Behind the Why of a Rampage, Loner With a Taste for Nazism
By MONICA DAVEY
Published: March 23, 2005
(Must register to view origianal article)
RED LAKE, Minn., March 22 - Before Monday, before his storm of bullets that
left 10 people on this Indian reservation dead, Jeff Weise was rarely
noticed here. But when he was, people saw a confused, brooding teenager with
few friends, a peculiar attraction to Nazism and a lifetime, already, of
He was a loner, in part, by happenstance, his parents having vanished from
his life because of quieter tragedies. Emily Parkhurst, who like many other
residents of the Red Lake Indian Reservation knew nearly everyone killed or
hurt in the shootings, said Mr. Weise's father shot himself to death four
years ago. Not long after that, Mr. Weise's mother was in a serious car
accident that left her using a wheelchair and living in a nursing home.
"It was a lot to handle for a kid with no one to guide him or help him," Ms.
Parkhurst said. "Nobody took the time to get to know him either."
Investigators say they are now trying to learn all they can about Mr. Weise,
16, to figure out why he killed his grandfather and his grandfather's
companion, then drove to Red Lake High School and killed a security guard, a
teacher and five students before killing himself. Seven students were
wounded, some of them shot in the head or the chest.
Among the areas of inquiry the Federal Bureau of Investigation is likely to
pursue is a neo-Nazi Web forum on which someone identifying himself as Jeff
Weise left messages, including one saying he was being accused of
threatening to "shoot up" the school on Hitler's birthday, April 20, in
The school, which serves about 300 students, was closed on Tuesday and
surrounded by law enforcement officials and evidence vans. Inside, the brick
and glass building was riddled with so many bullets that F.B.I. officials
said they could not keep count.
From a parking lot in the snow-covered, pine-speckled reservation, 120 miles
south of the Canadian border, Floyd Jourdain, chairman of the tribal council
of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa, said somberly that the tribe, which has
wrestled with troubles over poverty and education through the years, had
never experienced such a horror.
"Without a doubt, this is the darkest days in the history of our people,"
Mr. Jourdain said.
The shootings on Monday afternoon, the deadliest school rampage since 15
people died at Columbine High School near Littleton, Colo., in 1999, were
over in just 10 minutes, federal agents said, though some students who were
there said they felt as though it had taken far longer.
Alicia Neadeau, 17, recalled standing in a hallway when the sounds of
gunfire suddenly filled the school, and rushing with other stunned students
into a classroom, where a teacher locked the door while all waited. Ms.
Neadeau was still shaking on Tuesday, as she held her mother, Angela Ishan.
For parents, the long wait felt endless too: their unharmed children were
not sent home for hours after the 3 p.m. shooting. "I was very, very
afraid," Ms. Ishan said. "Parents didn't know whose kids were hurt or whose
kids were safe."
A. J. Thunder, 16, whose brother, Cody, was one of the students wounded,
said he wondered if he would ever be ready to go back to the school. "I just
don't feel safe," he said. "You never know if it could happen again."
As federal agents, tribal police officers and officials from a number of
other agencies, including the United States attorney's office and the Bureau
of Indian Affairs, interviewed students and teachers and surveyed the
school, they said they believed that Mr. Weise had acted alone but that they
had no clear explanations about what prompted the killings.
Residents here said they were stunned by Mr. Weise's actions, though they
said they had seen signs of trouble. Some said he favored Goth culture and
clothing and Nazi philosophy, and had seen him drawing graphic, violent
Several residents said they believed Mr. Weise had received medication for
emotional problems. T-Anna Hanson, 21, a cousin of one of his victims, said
Mr. Weise had been admitted to a hospital last year for psychiatric help.
Some neighbors said Mr. Weise had recently been ordered to study temporarily
at home, not school, because of a disciplinary problem.
Shauna Lussier, an aunt of Mr. Weise, said she was unable to talk about him.
