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Published: Saturday, 3/26/2005

Columbine to Red Lake

A METAL detector at his high school and an unarmed security guard didn't stop a 16-year-old boy from gunning down two adults and five students at the school in one of Minnesota's poorest Indian reservations. And the fact that Jeff Weise's grandfather was a sergeant in the reservation police force for 30 years didn't stop the youth from killing him and his companion before driving off to school in his grandfather's marked squad car.

For whatever reason the determined young man decided to blast his way into notoriety on the Red Lake Indian Reservation, it seems neither school security measures or weapons precautions were going to stop him. What might have mollified his destructive behavior, like somebody taking an active interest in his life, had been missing for years.

And just like Columbine, at Red Lake there were clear signs of trouble before it struck. The Minnesota teenager whose father committed suicide and whose mother was restricted to a wheel chair in a nursing home after a serious car accident dealt with the upheaval at home mostly alone, in a dark brooding space.

He lived with a grandmother but had few friends. Like the teenage killers at Columbine, young Weise was into Goth culture, wore black, and was often picked on in school. He also had a peculiar obsession with neo-Nazism, posting numerous messages on a neo-Nazi Web forum decrying a lack of racial purity and pride in his community.

Worse, he was left largely to his own devices and apparent depths of depravity. In his small community where everyone knows everything about each other, people were aware of the youthful loner with a painful past and frightening demeanor.

They knew about his absent parents, his disciplinary problems, his violent drawings at school, his solitary existence.

But now, as it did with the Littleton, Colo., kids who catapulted to infamy with the 15-death massacre at Columbine High School in 1999, the world is getting to know about the teen shooter from Red Lake, who left so many bullets at the high school FBI officials said they lost count.

In 10 minutes of terror, nine people lost their lives before Weise added a tenth fatality, his own. Leaders of the Red Lake Chippewa Tribe call the tragedy "the darkest day in the history of our tribe." In a remote place where 40 percent of the population lives in poverty, there is now irreconcilable grief, confusion, and shame.

Weise was a volatile combination of youth and suppressed anger that exploded against a depressing environment of real or perceived indifference. Maybe nothing could have stopped the tragedy born of his tortured mind. But those who barely knew him in life will never know.



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