Trial of father of Washington school shooter begins

23 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Attorney: Father of Marysville school shooter believed he could legally possess guns.

SEATTLE (AP) — Prosecutors told jurors Tuesday that the father of the teenager who shot and killed four classmates and himself repeatedly lied on forms to illegally buy firearms. Eleven months ago, 15-year-old Jaylen Fryberg took his father’s .40-caliber Beretta Px4 Storm handgun and opened fire on his friends and cousins in the cafeteria at his high school 40 minutes north of Seattle, fatally injuring four of his classmates and wounding another before turning the gun on himself. The slaughter at Marysville Pilchuck High School marked the deadliest school shooting since 26 students and teachers were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012. This week, Fryberg’s father, Raymond Lee Fryberg Jr., who helped his son hone his shooting skills, is standing trial in federal court for six counts of unlawful possession of a firearm.

Prosecutors say Fryberg was the subject of a 2002 domestic-violence protection order, making it illegal for him to have that handgun and the nine rifles found in his possession. Attorney’s Office in Seattle and Fryberg’s attorneys will lay out their plans to the 14-person jury, including two alternates during opening statements. The government is alleging that Fryberg lied on ATF form 4473, the background check paperwork he filled out when he purchased the Beretta and four other guns from a Cabela’s superstore between January 2013 and July 2014.

District Court Judge James Robart and lawyers on both sides questioned about two dozen jurors individually, almost half were sent home based on their answers. One woman was excused because she works for the Marysville School District, while another was let go because her child is a student at the high school. In 2002, after he threatened, slapped and pulled the hair of his ex-girlfriend, Raymond Fryberg had a permanent order of protection issued against him by tribal court, disqualifying him from firearm ownership. Fryberg’s lawyer is arguing that he was never notified of the gun ban, and that Fryberg was therefore not being knowingly deceptive when he completed his background check form. Defense attorney John Henry Browne countered by saying the now-deceased tribal police officer who said he served Fryberg with the paperwork was the brother of Fryberg’s ex-girlfriend, who had sought the protection order.

Fryberg’s word alone should not have been enough to evade federal screening, but his domestic violence restraining order — which he received probation for violating in 2012 — was never reported to the state and national databases that feed the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS. That’s because here is no uniform system for making sure that the relevant records from the nation’s 567 Native American tribes make it into NICS. Still, the raw emotions left from the shooting were visible in court: Fryberg’s family filled one side of the courtroom, while family and friends of shooting victims lined the other side. That check came back clear, along with at least a dozen other government checks, Browne said. “You can’t get any more thoroughly checked than you are for a concealed-weapon permit,” he said. “Mr. Francesca Hillary, a spokeswoman for the Tulalip Reservation, said after the shooting that tribes had been asking for a streamlined records reporting system for more than a decade.

While a 2010 Congressional Act required the Attorney General to ensure that tribal officials could access national crime information databases, leading to two pilot projects, the Department of Justice said in August that state regulations prevented information sharing among all of the nation’s tribes and the federal government. In the meantime, tribes have been relying on their own methods: some enter records directly in NICS, some rely on state or local agencies to do the reporting, and some have no involvement with federal and state databases at all. On tribal hunting trips, Fryberg was stopped by game wardens who also ran his name through databases, “and they all came back negative,” Browne said. “Now we have 10 to 15 occasions where he was told by authorities he was not prohibited from having firearms.” A judge granted Gobin the permanent order because Fryberg never appeared at a hearing to contest it. According to Heather Anderson, section chief of the Washington State Patrol’s Criminal Records Division, participation in the program to build those databases is voluntary, and the Tulalip Tribes were not participating at the time. In 2010, the last year for which such information was available, the ATF referred only 62 of 72,659 denied applicants for prosecution — that’s 0.09 percent.

The tribes are a participant now, she said, and restraining orders out of Tribal Court are entered into the system by the Snohomish County sheriffs Office and recorded in Superior Court as well. The Center for American Progress suggested in 2013 that the ATF study the two million NICS denials issued since its inception in 1998 and develop a risk-assessment system for denied applicants.

Brown has accused the government of trying to punish his client for the sins of his son. “He had nothing to do with what happened at that high school,” he said shortly after Fryberg was charged in March.

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