Before reading this article, it is important to note that I have no formal qualifications in Psychology, so consequently, all of my opinions are based on my own judgement. Secondly, I have no connection to the case, and so all research has been carried out through material published about the case. This, therefore, reduces the validity of my analysis.
The case of Jaylen Fryberg has been one that has interested me since the events that unfolded on the 24th of October 2014. What I hope to discover are the possible reasons motivating a 15-year-old child to commit a murder-suicide against himself and four other students, injuring a further student.
With every mass shooting that takes place, there seems to be a common set of events running between them. I, therefore, believe that the following model exists:
In people that commit these acts, there is a “fuse-wire” built into them, that when snapped causes a psychotic meltdown. This breakdown could be caused by a variety of events, and dependent on the “thickness” of the wire, could take place over a short or long period. Once the psychotic breakdown has been invoked, the person looks to take revenge, or at least settle the pain that they are feeling in some way. This does not lead to random attacks; the events are carefully and strategically planned out to perfection. Once the event has taken place, either the perpetrator exits the psychotic state and takes their life as a result of not being able to deal with the repercussions of their actions, or commit suicide as planned, caused by the Psychotic state.
Jaylen Fryberg certainly seems to fit perfectly into this model. I will, therefore, detail the reasons for this, which should help add a reason to his motivation to carry out this attack.
Through looking at Fryberg’s social media pages, and the information published about him in the media; there is no evidence to suggest that he was an abnormal teenager. It is important to note that I live in the UK, and therefore live within a different culture to that of Fryberg’s, and consequently any judgements that I make on the cultural implications of his behavior should be seen with the fact that I am not accustomed to his culture, and things that seem abnormal within the UK would seem perfectly valid within the culture that Fryberg was brought up in. Looking through his twitter page, his posts seem normal for a 14-year-old teenager and demonstrates a close relationship with his Girlfriend. There is evidence of aggressive posts posted around June time, four months before the events unfolded. This seems to continue until his last tweet on the 23rd October 2014, the day before the attack. Speaking as someone still within an education environment, these tweets do not seem too unusual for a 15-year-old child. It is fairly common for most young people to have some form of conflict with other peers. Once again, looking through his tweets, it does seem like he has been brought into conflicts that his girlfriend at the time had with other people, which once again is fairly normal within a school environment, especially within the UK.
One element of his Twitter page that did raise my interest was a number of posts regarding sex. It is evident that he engaged and enjoyed in sexual activity with his girlfriend. This is not completely unnormal behavior for a 14-year-old, but could indicate an increased level of testosterone which I will discuss further later.
It has been reported that Fryberg broke up with his girlfriend not long before committing the killings. This would indicate the first stage of the “fuse-wire snapping.” We already know that Fryberg was close to his girlfriend, and so consequently the break up could be seen to lead to a state of depression within Fryberg.
The text messages released within the police report certainly paint an interesting picture regarding his state of mind. He sends a lot of messages to his ex-girlfriend after they broke up. The vast majority of these messages went ignored, and mostly detailed how Jaylen was sorry for his actions and told her that he loved her deeply. Quite a few of these messages were aggressive towards his ex-girlfriend, seemly blaming her for the breakup of their relationship, and for spreading rumours. He sent messages to her, three days before the shooting took place that stated “please talk me out of this” and “the guns in my hand.” Looking back, these two messages gave a clear indication that Fryberg was going to attempt suicide in some way. These messages were sent around 6 AM on the 21/10/2014, but around 9 AM his ex-girlfriend replied by telling him that they were finished, and an argument occurred for the next few hours. At 7:37 PM, Jaylen sent a message saying “Ohk well don’t bother coming to my funeral.” Once again, this is clear evidence to indicate that Jaylen would try and kill himself and was having suicidal thoughts. I am taking this evidence from the text messages released within the Police report, but what is certainly interesting is that a message at 7:39 PM stated how she hated Jaylen, and no other messages were sent or received until 11:38 PM when the demeanor of the messages change substantially. They both seem to be getting along well as friends, with them talking about how she won’t get with “him” and continue to talk about their new relationship as “friends.” It is not clear who “him” refers to. The report specifies that for the next day or so they seem to be getting along. This is certainly strange behavior, especially considering the messages only a few hours beforehand, but could show Jaylen coming to terms with the end of the relationship.
