The chief of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians in Minnesota acknowledged March 29 that his teenage son has been arrested by federal authorities in connection with the March 21 school shootings on the Red Lake Reservation.
In a statement on the arrest, Floyd Jourdain Jr., the tribal chairman, said his son, Louis Jourdain, 16, was innocent in the attacks by fellow student Jeff Weise, who killed five students, a teacher, a security guard, and himself at the 355-student Red Lake High School.
The statement by Mr. Jourdain, 40, came the same morning as his son’s reported arraignment in a closed hearing before U.S. Magistrate Raymond Erickson in Duluth, Minn.
“My heart is heavy as a result of the tragic events that unfolded here at our nation. But it is with optimism that I state my son, Louis’, innocence,” the statement read.
“He is a good boy with a good heart who never harmed anyone in his entire life. I know my son, and he is incapable of committing such an act.”
“As events unfold, it will be proven that the individual who committed this horrible crime did so of his own choice and that he acted alone,” the elder Mr. Jourdain said in the statement. “I strongly believe my son will be cleared of these charges.”
Federal authorities announced on March 28 that they had arrested a youth in connection with the shootings, though they refused to divulge his name or his alleged role. A representative of the U.S. attorney’s office in Minneapolis said March 29 that she could not state the identity of the person arrested, nor the charge against him, because he is a juvenile.
She did not say how authorities had linked him to the shooting spree by Mr. Weise, 16, who law-enforcement officials previously said had appeared to have been acting alone. Mr. Weise killed his grandfather and his grandfather’s companion March 21, before fatally shooting the students and the two staff members at Red Lake High School. He then shot and killed himself.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, which is heading an investigation that includes more than 100 law-enforcement officers, refused to comment on the arrest.
However, The New York Times, citing an unnamed government official described as knowledgeable about the case, reported that federal investigators had discovered evidence that Mr. Weise and Louis Jourdain had talked via e-mail about ambushing the school in a large, armed attack. The Star Tribune newspaper of Minneapolis-St. Paul said the younger Mr. Jourdain had been charged with conspiracy.
The news of the youth’s arrest came as Red Lake residents attended the funerals of Red Lake High teacher Neva Rogers, 62; student Alicia Alberta Spike, 14; and security guard Derrick Brun, 28. Jeff Weise also was buried on March 28.
Louis Jourdain’s arrest did not come as a complete surprise to some in the Red Lake community, said Dean Carlblom, a field representative of Education Minnesota, the state’s 70,000-member teachers’ union. Mr. Carlblom is based in Bemidji, Minn., 35 miles south of Red Lake, and is acting as a liaison between the state teachers’ union and local school officials.
“There had been rumors before the arrest,” he said March 29. “Some students had known there were e-mail messages out there [between Jeff Weise and Louis Jourdain].”
Officials of the 1,481-student Red Lake school district are meeting this week to discuss when and where to resume classes for Red Lake High students, Mr. Carlblom added. Damage from the shootings, such as broken windows and bullet-marked walls and ceilings in the school building, need to be fixed before the school reopens.
At least seven other students were wounded in the attack. Two of them remain hospitalized.