RED LAKE, Minn. – A Red Lake High School student went on a shooting rampage
Monday afternoon, killing his grandfather and a woman at their home and then
strapping on his grandfather’s police weapons and driving to the high school,
where he shot as many as 21 people, killing seven, before turning the gun on
It was the largest mass homicide in Minnesota history, with nine killed in
addition to the gunman. It also was the nation’s worst school shooting since the
Columbine massacre in 1999 killed 12 students and a teacher.
Five of the high school’s approximately 330 students, a security guard and a
teacher were shot to death on the campus, located on the Red Lake Indian
Reservation about 300 miles north of the Twin Cities. As many as 14 other students
were wounded as the student fired shots inside the high school.
The student gunman was identified by other tribal members as Jeff Wiese, 15.
Relatives said Wiese was a towering loner who wore black all the time and was
teased by other kids. Wiese’s father committed suicide four years ago,
relatives said, and his mother lives in a nursing home in Minneapolis after
sustaining brain injuries in a car accident.
It was too early to speculate on a motive, said FBI spokesman Paul McCabe at
a news conference Monday night in Minneapolis. McCabe said all eight people
killed at the school were shot in a single classroom. The FBI is the lead
investigative agency for crimes on an Indian reservation.
“It will probably take us throughout the night to really put the whole
picture together,” McCabe said.
The school was evacuated and remained in lockdown Monday night, McCabe said.
Authorities believe the shooter acted alone, he said.
The shootings began before mid-afternoon when Wiese killed his grandfather,
Daryl “Dash” Lussier, 58, and a woman at their home in Red Lake and then took
his grandfather’s police weapons. Lussier was a longtime veteran of the Red
Lake police force.
About 3 p.m. Wiese drove a pickup truck to the high school, rammed the truck
into the school and shot a security guard to death, Wiese’s relatives said.
Then Wiese went on a shooting spree inside the school, killing a female teacher
and five students.
The names of the other victims were withheld pending notification of
Students gave a terrifying account of the attack.
“You could hear a girl saying, ‘No, Jeff, quit, quit. Leave me alone. What
are you doing?’ ” said one student, Sondra Hegstrom, using the name of the
In an interview with The Pioneer of Bemidji, Hegstrom described the gunman
grinning and waving at a student his gun was pointed at, then swiveling the gun
to shoot someone else.
“I looked him in the eye and ran in the room, and that’s when I hid,”
Ashley Morrison, another student, took refuge in a classroom. With the
shooter banging on the door, she dialed her mother on her cell phone. Her mother,
Wendy Morrison, said she could hear gunshots on the line.
“Mom, he’s trying to get in here, and I’m scared,” Ashley Morrison told her
A teacher in that room, Diane Schwanz, said, “I just got down on the floor
and (said), ‘Kids, down on the ground, under the benches!’ “
She said she called police on her cell phone.
Some of the wounded were taken to North Country Regional Hospital in Bemidji
and others to MeritCare Hospital in Fargo, N.D.
MeritCare Hospital received its first Red Lake patient at 5:45 p.m. and the
second at 7 p.m., spokeswoman Carrie Johnson said. She said she was still
confirming whether the hospital would receive more shooting victims. No conditions
reports were immediately available.
Approximately 5,100 people live on the reservation, which encompasses 825,000
acres of land in northern Minnesota.
Bob Thunder, a Metropolitan Transit police officer who grew up on the Red
Lake Reservation, said Lussier “worked as an officer for more than 30 years, and
he believed in what he was doing. I saw him at the recent (tribal chief)
inauguration and asked him when he was going to retire. He told me, ‘soon.’ “
It was the second major school shooting in Minnesota in less than two years.
In September 2003, two students were shot and killed at Rocori High School in
The shooting had immediate ramifications across the state, including at the
Capitol. A hearing scheduled for today on a proposal to expand casino gambling
in Minnesota was canceled. The Red Lake Band is one of three groups that are
seeking to partner with the state on a Twin Cities area casino.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Ruben Rosario, Beth Silver, Jason Hoppin and the Associated Press contributed
to this report. Bill Gardner can be reached at [email protected] or by phone at 651-228-5461.