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Bush responds to Red Lake shooting in radio address

Funeral procession for Daryl Lussier and Michelle Sigana.
Star Tribune: Red Lake School Shootings
Pioneer Press: Red Lake shooting
Breaking five days of silence on the worst incident of school-related violence since Columbine, President Bush dedicated part of his weekly radio address on Saturday to the shootings at the Red Lake Reservation in Minnesota.

Bush said he and First Lady Laura Bush were "praying" for the families of the victims and noted the outpouring of support the remote Ojibwe community has received since Monday's deadly incident. "Hours after the shooting, communities and churches across the nation offered prayers for the victims and their families," he said.

Bush pledged to do "everything we can" to respond to the tragedy. In addition to the FBI and the U.S. Attorney in Minnesota on the scene to investigate the incident, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Indian Health Service have sent teams to deal with the law enforcement, financial, health and other needs of the reservation.

"We're working closely with state, local and tribal authorities to provide counseling, help with funeral arrangements and other assistance," Bush said.

The president singled out Red Lake High School security guard Derrick Burn, 28, a tribal member who "saved the lives of countless students when he rose from his desk to confront the young gunman." He did not mention the shooter, Jeff Weise -- the 16-year-old tribal member, who killed nine others before taking his life -- by name.

"Although he was unarmed, Derrick ignored the pleas of a colleague to run for his life," Bush said. "By engaging the assailant, he bought vital time for a fellow security guard to rush a group of students to safety. Derrick's bravery cost him his life, and all Americans honor him.

The remarks came after Bush made a five-minute called to Red Lake Chairman Floyd Jourdain Jr. on Friday morning. It was his first direct contact with an official from the tribe since "one of the darkest and most painful occurrences in the history of our tribe," as Jourdain said just hours after the shootings.

Bush's silence contrasted with former President Bill Clinton's speedy response to the incident in Columbine, Colorado, that left 15 dead in 1999. And it was markedly different from his decision to break his vacation in Texas to go back to the White House and sign unprecedented legislation that allowed federal court intervention in the case of Terry Schiavo, a brain-damaged Florida woman.

"He has not been real visible in Indian country," retired Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colorado), a member of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, told The Washington Post last week. "He's got a lot of irons in the fire, but this is important."

Bush returned to Texas to complete his holiday and it was from his ranch in Crawford that he made the call. A White House spokesperson said he tried to reach Jourdain on Thursday but was unsuccessful, the Associated Press reported.

Indian Country responded immediately to the tragedy, with tribal leaders offering prayers, condolences and support to the Red Lake Nation. The National Indian Gaming Association donated $25,000 to a fund to help the families of the victims.

The first of the funerals for those killed in the incident were held over the weekend. Daryl Lussier Sr., the grandfather of Jeff Weise, and Lussier's companion, Michelle Sigana, were buried on Saturday. Chase Lussier, 15, was buried in a separate ceremony on Saturday, and Thurlene Stillday, 15, was buried on Sunday.

Five more funerals are taking place in the coming week for the remaining victims. Services will be held today for four and another on Saturday. Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) has declared today a Day of Remembrance to honor and mourn the victims.

Weise, whom authorities say acted along, is being buried today.

Bush's Radio Address:
Transcript | Audio

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