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Tragedy at Red Lake Reservation: Victims come forward

An update on the latest developments involving the fatal shootings on the Red Lake Reservation in Minnesota.

Jeff Weise in a 2005 class photo.
Star Tribune: Red Lake School Shootings
Pioneer Press: Red Lake shooting
Accounts of Jeff Weise, 16, are now turning to the struggles he faced as an Indian teen and other problems facing Indian youth nationwide. Almost every paper cites the 2004 Minnesota Student Survey which showed that students on the Red Lake Reservation reported using drugs, feeling depressed and thinking about suicide more than teens elsewhere.

The reports also cite national statistics of violence, suicide and chronic health conditions in Indian Country, all higher than the rest of the nation. "This is a tragedy that I have seen the potential for in so many other places in Indian country," Jon Perez, the director of behavioral health for the Indian Health Service, told The Washington Post.

As for Weise himself, the accounts continue to look at his home life. Some of his relatives wonder whether anti-depressants he was taking -- his prescription was recently filled and the dosage upped -- had an effect on him. Some studies have shown that teens who take anti-depressants are more likely to become suicidal. Weise's family has a history of suicide -- his father killed himself in 1997.

Relatives: Did meds play a role? (The Minneapolis Star Tribune 3/25) pwlat
Minnesota Killer Chafed at Life On Reservation (The Washington Post 3/25) pwpwd
Despair, hopelessness a daily struggle for children of Red Lake (The St. Paul Pioneer Press 3/25) pw1

Two surviving victims, Cody Thunder, 15, and his cousin, Lance Crowe, 15, appeared at a press conference at North Country Regional Hospital in Bemidji, becoming the first to speak out about Monday's incident. Only Thunder commended -- news reports indicated Crowe had planned to but became wary due to the large number of media present.

Thunder said he recently reached out to Weise "because he seemed like a loner." Thunder confirmed other student accounts of Weise as talking "about nothing but guns and shooting people" but he, like other, didn't think much of it.

Thunder said he didn't realize at first that he had been shot in the right hip. He did not confirm other accounts that Weise was smiling and waving during the shooting, but said Weise "had a mean face."

Thunder and Crowe, are expected to recover fully. A third at the same hospital, Ryan Auginash, 14, did not attend the conference. Two other boys are at MeritCare Medical Center in Fargo, North Dakota, where one, Steve Cobenais, 15, remains in critical condition. The other, Jeff May, 15, was upgraded to serious.

Some wounded recovering, one still critical (The Minneapolis Star Tribune 3/25)
Survivors of High School Rampage Left With Injuries and Questions (The New York Times 3/25) pwnyt
Victim recalls events of Monday�s tragedy (The Bemidji Pioneer 3/25)

Visitation, wakes and funeral services for the victims are being held. Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) plans to attend funerals for three of the victims, including Daryl Lussier, grandfather of Jeff Weise, and Lussier's companion, Michelle Sigana, on Saturday. There will be 10 funerals over the coming days.

Lussier's and Sigana's bodies were escorted back to the reservation by police escort. Lussier, 58, was a longtime tribal law enforcement officer known as "Dash."

Derrick Brun, 28, the security guard who was killed as he confronted Weise, also dreamt of being a police officer. He attended the Bureau of Indian Affairs police academy in New Mexico last year but did not complete all the requirement. His family is trying to determine whether he can be awarded certification posthumously.

Pawlenty heading to 3 Red Lake funerals (The Minneapolis Star Tribune 3/25)
Funeral information (The Minneapolis Star Tribune 3/25)
Police vehicles escort Lussier procession (The St. Paul Pioneer Press 3/25) pw1
Fulfilling Derrick Brun's 'final wish' (The Duluth News Tribune 3/25) pw1

Indian leaders criticized President Bush for largely ignoring the worst incident of school-related violence since Columbine. The only mention by the White House was during a press briefing on Tuesday. Bush has dedicated more personal time to Terri Schiavo, a brain-damaged Florida woman at the center of a legal and political battle.

The White House has contacted the Red Lake Nation but Bush has not. However, he does plan to talk with Chairman Floyd Jourdain Jr., a White House spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, the tribe was criticized again for placing limits on the media covering the tragedy on the reservation and for not visiting some of the victims in the hospital. "We need our tribal leaders to come here, too, to see these guys," the uncle of Ryan Auginash told The St. Paul Pioneer Press.

The tribe has since lifted its restrictions and Jourdain said the policy was never meant to silence individual tribal members. He apologized to the family of Derrick Brun, whose father had been was taking a reporter and photographer around the family home and the community before tribal police stopped him.

Native Americans Criticize Bush's Silence (The Washington Post 3/25)
Victims' families criticize tribal leaders (The St. Paul Pioneer Press 3/25)
Tribal leadership loosens media muzzle (The Grand Forks Herald 3/25)
U.S. attorney hopes to share reports (The St. Paul Pioneer Press 3/25)
Parents shaken by shootings meet (The Minneapolis Star Tribune 3/25)
Students are reluctant to return (The St. Paul Pioneer Press 3/25)

Many Red Lake tribal members who live in the Twin Cities are seeking assistance to travel back home. The tribe's Red Lake Urban Office is arranging donations. They can be sent to:
Red Lake Urban Office
Franklin Business Center
1433 E. Franklin Ave
Suite 13A
Minneapolis, MN 55404

Also, donations for the victims and their families can be sent to:
Red Lake Nation Memorial Fund
P.O. Box 574
Red Lake, Minnesota 56671
Donations pour in to aid victims (The Grand Forks Herald 3/25)

Relevant Links:
Red Lake Net News -
Red Lake Nation -
Red Lake High School -