Behind the Rampage /Erie Parallels Are Seen to Shootings at Columbine–Psychotropic Drugs – NYT

Behind the Rampage /Erie Parallels Are Seen to Shootings at Columbine–psychotropic drugs – NYT

Wed, 23 Mar 2005

There is no doubt that Jeff Weise, the 16 year old boy who went on a shooting rampage, killing 10 people, was a very troubled boy. He had plenty of circumstantial reasons, “his parents having vanished from his life.” His father “shot himself to death four years ago. Not long after that, Mr Weise’s mother was in a serious accident that left her using a wheelchair and living in a nursing home.”

That’s plenty of reason to become a loner, to be isolated and to feel and behave like an outcast. Paul Violis, author of the book, “Avoiding Violence in Our Schools” said: “the Nazi issue is a collateral issue, a way for someone not on th football team or in the popular clique to find an identity.” The New York Times reports that “people who monitor neo-Nazi groups said the Libertarian forum frequented by Mr. WeiseŠhas no know links to violence.”

The Times also notes that “Erie Parallels Are Seen To Shootings at Columbine.”

In its front page article, the Times reports: “Several residents said they believed Mr. Weise had received medication for emotional problems. T-Anna Hanson, 21, a cousin of one of his victims, said Mr. Weise had been admitted to a hospital last year for psychiatric help.”

Given the recent disclosure that scientific evidence links SSRI antidepressants to violent and suicidal behavior in adolescents, it is important to investigate what, if any, role the psychotropic drugs that had been prescribed to Jeff Weise may have played in triggering the rampage.

In too many previous school shootings, antidepressants had been involved.

Contact: Vera Hassner Sharav
212-595-8974

THE NEW YORK TIMES
March 23, 2005
Behind the Why of a Rampage, Loner With a Taste for Nazism
By MONICA DAVEY

RED LAKE, Minn., March 22 – Before Monday, before his storm of bullets that left 10 people on this Indian reservation dead, Jeff Weise was rarely noticed here. But when he was, people saw a confused, brooding teenager with few friends, a peculiar attraction to Nazism and a lifetime, already, of family troubles.

He was a loner, in part, by happenstance, his parents having vanished from his life because of quieter tragedies. Emily Parkhurst, who like many other residents of the Red Lake Indian Reservation knew nearly everyone killed or hurt in the shootings, said Mr. Weise’s father shot himself to death four years ago. Not long after that, Mr. Weise’s mother was in a serious car accident that left her using a wheelchair and living in a nursing home.

“It was a lot to handle for a kid with no one to guide him or help him,” Ms. Parkhurst said. “Nobody took the time to get to know him either.”

Investigators say they are now trying to learn all they can about Mr. Weise, 16, to figure out why he killed his grandfather and his grandfather’s companion, then drove to Red Lake High School and killed a security guard, a teacher and five students before killing himself. Seven students were wounded, some of them shot in the head or the chest.

Among the areas of inquiry the Federal Bureau of Investigation is likely to pursue is a neo-Nazi Web forum on which someone identifying himself as Jeff Weise left messages, including one saying he was being accused of threatening to “shoot up” the school on Hitler’s birthday, April 20, in 2004.

The school, which serves about 300 students, was closed on Tuesday and surrounded by law enforcement officials and evidence vans. Inside, the brick and glass building was riddled with so many bullets that F.B.I. officials said they could not keep count.

From a parking lot in the snow-covered, pine-speckled reservation, 120 miles south of the Canadian border, Floyd Jourdain, chairman of the tribal council of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa, said somberly that the tribe, which has wrestled with troubles over poverty and education through the years, had never experienced such a horror.

“Without a doubt, this is the darkest days in the history of our people,” Mr. Jourdain said.

The shootings on Monday afternoon, the deadliest school rampage since 15 people died at Columbine High School near Littleton, Colo., in 1999, were over in just 10 minutes, federal agents said, though some students who were there said they felt as though it had taken far longer.

Alicia Neadeau, 17, recalled standing in a hallway when the sounds of gunfire suddenly filled the school, and rushing with other stunned students into a classroom, where a teacher locked the door while all waited. Ms. Neadeau was still shaking on Tuesday, as she held her mother, Angela Ishan.

For parents, the long wait felt endless too: their unharmed children were not sent home for hours after the 3 p.m. shooting. “I was very, very afraid,” Ms. Ishan said. “Parents didn’t know whose kids were hurt or whose kids were safe.”

A. J. Thunder, 16, whose brother, Cody, was one of the students wounded, said he wondered if he would ever be ready to go back to the school. “I just don’t feel safe,” he said. “You never know if it could happen again.”

As federal agents, tribal police officers and officials from a number of other agencies, including the United States attorney’s office and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, interviewed students and teachers and surveyed the school, they said they believed that Mr. Weise had acted alone but that they had no clear explanations about what prompted the killings.

