A Tulalip man was sentenced to the medium-security federal prison in Sheridan, Oregon to serve 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. The son and four classmates died, and another student 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 while he was on probation for violating a domestic violence protection order issued in 2002 by Tulalip Tribal Court. Fryberg 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 purchased by Fryberg, a Beretta PX4 Storm pistol, was used by his son in the shooting at Marysville Pilchuck High School on October 24, 2014.
Jaylen, 15, texted suicide threats to an ex-girlfriend before the shooting. His five victims were Jaylen’s friends and two were his cousins. Only one survived the shootings. 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. He plans to appeal, according to his lawyer, John Henry Browne.
"He had no idea he wasn't supposed to have a gun. In fact, everything told him the opposite," Browne said. Fryberg was granted a concealed weapons permit by the state 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 disconnection 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 made an arrangement with local county superior courts to have the county court clerk enter the tribal orders into the state system.”
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 which were accessible to a 14-year-old and two children under the age of six.” All firearms in homes where children are present should be kept in a locked gun safe.
“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 10 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 her 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.