Ten dead in minnesota school shooting
Scott Olson  /  Getty Images
Orville White holds a photograph of his niece Kara Jo Stillday (in pink), who was killed by Jeff Weise in a shooting at Red Lake High School in Red Lake, Minnesota.
updated 3/25/2005 4:46:13 PM ET 2005-03-25T21:46:13

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 facts.

Jeff Weise, 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 March 21.

"Darkest day"
''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 chairman.

''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 surrounding communities.

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.

Plan to help victims
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.

Closely knit tribe
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 act.

''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 said.

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 ways.

''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.''

Preventing "copycats"
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 other.''

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.

© 2013 Indian Country Today. All rights reserved.


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments