Red Lake shootings
|Red Lake shootings|
|Location||Red Lake, Minnesota, United States|
|Date||March 21, 2005 |
2:49–2:58 p.m. (UTC-6)
|Target||Red Lake Senior High School|
|School shooting |
|Weapons||Semi-automatic pistols (Glock 23 and Ruger MK II)|
Shotgun (Remington 870)
|Deaths||10 (including the perpetrator)|
|Motive||Bullying, personal stress, depression|
The Red Lake shootings were a spree killing that occurred on March 21, 2005, in two places on the Red Lake Indian Reservation in Red Lake, Minnesota, United States. That morning, 16-year-old Jeffrey Weise killed his grandfather (a tribal police officer) and his grandfather's girlfriend at their home. After taking his grandfather's police weapons and vest, Weise drove his grandfather's police vehicle to Red Lake Senior High School, where he had been a student some months before.
Weise shot and killed seven people at the school and wounded five others. The dead included an unarmed security guard at the entrance of the school, then a teacher and five students. After the police arrived, Weise exchanged gunfire with them. After being wounded, he shot and killed himself, committing suicide in a vacant classroom.
By some accounts, at the time of the shooting Weise was living with his paternal grandfather, Daryl Lussier, Sr., a sergeant with the Red Lake Police Department, run by the Red Lake Ojibwe tribal government. The household included his grandfather's younger girlfriend, Michelle Leigh Sigana. His paternal aunts Shauna and Tammy Lussier said he had lived mostly with them for the past several years, and they helped him get treatment to deal with some of his behavioral issues and depression. In 1999, Jeff Weise's mother suffered severe brain damage in a car accident and since then had to receive care in a nursing home. Still a child, Weise was forced to move from Minneapolis to live with his father's family on the reservation. His father had committed suicide in 1997, so Weise was officially placed with his grandmother, Shelda (Gurneau) Lussier. His aunts Shauna and Tammy Lussier helped care for him, especially after the grandmother's death in 2003.
The reservation of the Red Lake Band of Ojibwe (aka Chippewa) is in northwest Minnesota and is one of two nationally that are "closed"; only Ojibwe tribal members may live there and own land. Its residents suffer high rates of unemployment, violence, and suicide. Housing is poor, and many students do not finish high school. Work opportunities are limited on the reservation, which has a population of more than 5,000. A study in 2004 found that a high proportion of students in high school had thought of suicide.
The day of the shootings, Weise retrieved a Ruger MK II .22 caliber pistol from his bedroom and fatally shot his grandfather as he was sleeping; he shot him two times in the head and ten times in the chest. According to Weise's friends, the teenager may have had the gun for as long as a year. He took Lussier's two police-issue weapons, a .40 caliber Glock 23 pistol and a Remington 870 12 gauge pump-action shotgun, a gunbelt and a bullet-proof vest. He fatally shot Sigana, his grandfather's girlfriend, two times in the head as she carried laundry up the stairs.
Weise drove his grandfather's squad car to Red Lake Senior High School, arriving at around 2:45 p.m. Central Standard Time. As he entered the school through the main entrance, he encountered two unarmed security guards manning a metal detector. Weise shot and killed Derrick Brun, while the other security guard escaped without injury. Weise proceeded into the main corridor of the school.
He began shooting into an English classroom, killing three students and one teacher, and wounding three students. Ashley Lajeunesse said that Chase Lussier (no direct relation to Daryl Lussier) sheltered her, and was one of those shot by Weise. Jeffrey May, a 16-year-old sophomore, tried to wrestle Weise inside the classroom, and stabbed him in the stomach with a pencil. His diversion allowed students to flee the classroom to safety, but Weise shot May two times in the neck and once in the jaw, leaving him seriously injured.
Witnesses said Weise smiled as he was shooting at people. One witness said that Weise asked a student if he believed in God. This is believed to have been a reference to a widely publicized exchange during the 1999 Columbine High School massacre between Dylan Klebold and Valeen Schnurr, a Columbine survivor.
At around 2:52 p.m., Weise returned to the main entrance, where he killed two students and wounded two others. The police had arrived quickly and engaged him in gunfire. FBI special agent Paul McCabe said the shootout lasted for about four minutes. None of the officers were injured. After being hit in the abdomen and right arm, Weise retreated to a vacant classroom. He leaned against a wall, put the shotgun barrel to his chin, and fired, killing himself.
Fatalities and funerals
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Police said a total of ten people, including the perpetrator, had died in these events.
- Daryl Allen Lussier, age 58, Police Officer and Jeff Weise's grandfather.
- Michelle Leigh Sigana, age 31, Lussier's girlfriend.
- Derrick Brian Brun, age 28, Security Guard.
- Neva Jane Wynkoop-Rogers, age 62, English teacher.
- Alicia Alberta White, age 14, student.
- Thurlene Marie Stillday, age 15, student.
- Chanelle Star Rosebear, age 15, student.
- Chase Albert Lussier, age 15, student.
- Dewayne Michael Lewis, age 15, student.
- Jeffrey James Weise, age 16, student/perpetrator.
The night after the shooting, many people of the community gathered at the high school gymnasium for a healing ceremony. They used traditional Ojibwe ceremony and prayer.
Within days, preparations started for funerals on the reservation. Tribal members drew from Ojibwe traditions as well as Catholic rites. They "collected bundles of sage, to be given as gifts and burned during funeral ceremonies." Families picked personal items to be placed in the caskets.
- Buck Jourdain, Chairman of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians, said that the shootings were "one of the darkest and most painful occurrences in the history of our tribe."
