, north of Seattle.

Police have not formally identified the student gunman, but family members on Saturday told Reuters that 14-year-old Jaylen Fryberg was the shooter.

The girl who was killed was not named, but Jaylen's relatives said that two male victims were his cousins, Nate Hatch and Andrew Fryberg.

"I feel very distraught, like it's a nightmare," said Ms Paula Hatch Satiacum, 49, the aunt of one teen and a relative of the other two.

She said there was "no indication" of trouble between the cousins before the incident. Mr Brandon Hatch, 26, the boys' cousin, described the three as best friends who lived just doors away from each other on Native American land, near Marysville.

"Nate and Jaylen and Andrew grew up together," Mr Hatch said.

"They'd go over to each other's houses on the weekend, after school, and play games, play sports together."

Investigators said they were still searching for a motive and had recovered a .40 calibre handgun from the school.

The shooter targeted a cafeteria-table gathering of his friends and family, prompting a lockdown of the school and a flood of heavily armed police. Fifteen-year-old Andrew Fryberg was in critical condition with a gunshot wound to the head, and Nate Hatch, 14, was in serious condition with a gunshot to the jaw, hospital officials said.

Two other female victims, Shaylee Chuckulnaskit, 14, and Gia Soriano, 14, remained in critical condition.

Jordan Luton had been finishing his lunch in the cafeteria that day when he heard a loud bang, CNN reported.

Then there was another. And another. And another. And another.

He then saw Jaylen going up to a table with students. He "came up from behind ... and fired about six bullets into the backs of them," Jordan told CNN.

"They were his friends, so it wasn't just random."

The incident shocked Marysville, a town of about 63,000 people, and many expressed disbelief that Jaylen could be responsible.

According to the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office, a school employee had tried to stop the shooting.

The incident is the latest in a string of shootings in the US that has prompted national debate about gun laws.

This article was first published on Oct 27, 2014.
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