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Rampage in Minn. Mirrors Other Cases

Motive Unclear, but Student Was Considered Troubled

By Ceci Connolly and John F. Harris
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, March 23, 2005; Page A01

RED LAKE, Minn., March 22 -- The 16-year-old shooter in Monday's bloody rampage at a high school on a northern Minnesota Indian reservation had earlier that day killed his grandfather and stolen his police cruiser, which he drove to the front door of the school before racing inside to begin a spasm of gunfire, authorities said Tuesday.

Jeff Weise, whose record of antisocial behavior had led to his removal from school and placement in a home tutoring program, was wearing his grandfather's police-issued bulletproof vest and toting three firearms as he strode past a metal detector at Red Lake High School. Yelling taunts at some of his victims, he fatally shot an unarmed security guard who confronted him at the school's entrance, then did the same to a teacher and five students, federal investigators and survivors' relatives said.


Hundreds gathered at the state Capitol in St. Paul for a traditional Indian prayer service. Monday's rampage was the worst U.S. school shooting in five years. (Ann Heisenfelt -- AP)

_____More From the Post_____
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Experts Emphasize Interaction Over Security Measures (The Washington Post, Mar 23, 2005)
_____School Violence_____
Fatal Shootings at U.S. Schools

"Jeff is going to kill me, Jeff is going to shoot me," English teacher Neva Winnecop Rogers yelled before she was struck down, a survivor recounted.

Weise had followed Rogers and the students into a classroom after they fled the bullets ricocheting down a crowded hallway. Although they locked the door, Weise "shot out the window, reached in and unlocked it," said Karla Lajeunesse, whose 15-year-old daughter, Ashley, was huddled inside the classroom and recounted the ordeal.

After spraying bullets randomly, Weise left to stalk the hallways again, shooting as he walked. Soon, as police arrived and began firing back at him, the young man returned to the classroom and shot himself, said Michael Tabman, an FBI agent running the investigation.

The episode at the school on the Red Lake Indian Reservation lasted less than 10 minutes, according to a chronology Tabman gave reporters. Weise killed nine people, including a female companion of his grandfather's, before his suicide. Five people remained hospitalized Tuesday, two with critical injuries.

While the sequence and logistics of the attack -- in what was the most violent school mass killing since the 1999 incident at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo. -- were becoming more clear, the motivation behind them remained opaque. Most clues came from Weise, who left rambling Internet postings on a neo-Nazi Web site, in which he described his alienation from school and his surroundings, and professed admiration for Adolf Hitler.

As described by law enforcement authorities and reservation residents, the killings -- all at close range -- were at once unthinkable and hauntingly familiar. Like many previous school shootings, this incident featured a sullen adolescent male struggling to cope. Many, but not all, such incidents have been in similarly remote settings, where troubled youths often feel they have little escape, said Princeton University sociologist Katherine Newman, whose book "Rampage" is about school shootings.

The Red Lake reservation, where snow and ice covered the landscape of tall pines 60 miles from the Canadian border, does not fit the Minnesota reputation of mild-mannered folk enjoying tranquil and prosperous lives. As described by residents and authorities alike, the social dysfunction of Red Lake bears more resemblance to the movie "Fargo," set in a bleak and violent northland, than Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon.

The poverty rate on the reservation, nearly the size of Rhode Island, is 40 percent. The Drug Enforcement Administration has found high levels of use of cocaine, methamphetamine and OxyContin, and it has placed an agent at the nearby Bemidji airport to combat drug importation to Red Lake and other reservations, spokesman Christopher Hoyt said.

It was amid this dreary setting that, sometime before 3 p.m. local time Monday, Weise arrived at his grandfather's home carrying a .22-caliber handgun. He shot Daryl Lussier, a 58-year-old sergeant on the tribe's police force, and Lussier's companion, Michelle Sigana, 32.


Weise, who police said did not live at the residence, donned Lussier's bulletproof police vest, and a gun belt loaded with ammunition. The teen also stole two of his grandfather's police-issued weapons -- a 12-gauge shotgun and .40-caliber handgun -- and his cruiser.

Once at Red Lake High School, the first person he encountered was the security guard, 28-year-old Derrick Brun, who fell to the floor bleeding from his fatal wounds. Weise walked past the school office and the "cultural room" and down the hallway, where he spotted Rogers and the students.

As the shooting continued, they took flight into Missy Dodd's math class. As Weise barged in, Ashley Lajeunesse was sharpening her pencil, her mother said. Classmate Chase Lussier, 15, yelled for Ashley to dive under the desk, then lay in front of her. "Chase got shot and Ashley laid down on him and pretended she was dead," Karla Lajeunesse said in an interview.


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