Red Lake shootings

See also: Jeff Weise
Red Lake shootings
Location Red Lake, Minnesota, United States
Date March 21, 2005 (2005-03-21)
2:49–2:58 p.m. (UTC-5)
Target Red Lake Senior High School
Attack type
School shooting, murder–suicide, massacre, spree killing, shootout
Deaths 10 (including the perpetrator)
Non-fatal injuries
Perpetrator Jeffrey Weise
Motive Bullying, personal stress, depression

The Red Lake shootings were an incident of spree killing on March 21, 2005 that occurred 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. He was wounded and then committed suicide in a vacant classroom.


By some accounts, 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.[1] In 1999, Jeff Weise's mother suffered severe brain damage in a car accident and 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,[2] so Weise was officially placed with his grandmother, Shelda (Gurneau) Lussier.[2] 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.[3] 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.[4]


The day of the shootings, Weise got 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.[1] 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 went into the main corridor of the school.

He began shooting into an English classroom, killing three students and one teacher, and wounding three students.[5] 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.[6] 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 injured, though not fatally.[3]

Witnesses said Weise smiled as he was shooting at people. One witness said that Weise asked a student if he believed in God.[5] 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 shoot-out lasted for about four minutes. None of the officers were injured.[5] After being hit in the abdomen and right arm, Weise retreated to a vacant classroom.[7] He leaned against a wall, put the shotgun barrel to his chin, and fired, killing himself.[1]


Healing and funerals

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.[3]

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."[2] Families picked personal items to be placed in the caskets.[2]

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.[12]

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.


Police investigators began searching for reasons for Weise's shootings. According to their findings and media reports, Weise was often bullied or teased in school by classmates. A tall youth weighing 250 pounds, he was known to wear dark eyeliner,[13] as well as a long black trench coat and other black clothing to school year round.[13] He was referred to as a "goth kid" by many of his classmates.[14] He did not usually respond to taunts. Some fellow students thought of him as a loner, but he had his own circle of friends.

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.[15] 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 nine, his father Daryl Lussier, Jr. committed suicide by shooting himself.[16] 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 Jeff was eleven, his mother was in a car accident and suffered severe brain damage. She had to be committed to a nursing home for rehabilitation,[13] and continues comatose.[2] 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.

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.[2]

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[1] and the Red Lake Medical Center arranged for Weise to be taken to a hospital for psychiatric treatment, where he stayed for three days.[2]

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.[17] 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.[1] 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 the only anti-depressant approved for use with children.[1]

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 eleven.[2]

Internet activities

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 an assault 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 (that scene is shown for less than a second).[18]

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.[19] 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.[19]

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Marisa Helms, "Shooting fuels debate over safety of Prozac for teens", Minnesota Public Radio, 25 March 2005, accessed 18 December 2012
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 P.J. Huffstutter, "Red Lake Reservation Readies Burial Rituals", Los Angeles Times, 24 March 2005, accessed 18 December 2012
  3. 1 2 3 Chris Maag, "The Devil in Red Lake", TIME Magazine, 27 March 2005, accessed 19 December 2012
  4. Kimberly Sevcik, "Reservation for Death", Salon, 8 August 2005
  5. 1 2 3 "Ten dead in US school shooting | Special reports | Guardian Unlimited
  6. "Tales Of School Shooting Bravery, Slain Security Guard, Wounded Student Saved Others From Teen Gunman", CBS News, 24 March 2005, accessed 18 December 2012
  7. New Header, KARE 11 News
  8. "17-year-old charged with triple homicide", Red Lake New News, March 2004]
  9. "Red Lake Shooting Conspiracy?, Officials Considering Charging Tribal Leader's Son As Adult", CBS News
  10. - 'Reader's Digest' Readers Pick Hero From Red Lake at the Wayback Machine (archived November 12, 2007)
  11. "Everyday Hero: Jeff May", Everyday Heroes, Reader's Digest
  12. "Tribe Gives Victims Aid to Shooter's Family, Citing a 'Double Burden'", Los Angeles Times, 15 April 2005, accessed 18 December 2012
  13. 1 2 3 MONICA DAVEY and JODI WILGOREN, "Signs of Danger Were Missed in Troubled Teenager's Life", New York Times, 24 March 2005, accessed 19 December 2012
  14. "Shooter is described as 'Goth kid'", Star-Telegram
  15. "A Bloody Day on the Rez", Newsweek, 4 April 2005
  16. Davey, Monica. “Tribe Buries 3 on a Long Road to Healing,” The New York Times, 26 March 2005
  17. Chuck Haga, "Family: Teen had 'a good relationship' with the grandfather he killed", Minneapolis StarTribune,25 March 2005, accessed 18 December 2012
  18. Editors (March 23, 2005) "School Killer's Animated Terror",
  19. 1 2 YouTube video

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