At 10:02 PM on the 22/10/2014, Fryberg started to send more unanswered messages asking her why she deleted him off of Snapchat and asking her to speak with him. As the messages go unanswered, he sends her a message stating “Please. Or you nights gonna be hell…”, and follows up 20 minutes later with “I set the date. Hopefully you regret not talking to me”. Without having access to the full evidence, it is hard to determine when exactly the “fuse-wire snapped,” but it is highly possible that it was around this time. This certainly seems to be the time in which Fryberg decides that the shooting will occur. He continues with “You have no idea what I’m talking about. But you will.” and “Bang bang I’m dead.” Once again, this shows an admission that the shooting will take place, and Jaylen is planning to shoot himself. At 1:16 PM on the 23/10/2014, the day before the shooting, he sent a further message saying “Meet me by the cafeteria after school so I can say by.” It is unclear whether the two actually met that day, but once again, this shows further evidence that Fryberg was planning to commit suicide within the near future. Seven hours later he texted “Gonna need to call you at some point, so I hope you fuckin answer.” This message could indicate that the two never actually met that day. Only an hour after this he sends two messages saying “Hope you read my messages tomorrow,” “love you ___” and finally “I need you to read all of my text messages tomorrow. Can you do that?” Looking back over the events, it was very clear that Fryberg was stating that the shooting would take place; and he would take his life the next day.
The following morning, on the day of the attack, Fryberg texted “This saddens me” and followed that up with a message with an attachment twenty minutes later with the message “God damn. So fucked”. His last message was “Just please read my messages today. Ohk? Please….Thank you…..” The attachment that was sent was not detailed, however in an interview with his ex-girlfriend’s sister who was with his ex-girlfriend at the time, stated that Jaylen sent her a message with a picture of the gun between his legs asking her to get his Ex to call him. I also believe that he sent messages asking his Ex to “Talk him out of doing this.” The interview detailed that Fryberg’s ex-girlfriend did call him and spoke to him, and ended the call in an irate state. Approximately three minutes after this, she got a call stating that Fryberg had shot himself as well as his friends.
Certainly, through the days leading up to the shooting, there was clear evidence to show that Fryberg was depressed and was having suicidal thoughts. Furthermore, it is clear to see that Fryberg cared for his ex-girlfriend very much and was trying hard to win her back, and consequently, the fact that she continued to ignore him, and was defiant in saying that the relationship was over likely led to furthering the depression that Fryberg was feeling. I am certainly intrigued as to why they suddenly became friends after arguing, and what suddenly happened to cause the breakdown of this friendship only a few days later. As I don’t have access to this message range, however, it is very hard for me to determine. There was a clear amount of symptoms that indicated Depression. For example; Feeling of guilt and hopelessness, persistent “Sad feelings” and thoughts of suicide. Quite often, he sent messages throughout the night, which could also indicate that he was suffering from Insomnia. Once again, this is only an analysis taken from afar and should not be taken as a psychological diagnosis.
I would like to explore the relationship between Fryberg and his ex-girlfriend further, to try and determine how the relationship was before they broke up and the reasons behind the breakup. I have no reports from Fryberg regarding the relationship, only text messages sent, so most of my evidence will be from his ex-girlfriend through text messages and interviews she has had. Therefore this argument will be biased from one side.