Residents here said they were stunned by Mr. Weise’s actions, though they said they had seen signs of trouble. Some said he favored Goth culture and clothing and Nazi philosophy, and had seen him drawing graphic, violent pictures.

Several residents said they believed Mr. Weise had received medication for emotional problems. T-Anna Hanson, 21, a cousin of one of his victims, said Mr. Weise had been admitted to a hospital last year for psychiatric help.

Some neighbors said Mr. Weise had recently been ordered to study temporarily at home, not school, because of a disciplinary problem.

Shauna Lussier, an aunt of Mr. Weise, said she was unable to talk about him. “We just can’t understand anything right now,” she said. “Keep us in your prayers.”

Although the F.B.I. said it could not confirm the authenticity of the Web postings, someone who identified himself as Jeff Weise, a high school student living on the Red Lake Indian Reservation, posted 34 messages on a neo-Nazi Web forum last year, expressing admiration for Hitler and frustration at the lack of racial purity and authentic racial pride in his community. He used the handles Todesengel, meaning “angel of death” in German, and NativeNazi on the Libertarian National Socialist Green Party’s Web forum. The forum has a swastika on a green flag on its homepage and promotes itself as an alternative to white-supremacist sites, a place where people of all races are welcome as long as they oppose racial mixing.

“I guess I’ve always had a natural admiration for Hitler and his ideas, and his courage to take on larger nations,” Mr. Weise wrote in a posting last March. “I also have a natural dislike for communism.”

He added, “It kind of angers me how people pass prejudgment on someone” who expresses support for Hitler.

A month later, Mr. Weise wrote that he was “being blamed for a threat on the school I attend because someone said they were going to shoot up the school on 4/20, Hitler’s birthday.” But by the end of May 2004, he wrote that he had been “cleared as a suspect.”

“I’m glad for that,” he said. “I don’t much care for jail. I’ve never been there and I don’t plan on it.”

Michael Tabman, the special agent in charge of the F.B.I.’s Minneapolis office, said the authorities would be studying the Internet postings as part of their investigation. So far, Mr. Tabman said, they had pieced together the events of Monday afternoon.

Before 3 p.m., Mr. Weise, who lived with his grandmother, went to his grandfather’s house, which sits on the reservation away from other homes, off an icy road in the woods. There, Mr. Weise pulled a .22-caliber handgun and shot and killed his grandfather, Daryl Lussier, 58, and his grandfather’s companion, Michelle Sigana, 32, Mr. Tabman said. The authorities said they did not know who owned the handgun.

Mr. Lussier had been a sergeant in the reservation police for 30 years and was, residents said, one of its most beloved officers. Where others stuck hard to the books, they said, Sergeant Lussier sometimes let a person off with a warning, and once even eased a man out of an armed standoff by putting down his service revolver and going to talk to him.

“He had a kind heart, and we should know; we’ve all known him all our lives,” Pam Needham, a neighbor, said of Mr. Lussier.

From the house, the F.B.I. said, Mr. Weise took his grandfather’s police-issued weapons – a .40-caliber handgun and a 12-gauge shotgun – and his utility belt and bulletproof vest before driving off in Mr. Lussier’s marked squad car.

He drove less than five minutes to the high school, where he stepped into the front lobby and shot and killed the unarmed security guard on duty, Derrick Brun, 28. The lobby has a metal detector and a video camera, which was apparently rolling.

From there, Mr. Tabman said, Mr. Weise began firing at students and a teacher in a hallway. The group fled into a classroom. Mr. Weise followed, killing the teacher, Neva Rogers, 62, and several students.

Mr. Weise then ran back into the hallway and began shooting, apparently at random. Students scrambled for hiding places, barricading classroom doors with anything they could find. Some fell, wounded. Some said they saw Mr. Weise laughing, mumbling, taunting them.

Four police officers ran into the school, and Mr. Weise began shooting at them, Mr. Tabman said. At least one officer fired back at the boy, who was wearing his grandfather’s bulletproof vest. The authorities are not sure whether any of the shots hit him, but he ran back into the classroom where most of the dead lay, and shot himself once in the head, Mr. Tabman said.

The notion of a Nazi sympathizer on an Indian reservation particularly offended some here. “You have to be white to be a Nazi, don’t you?” said one resident, who would give only his first name, George, and said he had known most of the victims all of their lives. “Believe me, there are no other Nazis here.”

The reservation, with 880 acres, has a population of 5,118, about 40 percent of them living in poverty, according to the 2000 Census. The tribe also includes about 5,000 members living elsewhere.

On Tuesday, Orville White, whose niece, Thurlene Marie Stillday, 15, was among the dead, stood along a reservation street, his eyes on the ground and his fingers clutching a photograph of her. She had bangs and a hopeful smile.

Gangs, drugs, alcohol: those, Mr. White said, had plagued the reservation before. But this, he said, was incomprehensible.

