RED LAKE, Minn. - In the days after 10 people were killed by a lone shooter
at a high school here, there is more speculation about the incident than
JeffWeise, 16, walked into the high school and shot seven people before
turning a gun on himself. He first killed his grandfather, Daryl Lussier, a
tribal police officer and his grandfather's girlfriend, Michelle Sigana, on
"Right now we are in utter disbelief and shock Our community is just
devastated by this event," said Floyd "Buck" Jourdain Jr., Red Lake tribal
"This is the darkest day in the history of our people," he said.
This rural, close-knit community has come together to mourn its loss and
begin the healing process. The day after the rampage, a pipe ceremony was
held in St. Paul, some 260 miles south of Red Lake. The All Nations Church
in Minneapolis became the home of prayer for most of the day March 23, and
prayers were held at Red Lake churches and at community centers in
Weise used a .22-caliber pistol to kill Lussier and Sigana; taking
Lussier's bullet-proof vest, a .44-caliber pistol and a shotgun, he then
drove his grandfather's police vehicle to the school.
With a holster on his waist, Weise arrived at the school and shot unarmed
security guard Derrick Brun, Tabman said. He then entered the building,
where he saw some students and a teacher in the hallway, fired shots and
pursued them into a classroom. He shot teacher Neva Rogers and other
students before going back into the hallway. He then returned to the
classroom and shot himself.
Tabman said there were a lot of shots fired but he couldn't say how many.
Local communities activated crisis plans to help the victims. Two hospitals
were involved, where five students were treated for wounds. Two received
head wounds that required specialized surgery.
Weise was seen as a loner who was picked on by other students and who
frequented a neo-Nazi Web site. He wore black clothes, used black eyeliner
and allegedly remarked that it would be cool to shoot up a school. Some
students said he dressed in Goth clothing.
Officials said all indications point to a planned shooting. FBI special
agent Michael Tabman noted the actual motive is not yet known.
News reports claimed Weise wrote on Nazi forums that he was interested in
joining a Native American Nationalist group and that Nazis were
misunderstood. He also allegedly wrote that there were too many non-Indians
infiltrating the reservation. A forensic investigation will determine if he
is in fact the author of those Internet postings. He is said to have used
the name Todesengel, German for "angel of death."
Weise's father committed suicide four years ago, and a head injury suffered
in an automobile accident left his mother comatose and in a nursing home.
He lived between his grandfather and grandmother's homes.
Preventing this type of incident lies in the culture of American Indian
families, said Leland Leonard, Navajo Nation education director.
"Such a small tribe, and usually a small tribe like that, is closely knit.
It shouldn't have happened," Leonard said.
"It goes down to leadership and family values. Violence is violence; you
have to look at what happened to that tribe, what happened in the family.
His father committed suicide, and in the mind of a kid that is a violent
"Acts of violence go back to the teaching - how much is being shared with
the younger folks, the language, the culture. It is who we are; it is in
our blood line. If you value that, you can curb things like this," Leonard
Katherine Newman, professor of Sociology at Princeton University and author
of "Rampage: The Social Roots of School Shootings," said on National Public
Radio's "Talk of the Nation" program that this incident will not be viewed
as an American Indian issue, but will be known for its similarity to other
school shootings, many of which took place in rural communities.
She said that referring to him as a loner is wrong; rather, he was a
reluctant participant. These types of people want to engage in behavior
that will draw attention so they can be viewed as tough and someone to
fear, she said.
"We are saddened by this tragedy, the pain and loss of which has been felt
throughout Indian country," said NIGA Chairman Ernie Stevens Jr.
Joe Shirley Jr., Navajo Nation president, said the types of incident that
occurred at Red Lake are the result of losing the culture and traditional
"Our elders teach that we are all in this together and we all need help. It
is not up to one government, one tribe, one family or one man. There are
real needs out there, and this incident is a heart-rending way to be
reminded of that."
Law enforcement from around the region - federal, tribal, state and county
- worked together to help victims and to protect others. BIA Director Pat
Ragsdale said his organization had 20 officers on the ground to help the
FBI with the investigation. Noting that the country's 184 American Indian
schools are now on heightened security to prevent "copycat" incidents, he
added that by all accounts, school officials acted properly. "We have
contingency plans for most situations. We will make sure plans are updated
and the coordination points are there.
"We are funneling all our efforts of the IHS and BIA and victim assistance
and witness protection [programs] with a team of people. We are trying to
coordinate the federal effort to relieve the tribes from stepping over each
The IHS rallied mental health providers with expertise in such environments
and knowledge of Indian country, and worked to coordinate the efforts of
people on the ground. Ragsdale said efforts to secure schools across Indian
country are underway.
"This is a dark day for Indian country for sure: it illustrates that we
share common problems with the rest of society ... This is not an Indian
incident - it happened at an Indian school.
"In some respects we are more aware of it because of families; I take it
personally. There were our kids," Ragsdale said.
Contribution to provide assistance to victim's families can be sent to Red
Lake Nation Memorial Fund, P.O. Box 574, Red Lake, MN 56671.