In his deadly nine-minute rampage at Red Lake Senior High School four weeks ago, Jeff Weise fired 45 rounds from three guns...
ST. PAUL, Minn. — In his deadly nine-minute rampage at Red Lake Senior High School four weeks ago, Jeff Weise fired 45 rounds from three guns, but “heroic” action by a slain security guard prevented the death toll from going even higher, federal officials said today.
By confronting Weise, guard Derrick Brun delayed Weise and gave another guard a chance to dash off and warn school authorities, according to U.S. Attorney Tom Heffelfinger.
“The school had a safety plan. That plan worked, and it saved lives,” Heffelfinger said.
After four weeks of making few comments, Heffelfinger and Michael Tabman, the agent in charge of the Minneapolis FBI office, held a press conference Monday and revealed a few details of the investigation into the shootings — including a minute-by-minute account of the school shootings and an accounting of how many shots were fired. The spree on the Red Lake Indian Reservation March 21 left 10 dead, including Weise and Brun. Seven more were wounded.
Despite the new sprinkling of facts, the father of the victim that Heffelfinger singled out for heroism said he was unhappy that he and others haven’t been told more about the investigation.
“I’m disappointed with Heffelfinger’s statement that no information would be forthcoming whether other parties were involved or Weise acted alone,” said Francis “Chunky” Brun, Derrick Brun’s father. “Those of us who are victims have a right to know whether other people will be charged. We’re still living in a time bomb ready to explode.”
Weise shot himself in a classroom after exchanging gunfire with a tribal policeman. The officer’s fire hit Weise three times — once in the lower back, once in the thigh and once in the right arm.
Tabman and Heffelfinger said that while authorities quickly became convinced that the 16-year-old Weise was the lone gunman, the investigation expanded and one other arrest was made six days after the shootings. That arrest was of Louis Jourdain, 16, who is Weise’s cousin and the son of Red Lake Band of Chippewa Tribal Chairman Floyd “Buck” Jourdain.
Citing Louis Jourdain’s status as a juvenile, Heffelfinger and Tabman have declined to discuss his case or the ensuing grand jury investigation. Federal sources have said the youth has been charged with conspiracy. His father has proclaimed the teen’s innocence.
Weise has been described by some as a creative but troubled youth who was on antidepressants after a suicide attempt last year. He and the younger Jourdain allegedly discussed plans for the attacks via e-mail.
The FBI has seized 117 computers from the reservation “or from residences on or near the reservation,” Heffelfinger said. Tabman said FBI analysts have processed more than 2 trillion bytes of computer information.
That’s enough electronic information to fill nearly 1.4 million 3 1/2-inch computer disks.
The second-worst school shooting in American history began when Weise went to the home of his grandfather, Daryl “Dash” Lussier, and shot him and his grandfather’s female companion, Michele Sigana, 32.
He used a .22-caliber Ruger semiautomatic pistol in those shootings. Federal authorities have refused to say where Weise got the firearm.
Lussier was a tribal policeman, and Weise took his shotgun, a 12-gauge Remington 870 Police Magnum, and a .40-caliber Glock handgun. He also took Lussier’s bulletproof vest.
At least 12 rounds from the .22-caliber handgun and one round from the Glock were fired inside the Lussier home, but Heffelfinger and Tabman refused to say how many times the victims were shot.
At 2:49 p.m., Weise drove his grandfather’s patrol vehicle to the school and confronted Brun and the other security guard, LeeAnn Grant, who were seated at desks on either side of a metal detector just inside the school’s entrance.
Brun and Grant were unarmed, but as Brun rose to confront Weise, Grant ran to alert the rest of the school.
“This tragedy could have been even worse were it not for the heroism shown by Derrick Brun,” Heffelfinger said. He said Brun, who had been a tribal policeman before becoming a school security guard, was confronted by danger and “Mr. Brun attempted, without hesitation, to confront that danger.”
Weise shot Brun twice with the shotgun, killing him. A deputy sheriff who had been given a tour of the school by the FBI said a few days after the shooting that Brun was shot first in the chest, and when he turned to run, he was shot in the back.
After Grant notified school authorities, a special emergency plan was implemented; part of the plan involved teachers locking their students inside the classrooms.
“The teachers knew enough that when they heard there was an emergency, they locked their doors,” said high school principal Chris Dunshee. “I think the quick response of law enforcement was the major thing that saved a lot of lives and kept a lot of other people from losing their lives.”
At 2:51 p.m., after unsuccessfully trying to enter at least six locked classrooms, Weise broke into a classroom and, in a 90-second burst of fury, killed a teacher and six students. He left the classroom and spent about five minutes roaming the halls, shooting people. None of the students he shot in the hallways were killed.
At about 2:57 p.m., tribal police responding to the original 911 call arrived at the school. They entered and began carefully making their way through the halls. One of the officers exchanged gunfire with Weise, wounding him. Weise went into a classroom and killed himself with the shotgun at 2:58.
In all, Weise fired 35 rounds from the Glock, eight rounds from the shotgun and two rounds from the .22-caliber pistol at the school, Tabman said.
Heffelfinger said Weise planned the attack “well in advance of March 21,” but declined to be more specific. He said there is no indication that Weise had compiled a “hit list” of intended victims at the school. The only targeted victims, he said, were Weise’s grandfather and Sigana.
More than 400 people have been questioned in connection with the case, Heffelfinger and Tabman said. A grand jury took testimony from some witnesses last week, but the two federal officials declined to discuss the matter, citing grand jury secrecy.
Some federal sources have said authorities are investigating the possibility that two groups of students had varying degrees of knowledge of Weise’s plans. One group, with perhaps up to nine students, allegedly had more detailed knowledge, while a larger group may have heard bits and pieces about the plan.
Heffelfinger criticized law enforcement officials who have been leaking information about the investigation to the media, and said his office was “actively looking into those leaks.” He said that much of what has been reported in the media about the shootings is wrong.
“A significant amount of what has been published and broadcast has been false,” he said. He refused to cite any examples of erroneous reporting.
Late this afternoon, Heffelfinger and Francis Brun spoke by phone, and afterward, Brun said he still is uneasy.
“I said I liked the fine words about my son, but the final statement left me wondering about the secrecy about whether there’d be more arrests,” said Brun. “He said he couldn’t comment on it. I said that didn’t ease my fears.”
He said he’s tried to forgive Weise for killing his son, but he hasn’t been able to yet. The lack of knowledge about the investigation is affecting his healing process, Brun said.
“I still would like to know just a little bit more about others being involved,” he said. “I won’t be able to start the healing process until all the people involved in the planning are either cleared or charged and convicted. Maybe my wife and others can, but I can’t.”