The text messages start on the 06/09/2014 with his ex-girlfriend texting him to say “If we can stay happy and everything stays all good for a whole year..Then you can propose whenever the fuck you want”. Now, to me, this seems quite odd. This message demonstrates a strong relationship, but I would not class it as normal behaviour for two fourteen year olds to discuss getting engaged within the next year. Once again, I am looking at this from a UK culture, and consequently, this could be normal behaviour within Fryberg’s culture. The seriousness of the relationship could indicate that the relationship broke down due to both of them being inexperienced. It is also important to note that the detective stated that several of Jaylen’s texts referenced hunting and firearms, which I will come back to later. Two days before homecoming, Jaylen and his then girlfriend got into a fight, with her texting him asking why he wanted to be rude to her all the time. They then proceeded to get into a fight, with Jaylen threatening to go to homecoming alone. His then girlfriend replied stating “You’ve had a short fuse with me lately. Always so irritated an annoyed of me” It is unclear when this started to occur, but it was certainly a rapid change, as they had been discussing getting married only a week beforehand. It has been referenced that Fryberg has discussed killing himself before October, which could indicate that Fryberg was suffering from mental health issues well before this time. It is possible that this could be stress, or even a mild form of bipolar, which could indicate the sudden change in behaviour towards his girlfriend and could add a reason to the manic episode at the end of his life. They continued to discuss why he was acting this way towards her. Jaylen sends the final message stating “Nothing fucking going on with me! We were totally fine until you said some dumb ass shit”. This demonstrates that he was trying to pass the blame, and defend himself.
There are no messages in the report between then the beginning of homecoming.
From reading Police reports, and the text messages between his ex-girlfriend and her friends, the events that unfolded the night of homecoming seems to be as follows: A group of friends, including Jaylen and his girlfriend, went back to Jaylen’s house after homecoming to hang out. While there, his then girlfriend walked into Jaylen’s bedroom to find him in bed with another girl; who had a date previously but who had left around midnight. After seeing him in bed, she walked out the house and went for a walk, messaging her friend about what was going on, as her friend had become concerned about her location. After having this discussion, Jaylens then girlfriend decided to return to Fryberg’s house and tried to speak to Jaylen regarding what she had witnessed. At this time, however, Jaylen was asleep. During the night, Jaylen’s then girlfriend spoke to the girl he was in bed with about what she had seen, and some form of settlement had been made. During this time, it seems that Fryberg came into the room where they were both talking, but did not engage much in the conversation. According to the report, Fryberg’s girlfriend told him that she was not angry with him. Fryberg grabbed a backpack and walked out stating that he was “going to the woods to shoot something.” Within this time, there was a situation where Fryberg’s girlfriend asked him to come and lay with her, but he refused and got angry after she kept asking.
I’m unclear about how exactly they broke up, but it seems that Jaylen asked her to pack her bags and leave. After this, his ex-girlfriend texted Fryberg stating that she “hated him” and blamed him for them breaking up. The next messages came from Jaylen on the 20/10/2014, asking her why she was blaming person X for ruining their relationship”. Interestingly enough, Fryberg suggested that she told everyone that she was a psycho and “Tell everyone that you tried choking me and threw some punches, Cause that’s really why I broke up with you. I would have been fine with staying with you, but you just went crazy” and “don’t try and make this all mine or ___ fault. It’s yours”. He further said “I was gonna let your shit slide until you assumed me and ____ were doing something cause we were laying close to each other and then you went PSYCHO! That’s when I decided I was done.” After this message was sent, Jaylen continued to send aggressive messages to his ex-girlfriend, sending messages such as “I won’t talk to you.” Shortly after this message was sent, however, his demeanor changes. He sends the following message: “Alright. Can we talk? I bet right now you’re at the point to where you like to fuck him, I don’t want to do anything with him. And I get that. But can we talk real quick?” He also said, “And I bet you’re talking to someone so I’ll just leave that be.” This could demonstrate that Fryberg was jealous that his ex-girlfriend was possibly talking to someone else. After this, the messages went back to being aggressive. These messages remain unanswered.
