Minn. Shooter Described As Deeply Disturbed-He took Prozac – Wash Post
Thu, 24 Mar 2005
The Chicago Tribune and The Washington Post confirm the suspicion that like the other adolescents who went on a school shooting rampage, Jeff Weise was taking an SSRI antidepressant. The Post identifies the drug as Prozac:
“Those willing to be interviewed described Weise as a young man who drifted among various homes on the reservation, listening to heavy metal music, proclaiming his affinity for Adolf Hitler and periodically showing up at the high school, even though Desjarlait said that six months ago he had ordered Weise to stay at home for tutoring.
He was taking the anti-depressant Prozac and at least once was hospitalized for suicidal tendencies, said Gayle Downwind, a cultural coordinator at Red Lake Middle School, who taught Weise.” Although no single aspect in this teenagers horrific circumstances is likely to be the cause of his murderous action, violence and suicidal behavior is–as has been scientifically documented–a rare, but very demonstrable adverse side effect of the drug.
Indeed, after 16 years of denial, a series of Eli Lilly documents that have recently become publicly accessible, show the company’s own review (1988) revealed that even in controlled clinical trials–from which suicidal patients are excluded–38% of patients taking Prozac compared to 19% of patients on placebo experienced “activation.” The term “activation” is used to describe violent and suicidal behavior. The authenticity of the Lilly-Prozac documents have not been disputed. See: http://www.ahrp.org/infomail/05/01/27.php
After a thorough independent examination of the pediatric SSRI antidepressant clinical trial data reported to the FDA, in April 2004, the FDA required all antidepressant drugs, including Prozac, to carry explicit warnings that apply for children and adults prescribed an antidepressant.
The label warns about “the emergence of anxiety, agitation, panic attacks, insomnia, irritability, hostility (aggressiveness), impulsivity, akathisia (psychomotor restlessness), hypomania, and mania have been reported in adult and pediatric patients being treated with antidepressants…” See: http://www.fda.gov/cder/drug/antidepressants/default.htm
For children and adolescents, the FDA requires an additional Black Box warning about the twofold increased risk of suicidal behavior in children and adolescents taking Prozac or any antidepressant.
Contact: Vera Hassner Sharav
Shooter Described As Deeply Disturbed
By Ceci Connolly and Dana Hedgpeth
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, March 24, 2005; Page A12
Teen shooter was taking Prozac
Hospitalized for being suicidal
By Ceci Connolly and Dana Hedgpeth
RED LAKE, Minn March 23. – Two days after a shooting rampage on the Indian reservation in Red Lake left 10 dead, friends, relatives and neighbors of the teenage assailant began to sketch a portrait of a deeply disturbed youth who had been treated for depression in a psychiatric ward, lost several close family members, sketched gruesome scenes of armed warriors and had been removed from the school where he gunned down most of his victims Monday.
Still, even the few people close to him were at a loss to pinpoint precisely what triggered Jeff Weise’s deadly outburst, and officials provided little information about the 16-year-old gunman.
On the Red Lake Indian Reservation, officials held a private prayer service Wednesday night and met to discuss when students might be able to return to school. Superintendent Stuart Desjarlait said it might take months for the high school to reopen because of the “extensive damage” from Monday’s rampage. Five students, a teacher and a security guard were killed at the school. Seven students were wounded, and two remained in critical condition Wednesday at a hospital in Fargo, N.D.
Federal authorities said they were conducting autopsies on the gunman and his nine victims, but FBI spokesman Paul McCabe said he did not anticipate releasing any information in the near future. Tribal leaders were even less forthcoming, strictly limiting reporters’ movements.
Tensions rose throughout Wednesday, with some residents whispering fears that if they spoke to outsiders they would suffer retribution. Residents of neighboring communities offered cautionary tales about violence on the reservation, and the Justice Department created a task force to deal with gangs when Red Lake suffered five homicides in seven months in 2002. Because Red Lake is a “closed” reservation, it operates as a sovereign nation, running its own police force and dictating who may set foot on the property.
Those willing to be interviewed described Weise as a young man who drifted among various homes on the reservation, listening to heavy metal music, proclaiming his affinity for Adolf Hitler and periodically showing up at the high school, even though Desjarlait said that six months ago he had ordered Weise to stay at home for tutoring.
He was taking the anti-depressant Prozac and at least once was hospitalized for suicidal tendencies, said Gayle Downwind, a cultural coordinator at Red Lake Middle School, who taught Weise.
It was not uncommon for Weise to spend at least one night a week at her home.
In his 16 years, Weise lost many relatives. He was estranged from other family members and had a strained relationship with Daryl Lussier, the grandfather he killed at the start of Monday’s rampage.
Family and friends said that Weise’s father, Daryl Lussier Jr., committed suicide in 1997. Two years later, a serious automobile accident killed a cousin and left Weise’s mother with partial paralysis and brain damage.
Then, about two years ago, “his other grandfather on his mom’s side passed away,” an aunt, Kim Desjarlait, told NBC’s “Today” show. “You are dealing with three deaths within eight years. I think for a kid starting at 10 years old, that’s a lot to take.”
Special correspondents Patrick Marx and Dalton Walker in Red Lake and research editor Lucy Shackelford in Washington contributed to this report.
© 2005 The Washington Post Company
Posted on Wed, Mar. 23, 2005
Friend says shooter had threatened violence at school before
BY TED GREGORY
BEMIDJI, Minn. – (KRT) – As the Red Lake community grappled with the trauma of a high school shooting rampage that left 10 people dead and seven wounded, a friend of gunman Jeff Weise said Weise had been haunted by personal loss and once had threatened to “shoot up the school.”