- Louis Jourdain, the son of the Tribal Chairman Buck Jourdain, was arrested in connection with the shootings on March 28, 2005 and charged with conspiracy to commit murder. He was charged based on several email messages which he exchanged with Weise related to plans for the Red Lake High School shooting. The government dropped the conspiracy charge; Jordain pleaded guilty to transmitting threatening messages through the Internet.
- Derrick Brun, the security guard, was recognized for his bravery, including by President George W. Bush.
- Jeffrey May, a sophomore injured while trying to attack Weise, was highly praised. He was featured in Reader's Digest and The New York Times.
Aid to victims and families
Minnesota has a state fund that aids victims and their families. In addition, the Red Lake Band of Chippewa established a memorial fund; it reached $200,000 in donations from across the country by April 2005. Initially the tribe made 15 grants of $5,000 each to victims and families, including one to Weise's relatives. A tribal spokesman noted his family was not eligible for state compensation and said that they carried "a double burden." The grant was to help pay for Weise's funeral and burial.
On July 21, 2006, the Red Lake school district reached a settlement with the families of the massacre victims. The school district agreed to pay $1,000,000 total to 21 of the victims' families, the maximum amount allowed by Minnesota law. Of the settlement, $900,000 will immediately be granted to the families, and the remaining $100,000 will be set aside for future distribution.
Jeffrey Weise was labeled an outsider in the community and had been placed in "homebound" schooling for breaking school rules. He is remembered as a quiet kid, that normally wore a black trench coat, and gel in his hair.
Weise had grown up with a difficult and disrupted family life; his parents were a young unmarried couple who separated before he was born. His 17-year-old mother's family insisted that Joanne Weise give up her son to the father, who was a few years older. Jeff Weise did not live again with his mother until after he was two years old, when she reclaimed him and took him to Minneapolis. In later Internet postings, Weise wrote that his mother had become an alcoholic who was sometimes physically and emotionally abusive. In 1992 she started dating Timothy Troy DesJarlait, and they married in 1998 after having had two children together. Jeffrey attended several different schools during his years as a student.
In 1997, when Weise was eight, his father Daryl Lussier, Jr. committed suicide by shooting himself. He had a standoff over several days with the Red Lake Police Department in Red Lake, where his father Daryl Lussier, Sr. was a sergeant with the tribal police.
In 1999, when Weise was ten, his mother was in a car accident and suffered severe brain damage. She had to be committed to a nursing home for rehabilitation. After separating from her in 2000, Timothy DesJarlait divorced Weise's mother in May 2004.
Jeff was placed in the custody of his paternal grandmother Shelda (Gurneau) Lussier, who lived on the Red Lake Reservation. He had to leave Minneapolis, where he had lived most of his life, to be with her and other paternal relatives.
Police investigators began searching for a motive behind the shootings. According to their findings and media reports, Weise was often bullied or teased in school by classmates. A tall youth weighing 250 pounds (115 kg), he was known to wear dark eyeliner, as well as a long black trench coat and other black clothing to school year round. He was referred to as a "goth kid" by many of his classmates. He did not usually respond to taunts. Some fellow students thought of him as a loner, but he had his own circle of friends.
Jeff Weise expressed frustration about living in Red Lake, and felt his life was beyond his control. During these years, he got close to his grandfather, Daryl Lussier, Sr., who gave him a bedroom of his own. Lussier, Sr. lived with his companion Michele Sigana. Weise was said to have a good relationship with his grandfather.
Although Jeff had been separated from his mother and stepfather for years by the time of their divorce in May 2004, he attempted suicide soon after, and again in June 2004. At that time, his aunts and the Red Lake Medical Center arranged for Weise to be taken to a hospital for psychiatric treatment, where he stayed for three days.
The teen was prescribed Prozac as an anti-depressant, to be continued as treatment together with counseling. His doctor had increased his dosage a week before the shooting, to 60 mg a day of Prozac. His aunts Shauna and Tammy Lussier, with whom Weise lived much of the time at Red Lake, said they had arranged for his medical care and were concerned about the increase in his dosage. Weise's murders reopened the debate about Prozac use among children and adolescents. In October 2004, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had issued a warning about its use; but it is still the only anti-depressant approved for use with children.
Lorene Gurneau, a relative of his paternal grandmother, said she and other family members thought Jeff had never gotten over his father's suicide in 1997. In addition, his mother's car accident in 1999 had left her comatose and in a nursing home, which meant that Jeff had effectively lost both parents by the age of ten.
Weise was discovered to have been active on the Internet. According to The Smoking Gun, Weise created two violent Flash animations for the flash website Newgrounds, using the alias "Regret." One animation entitled Target Practice, features a character who murders three people with a rifle, blows up a police car with a grenade, and kills a Klansman. The 30-second animation ends with the shooter committing suicide. Weise had created another Flash animation entitled Clown, in which a clown kills a man by eating his head.
A LiveJournal account, apparently created by Weise, contained his three entries posted between December 2004 and January 2005. The weblog was customized to be rendered in black and white. Weise expressed his desire for change and salvation in his life.
Weise was a fan of the music genre known as horrorcore. It was reported on KARE 11 that Weise was a fan of horrorcore rappers such as Mars, Jimmy Donn and Prozak. Weise was known to frequent the Mars website. Jimmy Donn's song "Game Over" (which is a song about a school shooting) was said to be one of Weise's favorite songs, and Weise owned Jimmy Donn's album The Darker Side.
Legacy and memorials
Siblings of the victims and survivors participated in the 2018 School Walk Outs, that was designed to show respect for shooting victims seen nationally but especially in Florida and Red Lake.
- List of massacres in Minnesota
- Gun violence in the United States
- Mass shootings in the United States
- List of rampage killers
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