He did not receive a response until he sent her a vague threat to kill himself. The message was sent on the 21/10/2014 and stated “Just please talk me out of this” and “The guns in my hand.” From police interviews conducted, it has been said that Jaylen and his ex-girlfriend talked about getting back together again. Although she wasn’t sure for definite, she told him that it would take months before it happened; if it did, but he must first cut all ties with Person X. He told her that he would stop texting Person X, but she replied telling him that would not explain the situation properly and he must send Person X a message explaining that he would stop talking to her. There had been previous messages to friends before this stating that she would never get back with him, as she had been hurt too much and he would continue to hurt her, and so I am unsure what caused the sudden change of opinion. I am also unsure when these messages were sent, but looking at the Police report on the text messages sent, it would seem like they discussed this just after Fryberg threatened to harm himself. However, the following morning, his ex-girlfriend send a message to Jaylen stating “Yeah, do not text me, Ever. Do not call me in the middle of the fucking night and say all this bullshit & then tell me you’re letting me go the next day!! So fucked up. DO NOT EVER TALK TO ME. Don’t text me. At all. I can’t believe you. I’m done. Forever, Don’t miss me, don’t want me back. EVER!! Because I’m done. Following the discussion about them getting back together, his ex-girlfriend sent a message to her friend about the fact that he never texted Person X and chose her over his ex-girlfriend. This text messages makes me believe that my timeline of events seems to be correct. She continued to text Jaylen stating “I hope you understand that you are NEVER getting me back. And I’m not gonna be here for you any longer. I’m out. All the way out. DONE. I never believe anything you fucking say. You’ve done enough damage, and I would appreciate if you just LEFT ME ALONE. Good job Jay. Thank you for making this a lot easier for me. Have a good life.” After this, they argued again, with her telling Jaylen to stop messaging her.
The argument continued, when Jaylen sent the following interesting message: “And no one…Will make you feel the way I make you feel… No one…..___ I love you so damn much it’s crazy. And it’s gonna kill us to see each other with other people. And I’ll tell you right now, I will, but I won’t care that you and __ are together. And when I see him he’s gonna get his for what he did. What me “Bro” said he wouldn’t do. He will die. Then you’ll see that he ain’t shit. I’m sorry for everything. I really am. I love you tho….I really do…More that anyone in the damn world…And I will….Forever and Ever”. This message was certainly passive-aggressive and seemed to indicate that he would kill someone. It is unclear who this person is, and whether they were apart of the four people killed by Fryberg. He refers to this person as “Bro” indicating that they were friends in some way, and the message indicates that the “Bro” and his ex-girlfriend were dating each other. The arguments continued, when Jaylen sent a message saying “Ohk well don’t bother coming to my funeral,” and when she asked what that was supposed to mean, he replied, “Not hard to guess.” The messages ended with her replying “God I fucking hate you!!!!!”. This message was sent at 7:39:34 PM. Another strange incident occurred. Although it appears that this was the last message, the next message from Jaylen was a couple of hours later saying “I won’t 🙂 I’m relaxed I promise. I just hate him that’s all…And I know it doesn’t, make sense cause you hate ___” She replied with “Yeah…it’ll be ok & I promise you, I’m not gonna be with him. Ever…” Once again, it is unclear who “Him” refers to.” She sends a second text message stating “Just take it baby steps, the whole friendship thing is new to the both of us. So we need to take it slow and take it easy. Fryberg replies stating “Ohk good…..I will kill him”. Once again, this certainly indicates an intention to murder whoever they are referring to. After this message, Fryberg discussed being deleted off snapchat which I discussed earlier.
This stream of messages certainly seems to give some clarity about the events that unfolded, and the reason for their breakup. However, it also opens up some questions regarding Fryberg’s state of mind. The messages certainly seem to indicate that Fryberg broke up with his girlfriend, and not the other way around. Throughout the messages sent, there was certainly a demonstration that the relationship was important to both of them. The breakdown of the relationship certainly had a detrimental impact on Jaylen, which likely leads to the “fuse-snapping,” causing the manic episode. The fact that Fryberg threatened to kill somebody certainly gave a clear warning sign that he was in an angry state. I am still curious as to what caused them to suddenly become friends, and what consequently caused this friendship to breakdown shortly afterwards.
