The Red Lake shootings were a series of spree killings that occurred on March 21, 2005 in two places on the Red Lake Indian Reservation in Red Lake, Minnesota, United States. That morning, 16-year-old Jeffrey Weise killed his grandfather (a tribal police officer) and his grandfather’s girlfriend at their home. After taking his grandfather’s police weapons and vest, Weise drove his grandfather’s police vehicle to Red Lake Senior High School, where he had been a student some months before.
Weise shot and killed seven people at the school and wounded five others. The dead included an unarmed security guard at the entrance of the school, then a teacher and five students. After the police arrived, Weise exchanged gunfire with them. He was wounded and then died by suicide in a vacant classroom.
By some accounts, Weise was living with his paternal grandfather, Daryl Lussier, Sr., a sergeant with the Red Lake Police Department, run by the Red Lake Ojibwe tribal government. The household included his grandfather’s younger girlfriend, Michelle Leigh Sigana. His paternal aunts Shauna and Tammy Lussier said he had lived mostly with them for the past several years, and they helped him get treatment to deal with some of his behavioral issues and depression. In 1999, Jeff Weise’s mother suffered severe brain damage in a car accident and had to receive care in a nursing home. Still a child, Weise was forced to move from Minneapolis to live with his father’s family on the reservation. His father had committed suicide in 1997, so Weise was officially placed with his grandmother, Shelda (Gurneau) Lussier. His aunts Shauna and Tammy Lussier helped care for him, especially after the grandmother’s death in 2003.
Although Jeff had been separated from his mother and stepfather for years by the time of their divorce in May 2004, he attempted suicide soon after, and again in June 2004. At that time, his aunts and the Red Lake Medical Center arranged for Weise to be taken to a hospital for psychiatric treatment, where he stayed for three days.
The teen was prescribed Prozac as an anti-depressant, to be continued as treatment together with counseling. His doctor had increased his dosage a week before the shooting, to 60 mg a day of Prozac. His aunts Shauna and Tammy Lussier, with whom Weise lived much of the time at Red Lake, said they had arranged for his medical care and were concerned about the increase in his dosage. Weise’s murders reopened the debate about Prozac use among children and adolescents. In October 2004, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had issued a warning about its use; but it is still the only anti-depressant approved for use with children.
The reservation of the Red Lake Band of Ojibwe (aka Chippewa) is in northwest Minnesota and is one of two nationally that are “closed”; only Ojibwe tribal members may live there and own land. Its residents suffer high rates of unemployment, violence, and suicide. Housing is poor, and many students do not finish high school. Work opportunities are limited on the reservation, which has a population of more than 5,000. A study in 2004 found that a high proportion of students in high school had thought of suicide.
The day of the shootings, Weise retrieved a Ruger MK II .22 caliber pistol from his bedroom and fatally shot his grandfather as he was sleeping; he shot him two times in the head and ten times in the chest. According to Weise’s friends, the teenager may have had the gun for as long as a year. He took Lussier’s two police-issue weapons, a .40 caliber Glock 23 pistol and a Remington 870 12 gauge pump-action shotgun, a gunbelt and a bullet-proof vest. He fatally shot Sigana, his grandfather’s girlfriend, two times in the head as she carried laundry up the stairs.
Weise drove his grandfather’s squad car to Red Lake Senior High School, arriving at around 2:45 p.m. Central Standard Time. As he entered the school through the main entrance, he encountered two unarmed security guards manning a metal detector. Weise shot and killed Derrick Brun, while the other security guard escaped without injury. Weise proceeded into the main corridor of the school.
He began shooting into an English classroom, killing three students and one teacher, and wounding three students. Ashley Lajeunesse said that Chase Lussier (no direct relation to Daryl Lussier) sheltered her, and was one of those shot by Weise. Jeffrey May, a 16-year-old sophomore, tried to wrestle Weise inside the classroom, and stabbed him in the stomach with a pencil. His diversion allowed students to flee the classroom to safety, but Weise shot May two times in the neck and once in the jaw, leaving him seriously injured.
Witnesses said Weise smiled as he was shooting at people. One witness said that Weise asked a student if he believed in God. This is believed to have been a reference to a widely publicized exchange during the 1999 Columbine High School massacre between Dylan Klebold and Valeen Schnurr, a Columbine survivor.
At around 2:52 p.m., Weise returned to the main entrance, where he killed two students and wounded two others. The police had arrived quickly and engaged him in gunfire. FBI special agent Paul McCabe said the shootout lasted for about four minutes. None of the officers were injured. After being hit in the abdomen and right arm, Weise retreated to a vacant classroom. He leaned against a wall, put the shotgun barrel to his chin, and fired, killing himself.