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US students fight for lives after latest school shooting

LOS ANGELES: Two teenage US girls were fighting for their lives Saturday after they were both shot in the head by a schoolmate during a deadly attack at a Washington state high school a day earlier.

The girls, both 14, are among four victims who were hospitalized after Friday’s bloodshed that left one student and the young shooter dead in yet another US school attack.

Joanne Roberts, a doctor at Providence Regional Medical Center in the city of Everett, 30 miles (50 kilometers) north of Seattle, said both girls had undergone surgery for head wounds.

“The next three days are going to be crucial,” Roberts said, explaining the surgery aimed to relieve brain swelling.

The shooting unfolded Friday morning when 14-year-old Jaylen Fryberg, a popular first-year student at the Marysville-Pilchuck High School, opened fire in the school cafeteria, classmates and officials said.

“I could see Jaylen standing up with a gun, and he started shooting,” fellow student Josiah Gould, 14, told the Seattle Times.

“They were sitting down and he was behind them shooting. After that I just ran.”

The gunman shot four students before killing himself, police said. The student that died was a girl, though authorities did not immediately release her name.

The wounded also included a male student, shot in the head and in critical condition, and a 15-year-old boy, in serious condition after he was shot in the jaw. Both boys were being treated at Harborview Medical Center.

A student identified as Austin told KING 5 television how the shooter was initially quiet before opening fire.

“He was just sitting there. Everyone was talking. All of a sudden I see him stand up, pull something out of his pocket,” he said.

“At first I thought it was just someone making a really loud noise with like a bag, like a pretty loud pop until I heard four more after that, and I saw three kids just fall from the table like they were falling to the ground dead.”

– Social media anguish –

Many in the community were baffled by the shooting. Fryberg was a popular student who had played on the football team and had been named a homecoming prince just a week ago, local media reported.

“When I saw him, I was like, oh my gosh, that’s Jaylen. I would have never expected it would have been him out of all people,” student Rachel Heichel said.

Fryberg, a Native American, had left a series of tortured posts on Twitter, suggesting a teenager used to handling guns, and hinting that a failed romance may have triggered the shooting.

One post on Instagram showed him brandishing a hunting rifle.

“Probably the best BirthDay present ever! I just love my parents!!!!,” he posted in a message accompanying the photo.

In his final post on Twitter on Thursday, Fryberg had stated ominously: “It won’t last…It’ll never last….”

Earlier, in August, he had issued threats to an apparent love rival: “Your not gonna like what happens next.”

The shooting, just the latest in a long line of such rampages in the United States, erupted in Marysville, 35 miles (55 kilometers) north of Seattle.

Authorities said the gun used in the shooting was legally acquired, and a law enforcement source told CNN that Fryberg used a .40-caliber semiautomatic handgun that belonged to his father.

Friday’s attack is likely to renew arguments over gun control, a topic already being considered by voters in Washington state, with competing measures on next month’s ballot. One aims to tighten background checks on firearms purchases, the other aims to limit them.

Previous mass shootings, like that which killed 20 children and six adults at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut in December 2012, have triggered intense debate about America’s gun laws.

Marysville police chief Rick Smith said the shooting should be a wake-up call.

“It’s time for us to act, and not just talk anymore,” he said. -AFP

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