Teen who killed 9 claimed Nazi leanings
Troubled family history includes father's suicide, mother's absence
NBC, MSNBC and news services
Updated: 4:11 p.m. ET March 22, 2005
BEMIDJI, Minn. - A troubling profile of the teenager who shot dead nine people emerged on Tuesday — one of a Native American who allegedly described himself as a "NativeNazi" and who other students said was regularly picked on for his odd behavior.
The teenager, identified as Jeff Weise, stormed into Red Lake High School on Monday afternoon and allegedly shot to death an unarmed guard, a teacher and five students before killing himself.
Before the Red Lake shootings, Weise, whom authorities described variously as 16 or 17, allegedly shot dead his grandfather and his grandfather's girlfriend at the home he shared with them.
Initial reports had as many as 15 people injured in the shootings at the school, but authorities lowered that number to seven on Tuesday. Five remained in regional hospitals, including two students with critical injuries from gunshot wounds to the head or face.
It was the nation’s worst school shooting since the Columbine massacre in 1999 that killed 13 people.
Guns, squad car were grandfather's
The FBI said Tuesday that Weise used guns and a bullet-proof vest owned by his grandfather, a local police officer, and drove to the school in his grandfather's squad car.
Red Lake Fire Director Roman Stately identified the shooter’s grandfather as Daryl Lussier, a longtime officer with the Red Lake Police Department.
At the school entrance Weise encountered a 28-year old unarmed security guard, whom he apparently shot and killed, FBI spokesman Michael Tabman said Tuesday. After killing a number of students and a teacher, "he then roamed through the school, firing randomly," said Tabman.
When police officers arrived, there was an exchange of fire and Weise apparently retreated to a classroom and killed himself. The whole episode lasted about 10 minutes, Tabman said.
Though Weise was captured on videotape inside the school, the recording did not capture any of the actual killings, Tabman said.
Weise had been placed in the school’s Homebound program for a policy violation, said school board member Kathryn Beaulieu. Students in that program stay at home and are tutored by a traveling teacher. Beaulieu said she didn’t know what Weise’s violation was, and wouldn’t be allowed to reveal it if she did.
Student Sondra Hegstrom, 17, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that Weise was into Goth culture, wore "a big old black trench coat," drew pictures of skeletons, listened to heavy metal music and "talked about death all the time."
A couple of his friends had said he was suicidal, she added, and they said they were watching a movie once when he said, "That would be cool if I shot up the school."
"They didn't think anything of it," Hegstrom said, but "he got terrorized a lot" by others who called him names.
Relatives of Weise told the St. Paul Pioneer Press that Weise's father committed suicide four years ago, and his mother lives in a Minneapolis nursing home because she suffered brain injuries in a car accident, the relatives said.
Tabman said investigators did not know if a grudge or vendetta led to the killings and that Weise's targets appeared to be random. Authorities also said Weise appeared to have acted alone.
Online postings about 'racial purity'
Weise was also found by the St. Paul Pioneer Press newspaper to have posted several comments last year on an online forum frequented by neo-Nazis. He used the pen names Todesengel, German for "angel of death," and "NativeNazi."
"I guess I've always carried a natural admiration for Hitler and his ideals, and his courage to take on larger nations," Weise wrote in one session.
He shared the Nazi goal of racial purity, saying that when he talked in school about that for his own Chippewa tribe, "I get the same old argument which seems to be so common around here. 'We need to mix all the races, to combine all the strengths.'"
"They (teachers) don't openly say that racial purity is wrong," he added, "yet when you speak your mind on the subject you get 'silenced' real quick by the teachers and likeminded school officials."
"When I was growing up, I was taught (like others) that Nazi's were evil and that Hitler was a very evil man," he said in another posting. "Of course, not for a second did I believe this. ... They truly were doing it for the better."
He also wrote that he planned to recruit high school students to join a neo-Nazi movement he hoped to start on his reservation.
"The only ones who oppose my views are the teachers at the high school, and a large portion of the student body who think a Nazi is a Klansman, or a White Supremacist thug," he wrote. "Most of the Natives I know have been poisoned by what they were taught in school."
The FBI's Tabman said the bureau was investigating the reports of Weise's racial postings, but that it had not yet confirmed they were his.
Students describe ordeal
Student Reggie Graves said he was watching a movie about Shakespeare when he heard Weise blast his way past the metal detector.
Then, in a nearby classroom, he heard Weise say something to his friend Ryan: “He asked Ryan if he believed in God,” Graves said. “And then he shot him.”
During the rampage, teachers herded students from one room to another, trying to move away from the sound of the shooting, said Graves, 14. He said some students crouched under desks.
Terror in the classroom
Student Ashley Morrison said she heard shots, then saw the gunman’s face peering though a door window of a classroom where she was hiding with other students.
With Weise banging on the door, she dialed her mother on her cell phone. “’Mom, he’s trying to get in here and I’m scared,”’ Morrison told her mother.
After banging, the shooter walked away and she heard more shots.
“I can’t even count how many gunshots you heard, there was over 20 ... there were people screaming, and they made us get behind the desk,” she said.
Hegstrom said her classmates pleaded with Weise to stop shooting.
“You could hear a girl saying, 'No, Jeff, quit, quit. Leave me alone. What are you doing?” she told The Pioneer of Bemidji.
Hegstrom described Weise grinning and waving at a student his gun was pointed at, then swiveling to shoot someone else. “I looked him in the eye and ran in the room, and that’s when I hid,” she said.
Students and a teacher, Diane Schwanz, said the gunman tried to break down a door to get into her classroom. “I just got on the floor and called the cops,” Schwanz told the Pioneer. “I was still just half-believing it.”
All of the dead students were found in one room.
Martha Thunder’s 15-year-old son, Cody, was being treated for a gunshot wound to the hip.
“He heard gunshots and the teacher said 'No, that’s the janitor’s doing something,’ and the next thing he knew, the kid walked in there and pointed the gun right at him,” Thunder said, standing outside the hospital in Bemidji.
‘Darkest hour' for tribe
Floyd Jourdain Jr., chairman of the Red Lake Chippewa Tribe, called it “without a doubt the darkest hour” in the group’s history.
It was the nation’s worst school shooting since two students at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., killed 12 students and a teacher and wounded 23 before killing themselves on April 20, 1999.
The rampage in Red Lake was the second fatal school shooting in Minnesota in 18 months. Two students were killed at Rocori High School in Cold Spring in September 2003. Student John Jason McLaughlin, who was 15 at the time, awaits trial in the case.
Red Lake High School, on the Red Lake Indian Reservation, has about 300 students.
The reservation is about 240 miles north of the Twin Cities. It is home to the Red Lake Chippewa Tribe, one of the poorest in the state. According to the 2000 census, 5,162 people lived on the reservation, and all but 91 were Indians.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.