"We just can't understand anything right now," she said. "Keep us in your
Although the F.B.I. said it could not confirm the authenticity of the Web
postings, someone who identified himself as Jeff Weise, a high school
student living on the Red Lake Indian Reservation, posted 34 messages on a
neo-Nazi Web forum last year, expressing admiration for Hitler and
frustration at the lack of racial purity and authentic racial pride in his
community. He used the handles Todesengel, meaning "angel of death" in
German, and NativeNazi on the Libertarian National Socialist Green Party's
Web forum. The forum has a swastika on a green flag on its homepage and
promotes itself as an alternative to white-supremacist sites, a place where
people of all races are welcome as long as they oppose racial mixing.
"I guess I've always had a natural admiration for Hitler and his ideas, and
his courage to take on larger nations," Mr. Weise wrote in a posting last
March. "I also have a natural dislike for communism."
He added, "It kind of angers me how people pass prejudgment on someone" who
expresses support for Hitler.
A month later, Mr. Weise wrote that he was "being blamed for a threat on the
school I attend because someone said they were going to shoot up the school
on 4/20, Hitler's birthday." But by the end of May 2004, he wrote that he
had been "cleared as a suspect."
"I'm glad for that," he said. "I don't much care for jail. I've never been
there and I don't plan on it."
Michael Tabman, the special agent in charge of the F.B.I.'s Minneapolis
office, said the authorities would be studying the Internet postings as part
of their investigation. So far, Mr. Tabman said, they had pieced together
the events of Monday afternoon.
Before 3 p.m., Mr. Weise, who lived with his grandmother, went to his
grandfather's house, which sits on the reservation away from other homes,
off an icy road in the woods. There, Mr. Weise pulled a .22-caliber handgun
and shot and killed his grandfather, Daryl Lussier, 58, and his
grandfather's companion, Michelle Sigana, 32, Mr. Tabman said. The
authorities said they did not know who owned the handgun.
Mr. Lussier had been a sergeant in the reservation police for 30 years and
was, residents said, one of its most beloved officers. Where others stuck
hard to the books, they said, Sergeant Lussier sometimes let a person off
with a warning, and once even eased a man out of an armed standoff by
putting down his service revolver and going to talk to him.
"He had a kind heart, and we should know; we've all known him all our
lives," Pam Needham, a neighbor, said of Mr. Lussier.
From the house, the F.B.I. said, Mr. Weise took his grandfather's
police-issued weapons - a .40-caliber handgun and a 12-gauge shotgun - and
his utility belt and bulletproof vest before driving off in Mr. Lussier's
marked squad car.
He drove less than five minutes to the high school, where he stepped into
the front lobby and shot and killed the unarmed security guard on duty,
Derrick Brun, 28. The lobby has a metal detector and a video camera, which
was apparently rolling.
From there, Mr. Tabman said, Mr. Weise began firing at students and a
teacher in a hallway. The group fled into a classroom. Mr. Weise followed,
killing the teacher, Neva Rogers, 62, and several students.
Mr. Weise then ran back into the hallway and began shooting, apparently at
random. Students scrambled for hiding places, barricading classroom doors
with anything they could find. Some fell, wounded. Some said they saw Mr.
Weise laughing, mumbling, taunting them.
Four police officers ran into the school, and Mr. Weise began shooting at
them, Mr. Tabman said. At least one officer fired back at the boy, who was
wearing his grandfather's bulletproof vest. The authorities are not sure
whether any of the shots hit him, but he ran back into the classroom where
most of the dead lay, and shot himself once in the head, Mr. Tabman said.
The notion of a Nazi sympathizer on an Indian reservation particularly
offended some here. "You have to be white to be a Nazi, don't you?" said one
resident, who would give only his first name, George, and said he had known
most of the victims all of their lives. "Believe me, there are no other
The reservation, with 880 acres, has a population of 5,118, about 40 percent
of them living in poverty, according to the 2000 Census. The tribe also
includes about 5,000 members living elsewhere.
On Tuesday, Orville White, whose niece, Thurlene Marie Stillday, 15, was
among the dead, stood along a reservation street, his eyes on the ground and
his fingers clutching a photograph of her. She had bangs and a hopeful
Gangs, drugs, alcohol: those, Mr. White said, had plagued the reservation
But this, he said, was incomprehensible.
Reporting for this article was contributed by Kirk Johnson from Red Lake;
Mikkel Pates from Fargo, N.D.; Gretchen Ruethling from Chicago; Mindy Sink
from Denver; and Jodi Wilgoren from Chicago.