Police seek motive for 'goth' killer

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

RED LAKE, Minn. -- Authorities were trying to determine Tuesday what caused a teenager to gun down his grandfather, put on the man's police-issue belt and bulletproof vest, and drive his marked squad car to a high school, where he began shooting his classmates at will.

Jeff Weise, 16, killed nine people and wounded seven Monday before trading gunfire with a police officer and apparently shooting himself. His motive still wasn't clear Tuesday, but the FBI said the shootings appeared to have been planned in advance.

It was the nation's deadliest school shooting since the Columbine massacre in April 1999.

Student Ashley Morrison, 17, said Weise liked heavy metal music and dressed like a "goth," with black clothes, chains on his pants and black spiky hair.

"He looks like one of those guys at the Littleton school," Morrison said, referring to the two teen gunmen, members of the so-called Trench Coat Mafia, who killed 12 students, a teacher and themselves at Columbine near Littleton, Colo., in 1999.

The killings on this northern Minnesota Indian reservation began at the home of Weise's grandfather, who was shot to death with a .22-caliber gun, according to Michael Tabman, the FBI's special agent in charge for Minneapolis.

The grandfather had worked as a tribal police officer for decades. Weise then drove the older man's squad car to the school, where he gunned down security guard Derrick Brun at the door and spent about 10 minutes inside, targeting people at random.

Hearing the shots, students and adults barricaded themselves into offices and classrooms and crouched under desks, authorities said. A teacher and five students were shot to death, and two 15-year-olds remained in critical condition at a Fargo, N.D., hospital with gunshot wounds to the face.

Warning signs

Investigators are not sure exactly what set Weise off, but fellow students at Red Lake High said they saw what looked, in retrospect, like warning signs.

About a month ago, his sketch of a guitar-strumming skeleton accompanied by a caption that read "March to the death song 'til your boots fill with blood" was displayed in his English class, said classmate Parston Graves Jr.

Graves, 16, said he was thinking about that picture Tuesday. "I thought that was him letting everyone know" that he was going to do something, Graves said.

Graves said Weise had also shown him comic books he had drawn, filled with well-crafted images of people shooting each other. "It was mental stuff," he said. "It was sick."

Weise, who routinely wore a long black trench coat, eyeliner and combat boots, has been described by several classmates as a quiet teenager. Some of them knew about his troubled childhood -- relatives told the St. Paul Pioneer Press his father had committed suicide and his mother suffered head injuries in an auto accident.

Audrey Thayer, a friend of the family who also works for the Minnesota chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union office in Bemidji, about 30 miles from the town where the shooting occurred, said Weise's story was one of "devastation and loss."

Thayer said Weise had been living with his 58-year-old grandfather, Daryl Lussier, and Lussier's 32-year-old companion, Michelle Sigana. Thayer said Weise had been teased at school, but she didn't think that set him off. "In high school, you always have jabs at each other," she said.

Authorities said that during the rampage inside the school, Weise appeared to choose his victims at random. Some witnesses said he smiled and waved as he fired.

Michael Tabman, the FBI's agent in charge of the Minneapolis office, said Tuesday authorities had not established a motive for the shootings. Investigators said they did not know if there had been some kind of confrontation between Weise and his grandfather.

If Weise was quiet in school, he became an extrovert in cyberspace. It appeared he may have posted messages on a neo-Nazi Web site expressing admiration for Hitler and calling himself "Todesengel," German for the "Angel of Death."

Several notes signed by a Jeff Weise, who identified himself as "a Native American from the Red Lake 'Indian' Reservation," were posted beginning last year on a Web site operated by the Libertarian National Socialist Green Party.

In one posting, he criticized interracial mixing on the reservation and slammed fellow Indian teens for listening to rap music. "We have kids my age killing each other over things as simple as a fight, and it's because of the rap influence," he wrote.

While the writing of his postings on the neo-Nazi Web site may have been sloppy and full of typos, Weise was also able to write more polished prose for stories published on the Internet about zombies.

Weise's Hotmail address links him to frequent postings on one Internet forum called "Rise of the Dead," a site where contributors collaborate on stories about "average people attempting to survive in a zombie-infested world," according to the site.

Weise, posting under the handle "Blades11," appeared to be a regular contributor to numerous fan fiction sites related to zombies. On one, Weise identifies himself as being from Red Lake and lists himself as an amateur writer.

He goes on to write, "I'm a fan of zombie films, have been for years, as well as fan of horror movies in general. I like to write horror stories, read about Nazi Germany and history, and someday plan on moving out of the US."

In a posting from Feb. 6, he agreed to continue contributing to a story line but added that things are "kind of rocky right now so I might disappear unexpectedly."

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