MARYSVILLE, Wash. — The students and teachers at Marysville-Pilchuck High School knew a shooting was possible — they had seen the news from other schools, and they had trained for lockdowns.
But when the alarms started ringing at the school about 35 miles north of Seattle just after 10:39 a.m. Friday, many still thought it was a drill.
Some instinctively rushed into the halls, before teachers and staff members said this one was real, and they bolted back inside, blocking the doors, lying on the floor, and texting one another for information. Some heard the gunshots, and some saw the bloodshed.
A young classmate had opened fire in the cafeteria, killing a girl and striking two boys and two other girls in the head before turning his gun on himself and committing suicide. Three of the students hit by gunfire were in critical condition and the fourth was in serious condition Friday night.
Hundreds of students were trapped in classrooms for nearly three hours, as law enforcement officers combed through the sprawling campus, making sure there were no other gunmen, then methodically allowing the uninjured students to leave for a nearby church to reunite with their parents.
“We had dreaded this day in this community,” said Dr. Joanne Roberts, chief medical officer at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, where the four injured students were first taken.
Roberts said, ruefully, that because of school shootings elsewhere across the country, the hospital had planned for a possible episode here; just two months ago, it had rehearsed for a school shooting.
So on Friday morning, hospital officials knew what to do; they sent out the alert for a traumatic event, summoning two dozen physicians and scores of staff members.
“As horrible as this situation is, it is a situation we were really prepared for,” she said.
Family members appearing on local television confirmed the accounts of students who said the assailant was a 14-year-old freshman, Jaylen Fryberg, who played football and had been elected a homecoming prince.
But the local police commander, Robb Lamoureux, would not give the gunman’s name, identify what type of weapon he used, or specify a motive.
Lamoureaux would say only that that the gunman had “died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.” An official with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said the gun had been legally acquired.
The Associated Press quoted Shaylee Bass, 15, a sophomore, as saying Fryberg had recently gotten into a fight with another boy over a girl. ‘‘He was very upset about that,’’ Bass said.
Rick Iverson, a former Marysville-Pilchuck English teacher and wrestling coach, said one of the victims was a close friend of Jaylen. He described Jaylen as “an outgoing person that everyone in the school loved.”
The boys, ages 14 and 15, were transferred to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle; one had been shot in the jaw, and the other in the head, officials said. The girls underwent surgery at Providence for gunshot wounds to the head.
School shootings have become a familiar occurrence in the United States, and the Marysville shooting was the second in the Seattle area this year. In June, a student opened fire at Seattle Pacific University. And last month, the FBI said the number of mass shootings had risen significantly across the country in recent years.
As uninjured students were being evacuated, police officers swept the building to ensure there was no longer an active threat. Students were directed to the nearby Shoultes Gospel Hall to be reunited with their families. The police said they had asked about 30 students and staff members who witnessed the shooting to remain at the school for questioning.
Josh Iukes, a 14-year-old student, said he saw the shooting from inside the cafeteria.
“It seemed like a normal day — he was blank, he wasn’t really saying anything, and then he stood up, pulled something out of his pocket, and shot,” he said. “I saw the first shot, and then I didn’t really pay attention. I just ran out.”
Erick Cervantes, a 16-year-old junior, said he saw a cafeteria worker grab the arm of the gunman as the episode was unfolding, heard another shot and saw the gunman fall to the ground, though he was not sure what had happened.
“She just came running in through the door,” he said describing the intervention by the cafeteria worker.
“I’m just shocked. I just want to go home and forget what happened,” he said.