A neo-Nazi teenager went on a shooting rampage on a remote US Indian reservation yesterday, killing his grandparents at their home and then seven people at his school, grinning and waving as he fired.
Jeff Weise, 15, who openly admired Adolf Hitler and had been questioned before about threats at his Minnesota school, killed himself after exchanging gunfire with police.
It was the worst school shooting in the US since the Columbine massacre in 1999 that killed 13 people.
One student said her classmates pleaded with Weise to stop shooting.
“You could hear a girl saying, ‘No, Jeff, quit, quit. Leave me alone. What are you doing?”’ said student Sondra Hegstrom.
Before the shootings at Red Lake High School, the Weise’s grandparents were shot in their home and died later.
As well as Weise, the death toll at the school included five students, a teacher and a security guard.
Fourteen to 15 other students were injured.
Student Hegstrom described Weise as grinning and waving at a student his gun was pointed at, then swivelling to shoot someone else.
“I looked him in the eye and ran in the room, and that’s when I hid,” she said.
Red Lake Fire Chief Roman Stately identified Weise’s grandfather as policeman Daryl Lussier and said Lussier’s guns may have been used in the shootings.
He said Weise had two handguns and a shotgun.
“After he shot a security guard, he walked down the hallway shooting and went into a classroom where he shot a teacher and more students,” Stately said.
Students and a teacher, Diane Schwanz, said the gunman tried to break down a door to get into her classroom.
“I just got on the floor and called the cops,” Schwanz said. “I was still just half-believing it.”
Ashley Morrison, another student, had taken refuge in Schwanz’s classroom. With the gunman banging on the door, she dialled her mother on her mobile 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 mother.
All of the dead students were found in one room.
Relatives said Weise was a loner who usually wore black and was teased by other kids.
They said his father committed suicide four years ago, and his mother was nursing home after suffering brain injuries in a car accident.
Jeff Weise admired German dictator Adolf Hitler and was a suspect following threats made at his school last year, he revealed in an internet forum frequented by neo-Nazis.
“I guess I’ve always carried a natural admiration for Hitler and his ideals, and his courage to take on larger nations,” Weise wrote on the website.
He said he was interested in finding like-minded Indians, a goal other messages on the website 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 wrote.
In a message on a website last year that foreshadowed yesterday’s events, Weise said he had been questioned by police in connection with an alleged threat at the school.
“By the way, I’m being blamed for a threat on the school I attend because someone said they were going to shoot up the school on 4/20, Hitlers birthday, and just because I claim being a National Socialist, guess whom they’ve pinned,” he wrote in comments posted at 11:41 p.m. on April 19, 2004.
Five weeks later, he wrote that “the school threat passed and I was cleared as a suspect, I’m glad for that. I don’t much care for jail, I’ve never been there and I don’t plan on it.”
Alternately using the online pen names Todesengel—German for Angel of Death—and NativeNazi, Weise wrote several messages in which he said he believed Hitler and the Nazi 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 messages, 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.”
He wrote that when he talked in school about maintaining the tribe’s ethnic purity by not marrying outside the bloodline, “I get the same old argument which seems to be so common around here. ‘We need to mix all the races, to combine all the strengths.’
“They (teachers) don’t openly say that racial purity is wrong, yet when you speak your mind on the subject you get ‘silenced’ real quick by the teachers and likeminded school officials,” he wrote.
Weise’s rampage was the nation’s worst school shooting since two students at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, killed 12 students and a teacher and wounded 23 before killing themselves on April 20, 1999.
The rampage in Red Lake was the second fatal school shooting in Minnesota in 18 months. Two students were killed at Rocori High School in Cold Spring in September 2003. Student John Jason McLaughlin, who was 15 at the time, awaits trial in the case.
Red Lake High School, on the Red Lake Indian Reservation, has about 300 students, according to its Web site.
The reservation is about 240 miles north of Minneapolis. It is home to the Red Lake Chippewa Tribe, one of the poorest in the state. According to the 2000 census, 5,162 people lived on the reservation, and all but 91 were Indians.