Reporting for this article was contributed by Kirk Johnson from Red Lake; Mikkel Pates from Fargo, N.D.; Gretchen Ruethling from Chicago; Mindy Sink from Denver; and Jodi Wilgoren from Chicago.

THE NEW YORK TIMES
March 23, 2005
Eerie Parallels Are Seen to Shootings at Columbine
By JODI WILGOREN

He is said to have worn a trench coat and listened to Marilyn Manson, the Goth icon. He expressed his admiration for Hitler on a neo-Nazi Web site. And in the midst of a murderous rampage at his high school, Jeff Weise asked a classmate if he believed in God, then shot him, one student recounted in a local newspaper.

As details begin to emerge about Mr. Weise’s shooting spree on an Indian reservation in northern Minnesota, there are eerie echoes of the nation’s most infamous school tragedy, six years ago at Columbine High School near Littleton, Colo.

At Columbine, the killers, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, belonged to the “Trench Coat Mafia” and loved all things Goth. They sometimes did a Nazi salute while bowling and planned their attack for Hitler’s birthday. Before killing one student, witnesses said, one of them held a gun to her temple and asked if she believed in God.

“My heart just sank, like ‘Oh, my God,’ I thought of that day,” Tom Mauser, whose son, Daniel, was among the 15 people killed at Columbine, recalled of his reaction upon first learning of the Minnesota massacre. “We just kind of knew there was a good chance it was going to happen again.”

Describing Mr. Weise’s black, spiky hair and black Goth clothes, Ashley Morrison, a fellow student at Red Lake High School, told The Associated Press, “He looks like one of those guys at the Littleton school.”

Beyond these particular similarities, experts on school shootings said Mr. Weise appears to fit squarely into a pattern of disaffected youth who struggle to fit in at homogenous schools in rural or suburban areas, then erupt in violence to seek attention, enact revenge and gain power over people who have taunted them. They interpret his Internet postings as an outcast’s quest to belong to something larger, another common thread in school shootings. Reports of Mr. Weise drawing gory pictures in class were classic warning signs of what was to come, they say.

“It typically happens in small, remote towns because the protagonist is a boy who is socially incapable in many ways,” said Katherine Newman, a sociologist at Princeton University and the editor of “Rampage: The Social Roots of School Shootings,” published last year. “This is someone who is a failed joiner, who is repeatedly trying to gain access to peer groups that reject him.”

While the Columbine killers came from stable families in a well-off suburb, Mr. Weise, who the authorities said was 16, lived on a reservation where 40 percent of the people are poor, and without his parents. His race belies any pattern: 27 of the 28 school gunmen from 1992 to 2002 were white, said Michael Kimmel, a sociologist at the State University of New York, Stony Brook, who studied them.

In 34 postings to www.nazi.org, a forum operated by the Libertarian National Socialist Green Party, that the authorities said Tuesday they were investigating for hints to motive, someone identifying himself as Jeff Weise, a high school student on the Red Lake Indian Reservation, expressed frustration at the lack of racial purity and pride among his people. Calling himself “NativeNazi” or “Todesengel,” German for “angel of death,” Mr. Weise said he had found few sympathizers for his racial views and had sometimes been persecuted for them. “I already had a fist fight with a communist not too long ago over me being what I am (I also won), but it was worth it,” he wrote on May 26 at 2:27 a.m.

In another post, Mr. Weise complained that “less than 1 percent of all the people on the reservation can speak their own language,” and said that his peers eschewed their culture to emulate rappers. He said his parents were American Indians, but that he had German, Irish and French-Canadian ancestry as well, and that when he had spoken of the need for his tribe to have “more pure bloods” he was called a racist.

Mr. Weise also frequently contributed to stories about zombies on an Internet forum called “Rise of the Dead,” according to The Associated Press. Parston Graves Jr., a Red Lake student, told The A.P. that Mr. Weise had displayed a sketch of a guitar-strumming skeleton captioned, “March to the death song ’til your boots fill with blood,” in class, and had shown off his drawings of people shooting each other.

Paul Viollis, author of the 2001 book “Avoiding Violence in Our Schools,” said “the Nazi issue is a collateral issue,” a way for someone not on the football team or in the popular clique to find an identity. “This individual found some type of solace,” he said.

People who monitor neo-Nazi groups said the Libertarian forum frequented by Mr. Weise is a little-known Internet-only organization with no known links to violence, whose niche is to welcome people of all races who oppose race-mixing.

As for the unlikely prospect of an American Indian Nazi, Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center, said African-Americans, Jews and gays have all been members of racial hate groups. “Kids like this feel extremely powerless, and they want to associate with the oppressor, not the oppressed,” he said. “That’s where you get this bizarre phenomenon of people joining movements that aim to exterminate them, or people like them.”

In an article posted Tuesday on www.nazi.org, the group “refused to wring hands” over the shootings, instead saying that “such events are to be expected when thinking people are crammed into an unthinking, irrational, modern society.”

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

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