I would now like to analyze what caused Fryberg to lay with another girl in the first place. This is very hard to explore, as Fryberg and his ex-girlfriend both gave different viewpoints of the situation. It has been reported that Fryberg had threatened to harm himself before October, which could indicate a further mental health problem, which could of lead to problems within the relationship. We know that there was a sudden change in his behaviour between them discussing getting engaged and homecoming. This could’ve been due to underlying mental health problems, such as bipolar, which would help explain the sudden change in attitude. If he was depressed, then this could explain the reason for his sudden change in behaviour, leading to him making a decision to cheat on his girlfriend. As I said, this is hard to analyse, as it is impossible to know what happened between Jaylen and the person in the bed. Jaylen said they were just lying close to each other, but Jaylen also said that his ex-girlfriend was saying they had sex together.
Another point of analysis is Jaylen’s levels of aggression. We know that he was a member of the school football team, and used to wrestle. This demonstrates an innate high aggression level which would be present within a sports person. This should not be considered abnormal. Fryberg was a keen hunter and knew how to use a gun from a young age. He often referenced hunting and firearms within his texts messages to his ex-girlfriend, for example: “grab a gun and see if we can’t shoot something”. Once again, I am looking at this from the perspective of a British person, but there is a clear indication that Jaylen liked firearms and enjoyed using them. There is also a possibility that he associated using firearms to solve problems, which could become an association through hunting. If this was the case, then it would provide further clarity to the motive behind the shootings. It has been documented that Fryberg got into a fight with another student days before the shooting took place. It has been said that the student made racist remarks, causing Jaylen to fight back, and as a consequence, Jaylen was removed off of the football team. From my knowledge of Jayeln, he seemed devoted to the football team, so consequently being removed from the team could have affected his mental state, and further driven his levels of depression, especially considering the recent relationship breakup. The depression alone could be accounted to the reason that Fryberg engaged the other student in a fight due to the comments. Once again, this event shows clear violent tendencies.
With every mass shooting that I have seen, there has always been a plan; and I’m yet to see a truly random attack. This was certainly the case in the Jaylen Fryberg case. Fryberg had sent text messages to his friends, asking them to skip lessons and meet him at first lunch. It should be noted that this was not abnormal behavior, according to reports, as Fryberg and others in the friendship group often skipped lessons to go to first lunch. One element that intrigued me, was that Jaylen had spoken to one of his friends, and had asked him to skip lesson to join him at Lunch. Initially, this was odd, as Fryberg had texted the other friends. When the person told him he needed to go to the lesson, Fryberg just accepted the answer and didn’t apply any pressure. Knowing what his plan was for that lunch time, it can certainly be seen as a little bit odd that he didn’t force the student to the lunch.
Throughout the morning of the killing, Fryberg seemed to be in a normal state of mind. It has been reported that during his first lesson, he had his head on the table for the duration. Psychologists have stated that this could be an indicator of mental health problems at that time, but reports from other students in the class stated that this is normal behavior, and a lot of students sleep during that class. It is, therefore, hard to determine whether or not this was an indicator for mental health problems. Shortly before the shooting, Jaylens ex-girlfriend texted another student at the school asking where Jaylen was. She was told that he was with the person he had been found in bed with. However, no information is present about the nature of them being together, and so once again it is hard to analyze exactly what was happening at that time. Moments before the shooting, it has been documented that Fryberg seemed in a normal state of mind. From this, he randomly stood up, took out the gun and started shooting. Fryberg’s calm nature through out the killing demonstrates a lack of compassion, which can be accredited to the manic episode. Fryberg knew how it was going to pan out and was consequently able to pull it off easily and carefree.
To conclude, the breakdown of the relationship and being kicked off the football team likely contributed to an already existing level of depression. It is possible that there were further underlying mental health issues, such as bipolar, which could account for the sudden change in behaviour seen in the relationship. Once again, it is impossible to diagnose from a distance. The sudden change in behavior, and the fact that Fryberg had already threatened to kill himself previously could indicate depression. This case certainly fits within my model. The fuse wire-snapped, the shooting was well planned, and then carried out exactly as planned, and the perpetrator killed themselves.
There were many warning signs within the Jaylen Fryberg case. If there is one thing that we can take from this, is that if you see anyone displaying any signs that they may kill themselves, it is important to report them and get them the help that they need. This could be a teacher, police officer, councilor or a medic. It doesn’t matter as long as the message is given to someone who can help.