Students in the cafeteria said the gunman stared at the students as he shot them yesterday. They described a chaotic scene at Marysville Pilchuck High School, as panicked students ran for safety.

The shooter was a student at the school 50 kilometers north of Seattle, but Marysville Police Commander Robb Lamoureux said he could not provide more information on the gunman or his motive.

Lamoureux said the shooter died of a self-inflicted wound.

Student Alan Perez told KING-TV he was eating his lunch near the gunman when he heard the shots. "He had a little gun in his hand. I saw the flash from the muzzle," Perez said.

Another student, Austin Taylor, told the station the shooter "was just staring down every one of his victims as he shot them."

Cedar Parker, a 17-year-old senior, told The Associated Press he was driving away from campus for lunch when he saw students running and trying to jump a fence. Parker let several into his car. He heard other students yelling for their friends: "Where are you?"

Brian Patrick said his daughter, a freshman, was in the cafeteria 3 meters from the gunman when the shooting occurred.

She ran from the cafeteria and immediately called her mother.Patrick said his daughter told him, 'The guy walked into the cafeteria, pulled out a gun and started shooting. No arguing, no yelling."

His other daughter, a senior at the school, called him 'hysterical' from her classroom, Patrick said. "I thought, 'God let my kids be safe," he said.

Four students were taken to Providence Everett medical centre, said hospital spokeswoman Heidi Amrine. Three were in "very critical" condition. It was not immediately clear if the person who died was one of those students.