A Tulalip Tribes man will report soon to the medium-security federal prison in Sheridan, Oregon to begin serving a 24-month sentence for lying on a federal form when he purchased firearms, including the handgun used by his son in a school shooting in which he and four classmates died and another was injured.
Raymond Lee Fryberg Jr., 42, was sentenced January 11 in U.S. District Court in Seattle to two years in prison and three years probation. He is prohibited from owning a firearm while on probation. His home and property will be subject to search by a probation officer.
Fryberg was convicted on September 29 of six counts of unlawful possession of a firearm, following a four-day jury trial.
Fryberg purchased the handgun and hunting rifles in 2013 and 2014 from a sporting goods store in Quil Ceda Village on the Tulalip reservation. At the time, he was on probation for violating a domestic violence protection order issued in 2002 by Tulalip Tribal Court, but each time he filled out a federal firearms purchasing form he answered “no” to the question of whether he was subject to a court-issued protection order.
The order had been requested by Fryberg’s former girlfriend, with whom he has a child.
One of the guns Fryberg purchased, a Beretta PX4 Storm pistol, was used by his son in the shooting at Marysville Pilchuck High School on October 24, 2014. (The son, Jaylen, 15, texted suicide threats to an ex-girlfriend before the shooting. His five victims, one of whom survived, were Jaylen’s friends; two were his cousins.)
The case against the father developed during an investigation by the FBI and the Tulalip Tribes Police Department.
At his sentencing, Fryberg said he didn’t think the federal reporting requirement applied to restraining orders issued by Tribal Court, according to the Associated Press. His lawyer, John Henry Browne, said he plans to appeal.
“He had no idea he wasn’t supposed to have a gun. In fact, everything told him the opposite,” Browne told the Associated Press. He said Fryberg was granted a concealed weapons permit by the state Department of Licensing on January 14, 2013 and the protection order never came up in subsequent background checks conducted by the county sheriff’s office and state fish and game wardens.
The disconnect here is that many, if not most, protection orders issued by Tribal Courts are not entered into the National Crime Information Center Protection Order File, a federal registry for protection orders, according to the National American Indian Court Judges Association.
“The Tulalip Tribes are a sovereign Indian nation … It is because of this separate sovereignty that state protection order registries are closed to tribal courts,” the judges association reported on its website. “This results in the failure of statewide registration of tribal court protection orders, including the 2002 order issued against Fryberg by the Tulalip Tribal Court.”
The association added, “In the State of Washington, the Washington State Police controls access to the protection order registry. In 2004, pursuant to a state audit, tribal police departments were restricted from accessing the system because the language of state law does not include tribes as approved agencies. Following the decision to bar tribes from entering tribal protection orders in the state database, some tribes in Washington developed a protocol with local county superior courts by which the county court clerk enters the tribal orders into the state system. This system is not flawless and can result in misses and delays in the registration of tribal protection orders.”
The U.S. Justice Department has since started a pilot program with 10 Native Nations across the country, including the Tulalip Tribes, to ensure that protection orders issued by Tribal Courts can be entered into state and federal registries.
At his sentencing, Fryberg expressed sorrow over his son’s actions, telling the court, “I wake up with the same broken heart every day. Those kids are a part of my life too.”
‘Someone has to be accountable’
While Fryberg was not on trial for the shootings at Marysville Pilchuck High School, the U.S. Attorney’s Office asserted that the shootings were the result of the son’s accessibility to guns Fryberg should not have owned in the first place. In addition, the U.S. Attorney noted that when law enforcement officers executed a search warrant at the Fryberg home four months after the school shooting, “they found five firearms unsecured in a bedroom of the home … [The] firearms were not secured in a gun safe in the home, and instead were accessible to a 14-year-old and two children under the age of six.”
“Here, the illegal possession of a firearm played a devastating role in a community tragedy,” U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes said in a statement issued after Fryberg’s sentencing.
Meanwhile, the families of the victims filed a claim for up to $110 million in damages against the Marysville School District on January 8, a precursor to a lawsuit against the school district and Ray Fryberg Jr. The lawsuit alleges school officials failed to act on a substitute teacher’s report that a student told “there was a tweet going around indicating there was going to be a shooting on Friday, October 24 at 10:00 a.m. in the cafeteria.” The lawsuit names Fryberg because he owned the gun used in the shooting.
“Someone has to be accountable for where that gun comes from,” Denise Hatch-Anderson, mother of shooting survivor Nate Hatch – Jaylen Fryberg’s cousin — told KING 5 News.
Struggle to heal continues
The land of the Tulalip Tribes, population 9,200, is a beautiful and bustling place: lakes, streams, forests; the waters of Port Susan, Tulalip Bay and Possession Sound; Quil Ceda Village, a lodging, shopping and entertainment destination that is the fourth-largest source of jobs in Snohomish County; and numerous amenities and events that reflect the cultures of the Snohomish, Snoqualmie, Skykomish, and other peoples that live here.
The Fryberg family has been part of the cultural and economic growth of the Tulalip Tribes, and the name is familiar to people on and off the reservation. Family members have served on the local fire district board, the Marysville School Board, and the Tulalip Tribes’ Board of Directors, and have been culture bearers and coached youth sports teams.
In view of the kinship ties of the families involved, and their pain and loss, Tulalip officials are hesitant to speak about Fryberg’s sentence. “I don’t think I have anything meaningful to add,” one official wrote.
Lahneen Fryberg, mother of shooting victim Andrew Fryberg, told KING 5 News, “the pain’s never going to go away. We’ll always miss our children.”
The Tulalip Tribes, the City of Marysville and the Marysville School District are partners in a project to facilitate healing and recovery in the greater community. The project, Marysville/Tulalip United, provides resources, training and referrals for those needing help for themselves or their loved ones.
For several months, Dr. Robert Macy of Boston Children’s Foundation visited Tulalip. He is considered a pioneer in violence-prevention initiatives for children, youth, families and communities exposed to traumatic events, including large-scale disasters, terrorism, armed-conflict violence, and impoverishment. Macy helped the community set in place a system to identify, assess and treat trauma in the community. The system is being used by the Tulalip Tribes’ family services, health, child welfare, and early childhood education departments.
One program, Rainbowdance, gathers children, teachers and parents, blends storytelling, object lessons, and movements set to cultural music and improvisation “for the purpose of enhancing social empathy, self-confidence and self-regulation,” according to Macy’s website.
Among the teachings of Rainbowdance: “cooperation, respect, trust, honor, and gentleness … developed to expose each child to adaptive coping strategies for successfully meeting normal developmental challenges, as well as constructive solutions to conflict.”