School Climate & Safety

Details of Minn. School Shooting Emerge

By Rhea R. Borja — March 22, 2005 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print
Red Lake High School students, from left, Sondra Hegstrom, Marla Hegstrom, and Ashley Morrison weep together following a deadly shooting rampage, Monday, March 21, 2005, at their school in Red Lake, Minn.

A teenage gunman who shot and killed five fellow students, a security guard, and a teacher in rural Minnesota was armed with three guns and multiple rounds of ammunition and was wearing a bullet-proof vest owned by his grandfather, a police officer, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said March 22.

At 2:55 p.m. on March 21, after first shooting and killing his grandfather and his grandfather’s companion, 16-year-old Jeff Weise drove to the front door of the 300-student Red Lake High School on the Red Lake Indian Reservation in his grandfather’s police vehicle, according to the FBI. A 28-year-old security guard confronted Mr. Weise, who then shot and killed the unarmed man. The teenager was armed with a .22-caliber handgun, a .40-caliber handgun, and a police shotgun, said Michael Tabman, the special agent who heads the FBI’s Minneapolis office.

Mr. Weise walked into the school, past a metal detector, and began shooting at a female teacher and a small group of students who were standing in a hallway, Mr. Tabman said. The teacher and students fled into a nearby classroom. Mr. Weise allegedly followed them and shot and killed the teacher and five students.

See Also

Afterward, Mr. Weise roamed the school hallways, shooting “lots of rounds, [causing] lots of damage,” Mr. Tabman said at a televised news conference outside the school the day after the shootings. The teenager shot at least seven more people, five of whom remain in the hospital—some of them said to be in critical condition. Mr. Weise and four police officers who responded to calls for help from the school exchanged gunfire. At least one officer shot at the student, but Mr. Tabman said he was unsure whether the student was injured. Mr. Weise then returned to the classroom and shot himself in the head, according to the FBI agent. The entire incident took about 10 minutes.

Mr. Weise apparently acted alone and did not leave a message about his motive for any of the shootings, according to Mr. Tabman. He said a videotape shows Mr. Weise walking in the hallways of the school, but the agent declined to give more details. An FBI investigation is ongoing.

The incident was the second-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history. In April 1999, two student gunmen killed 12 other students, a teacher, and themselves at Columbine High School in Jefferson County, Colo.

Online Postings

Unofficial reports suggest that the teenager admired Adolf Hitler and had posted messages on a neo-Nazi Web site identifying himself as “todesengel,” or “angel of death” in German. The FBI declined to confirm that the student was involved in such activity. But the Libertarian National Socialist Green Party, a neo-Nazi group based in Austin, Texas, said in a report on its Web site that the student had posted 34 messages on the group’s online forum. The group blamed “society,” not Mr. Weise, for the deadly incident.

“Such events are to be expected when thinking people are crammed into an unthinking, irrational modern society,” said the bylined report on www.nazi.org. “The school shooting itself is not our failure; society is our failure, and the school shooting is a symptom.”

Courtesy of The Forum, Fargo-Grand Forks, N.D.

BRIC ARCHIVE

The teenager reportedly had a difficult personal history. His father committed suicide four years ago and his mother, debilitated by brain injuries, lives in a nursing home, according to press reports. Mr. Weise was taught at home in the school’s “Homebound” program for violating school policy, news reports said.

Despite its location on an Indian reservation, Red Lake High School is a traditional public school overseen by the state, rather than the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs. More than 90 percent of the roughly 540,000 American Indian students nationwide attend traditional public schools. They account for about 1 percent of the U.S. public school population and about 2 percent of the K-12 population in Minnesota.

Red Lake High School is not listed as having submitted a crisis-management policy to the Minnesota Department of Education, a standard piece of information the state collects from all schools. But Bill Walsh, a spokesman for the department, said all schools in the state, including Red Lake, had developed such policies. He added that early media reports describing the school’s response to the attack—such as its efforts to quickly “lock down” its campus—suggested that Red Lake had such a policy in place.

School crisis-response plans also require school officials to work with local communities to provide services to students in need of counseling, and Red Lake was likely to take that step this week, Mr. Walsh said. As of midday on Tuesday, March 22, state officials had been unsuccessful in their efforts to reach the district and offer services from state crisis-response experts, he said.

“A team is ready to help,” Mr. Walsh said.

Two years ago, a 15-year-old student at Rocori High School in Cold Spring, Minn., located about an hour west of Minneapolis, shot and killed two classmates. Some observers have said that the student accused of that crime may have been the victim of bullying. Since the Rocori incident, state officials have tried to encourage districts to take steps to curb bullying in schools, Mr. Walsh said.

Related Tags:

Staff Writer Sean Cavanagh contributed to this report.

Events

School & District Management K-12 Essentials Forum Get a Strong Start to the New School Year
Get insights and actions from Education Week journalists and expert guests on how to start the new school year on strong footing.
Reading & Literacy Webinar A Roadmap to Multisensory Early Literacy Instruction: Accelerate Growth for All Students 
How can you develop key literacy skills with a diverse range of learners? Explore best practices and tips to meet the needs of all students. 
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Webinar
Supporting 21st Century Skills with a Whole-Child Focus
What skills do students need to succeed in the 21st century? Explore the latest strategies to best prepare students for college, career, and life.
Content provided by Panorama Education

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School Climate & Safety 45 Percent of American Adults Support Armed Teachers in Schools, Poll Finds
Survey also shows majority support for armed police, mental health services, and metal detectors as school safety measures.
4 min read
Photo of school security guard.
dlewis33/E+/Getty<br/><br/>
School Climate & Safety Opinion Schools Have Put Their Money on Security Officers. Is That Smart?
After school shootings, people want policymakers to "do something." But is hiring more law enforcement the right thing?
David S. Knight
5 min read
Illustration of two silhouetted heads facing each other, one is wearing a police hat
wildpixel/iStock/Getty Images
School Climate & Safety From Our Research Center How Many Teachers Have Been Assaulted by Students or Parents? We Asked Educators
Some teachers and principals suggest student misbehavior could be associated with challenges related to returning to in-person learning.
1 min read
Empty classroom in blurred background.
Classrooms were empty during long stretches of remote and hybrid instruction. Some educators suggest student behavior problems are linked to the bumpy transition back to in-person learning.
iStock/Getty Images Plus
School Climate & Safety A Sheriff Is Putting AR-15s in Every School. What Safety Experts Have to Say
The Madison County, N.C., school district made headlines for placing assault rifles in SRO offices ahead of the new school year.
6 min read
AR-15-style rifles are on display at Burbank Ammo & Guns in Burbank, Calif., June 23, 2022. Gun manufacturers have made more than $1 billion from selling AR-15-style guns over the past decade, and for two companies those revenues have tripled over the last three years, a House investigation unveiled Wednesday, July 27, found.
AR-15-style rifles are on display at gun store in Burbank, Calif. School safety experts say it's not unheard of for school districts to place such weapons in schools, but it requires serious consideration of the potential risks.
Jae C. Hong/AP