Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Another Senseless Schoolhouse Tragedy: Jeff Weise

The question is: Why did Jeff Weise do it?

BEMIDJI, Minn. (AP) - A high school student went on a shooting rampage on this Indian reservation Monday, killing his grandparents at their home and then seven people at his school, "grinning and waving" as he fired, authorities and witnesses said. The gunman was later found shot to death.

It was the nation's worst school shooting since the Columbine massacre in 1999.
Students pleaded with the gunman to stop shooting.

"You could hear a girl saying, 'No, Jeff, quit, quit. Leave me alone. What are you doing?" Sondra Hegstrom told The Pioneer of Bemidji, using the name of the suspected shooter.

Before the shootings at Red Lake High School, the suspect's grandparents were shot in their home and died later. There was no immediate indication of the gunman's motive.

Six students including the gunman were killed at the school, along with a teacher and a security guard, FBI spokesman Paul McCabe said at a news conference in Minneapolis.

Fourteen to 15 other students were injured, McCabe said. Some were being cared for in Bemidji, about 20 miles south of Red Lake. Authorities closed roads to the reservation in far northern Minnesota while they investigate the shootings.

Hegstrom described the gunman grinning and waving at a student his gun was pointed at, then swiveling to shoot someone else. "I looked him in the eye and ran in the room, and that's when I hid," she told The Pioneer.

The Kansas City Star thinks it may know the motivation behind Jeff Weise's actions:

Although his people had long suffered oppression and were nearly annihilated, Jeff Weise identified with the oppressor and annihilator.

"I guess I've always carried a natural admiration for Hitler and his ideals, and his courage to take on larger nations," Jeffrey Weise, an American Indian, wrote in an online forum frequented by neo-Nazis and wannabes last year.

The postings give a glimpse into the thoughts of a troubled young man, now suspected of going on a killing rampage Monday before turning the gun on himself.
He said he was interested in finding like-minded Indians, a goal other posters on the forum encouraged. He also admitted he was a suspect in a threat at school.

"Once I commit myself to something, I stay until the end," he replied.Alternately using the online pennames Todesengel_German for "angel of death"_and "NativeNazi," Weise wrote several posts in which he said he believed Hitler and the National Socialist movement that embroiled the world in war and caused millions of deaths got a bad rap.

"When I was growing up, I was taught (like others) that Nazi's were evil and that Hitler was a very evil man ect," he wrote in one posting replete with misspellings. "Of course, not for a second did I believe this. Upon reading up on his actions, the ideals and issues the German Third Reich addressed, I began to see how much of a like had been painted about them. They truly were doing it for the better."

In other posts, he wrote that he believed a National Socialist movement could work on his reservation and planned on trying to recruit some members at school when it started up last fall.

"The only ones who oppose my views are the teachers at the high school, and a large portion of the student body who think a Nazi is a Klansman, or a White Supremacist thug. Most of the Natives I know have been poisoned by what they were taught in school."

The public school system, he wrote, "has done more harm than good, and as a result it has left many on this reservation misled and misinformed."

The danger signs were there. Administrators at Red Lake High School knew that this young man was a potential threat to the community. The better question is: Why didn't somebody do something to prevent this?

Update:(PM) Many links and a slideshow here, and more links there.
Update:(3/24) The Smoking Gun has the latest pics and a video by Weise here.
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