Weise, 16, liked the heavy metal music of Marilyn Manson, used an instant messenger sign-on of Decemberofthesoul and claimed Adolf Hitler as a hero, said Michelle Kingbird, 13, whose brother Ryan Auginash, 15, was wounded in the shooting Monday at Red Lake High School on a remote Indian reservation in northern Minnesota.
Weise was taking anti-depressants, Kingbird said, and was haunted by his father’s suicide several years earlier. In his sophomore class picture, Weise had formed small, devilish horns into the back of his brown, wavy hair.
“He was cool,” said the soft-spoken Kingbird. “He was funny and, I don’t know, I didn’t think he was that kind of person (to attack the school).”
But shortly before the end of school Monday, while Kingbird was on the playground at the adjacent middle school, Weise, who was in an alternative program that called for him to be educated at home, drove up to the entrance of the high school and started shooting. Less than 10 minutes later, he had killed five students, a teacher and a security guard before turning the gun on himself. Earlier, Weise shot and killed his grandfather, a sergeant with the Red Lake Police Department, and the grandfather’s female companion.
Now, in the wake of the violence, Red Lake – home to the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians – is trying to recover.
“We’re taking baby steps right now,” said school Principal Chris Dunshee. “We do what we can do right now.”
Teachers and administrators, who met Wednesday morning at the elementary school in Red Lake, have a daunting task ahead of them. Several parents say they won’t allow their children to return to the high school; some students are also saying they won’t go back.
Kingbird is one. Ashley Morrison, 17, a Red Lake student who witnessed the shootings, is another, and her mother, Wendy Johnson, was sympathetic.
“I don’t think I’m going to let my kids go back to that school,” Johnson said, adding that her daughter could transfer to other area schools. “My kids felt like they were safe and now, they no longer feel safe and I’m not going to leave them in that situation.”
Wanda Baxter, the culture and language teacher at Red Lake Middle School, who attended Wednesday morning’s meeting, said she understood why some do not want to return.
“It’s only natural for them to feel that way,” she said. “Definitely I will go back. There will always be concerns and fears, but that’s why our elders and youth need to come together.”
Dunshee said the high school and middle schools will be closed indefinitely but noted that opening the buildings as soon as possible will help restore normalcy to the lives of students and staff – an important element in managing grief.
After an act of violence like these shootings, parents desperately seek a guarantee that it will not happen again, and school officials often respond by installing hardware such as metal detectors and surveillance cameras, said Kenneth Trump, president of National School Safety and Security Services in Cleveland. He said the demand for a guarantee is “understandable but it’s also unrealistic.”
“The difficult part is that many of the things we should be doing are less tangible but more important,” he said. Those measures include increased adult supervision in halls, cafeterias and bus drop-off points, Trump added. The staff’s deeper awareness of each child also is important, he said.
But, with cuts in federal school safety programs looming and greater emphasis on stronger test scores, safety in schools is lagging, Trump said.
“I get asked a lot after one of these incidents whether it was a wake-up call,” Trump said. “The real question is whether we’re going to hit the snooze button and go back to sleep. Time and distance breed complacency. It feeds denial and that’s perhaps the biggest detriment of all.”
Red Lake High School had metal detectors, security guards and surveillance cameras – which caught Weise walking the hall but not firing Monday afternoon. A day earlier, Kingbird had communicated with Weise via computer, she said. They talked about what they were doing after school. He did not mention the attack, and investigators were still seeking a motive behind the killings.
But, about this time last year, after making some vague references to Hitler’s birthday of April 20, Weise “said he was just going to go shoot up the school,” Kingbird recalled. “I just said, ‘You won’t,’ and then he said, ‘I will,’ and I was like, ‘No you won’t.’ Nobody believed him.”
The two had begun communicating a few weeks earlier, Kingbird said, when he started sending her instant messages. From that beginning, the two became friends, occasionally listening to music together, Kingbird said. She visited his personal Web site, which included pictures of his favorite bands “and what he felt and stuff like that.”
Kingbird also denied the contention of other students who said Weise, who was 6 feet tall and weighed 250 pounds, was a target of teasing.
And, she said, she holds no animosity toward him even though he killed people she knew and wounded her brother. She struggled to explain the apparent contradiction.
“It’s so hard,” she said. “I don’t know; because he was my friend and all the time I was sad, he made me feel happy.”
The shootings, the worst outbreak of school violence since two students at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., killed 13 people and themselves in 1999, were by far the most devastating acts in recent history on the reservation, tribal officials said.
But violence has flared occasionally at Red Lake since 1979, when a split in tribal leadership led to ambushes and riots in which several homes were burned, said Kent Smith, a professor of Indian Studies at Bemidji State University. As recently as early 2004, FBI agents came to Red Lake in response to drive-by shootings directed at local police officers’ homes and law enforcement buildings, he said.
Red Lake, a Chippewa reservation, is “a fiercely independent community,” that issued passports in the 1980s and license plates in the mid-1970s, said Smith, who has been at Bemidji State for 30 years.
It also is a community dealing with chronic poverty and an unemployment rate of about 40 percent, Smith said.
Now, it must mourn and overcome a school shooting. Kingbird said she plans to move 240 miles south to the home of an aunt in the Twin Cities and attend school there.
Her principal is hoping she’ll change her mind.
“We’re going to do everything possible to take care of our young people and ease their pain, to begin with,” Dunshee said. “Then, it’ll be a decision for them down the road.”
© 2005, Chicago Tribune.
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