Federal authorities have arrested a relative of a Red Lake tribal leader in connection with the shooting spree that killed 10 people on the tribe's Minnesota reservation last week, officials said yesterday.
U.S. Attorney Thomas B. Heffelfinger in Minneapolis announced the arrest yesterday but declined to provide details about the juvenile suspect or his alleged connection to the killings, citing federal confidentiality rules governing juveniles.
Mourners console one another at the funeral service for Red Lake High School teacher Neva Rogers in Bemidji, Minn.
(Eric Hylden -- Grand Forks Herald Via AP)
But two law enforcement officials familiar with the investigation said the teenager, arrested Sunday in Duluth, Minn., is suspected of helping Jeff Weise, 16, plan last week's assault and had expected to be part of the rampage. Prosecutors are considering whether to charge the juvenile as an adult with conspiracy to commit murder, the officials said.
Authorities have not ruled out more arrests and are continuing to question other teenagers about whether they knew about Weise's plans beforehand, the law enforcement officials said.
The arrest represents a surprising shift in the investigation of the March 21 killings, and was announced on the same day that Weise and three of his victims were laid to rest in funerals. Weise killed nine people, including five students and a teacher, before killing himself. He has been portrayed as a troubled loner with a history of depression, family tragedy and violent fantasies.
Heffelfinger said that the juvenile was arrested "as a result of the ongoing and continuing investigation into the events of March 21st" and that the case is being handled by U.S. District Court in Minneapolis.
Some local and national news outlets identified the juvenile by name. The Washington Post does not name juvenile criminal suspects unless they are charged as adults or have been publicly identified by family members.
FBI officials in Minneapolis declined to comment on the arrest. The agent in charge of the probe, Michael Tabman, said in a statement that "from the beginning, we made a promise to close every loop, to leave no stone unturned, and to ensure that the investigation is thorough and complete."
"We are committed to ensuring the continued safety of the Red Lake Nation," Tabman said.
Meanwhile, tribal members and outsiders continue to mourn those who were killed. Funerals were held yesterday for Weise; security guard Derrick Brun, 28; student Alicia White, 14; and Neva Rogers, 62, a schoolteacher. Three funerals were held Saturday.
Jeffrey May, 15, who was shot in the head, was listed in serious condition. Steven Cobenais, 15, was also shot in the head and was listed in critical condition. They are in MeritCare Hospital in Fargo, N.D.
Since shortly after the shootings last week, FBI agents have been aggressively interviewing Weise's classmates and acquaintances, angering some tribal members on the remote Red Lake reservation in northern Minnesota.
"It's a trying time," said Allen Pemberton, a Red Lake tribal council member. "People are in shock. They can't eat. They can't believe it. It's hard on us -- just everything. Then they hear this and they just can't believe it. I went to a lot of funerals. I'm just numb."
Leo Downwind, stepfather of Sky Grant, a friend of Weise's, said his son was interrogated Easter Sunday. He said FBI agents and tribal police officers came in a black Suburban to his small house -- about five miles from the high school -- at 8:30 Sunday morning and asked Sky to come to the tribe's police station. Downwind said his son was questioned for about four hours about his relations with Weise.
"They went through a whole interrogation of my son," Downwind said. He said the police told him there was information on Weise's computer and on a computer of "another of Jeff's buddies." He said his son does not have a computer.
Sky's sister, Lee Ann Grant, 20, was a security guard at the high school and saw Weise when he came in with guns. She ran and helped get students out of the school, while her colleague, Brun, tried to talk to Weise but was killed.
"Everybody's up in turmoil here," Downwind said of the Sunday arrest. "We don't know what's going to happen with the school or what's going to happen with the government."
The shooting at Red Lake is the deadliest school-related massacre since 15 died at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., in 1999. Authorities and witnesses have said Weise first killed his grandfather, who was a tribal police officer, and his grandfather's companion at a home on the reservation.
Weise then armed himself with some of his grandfather's weapons and drove to the reservation's high school, where he killed a security guard, a teacher and five students. After an exchange of gunfire, Weise -- who frequented neo-Nazi Web sites -- killed himself, officials said.