The March 21 Red Lake High School shooting in Minnesota was America’s worst since Columbine in 1999. Jeff Weise, a 16-year-old Native American, murdered nine people and wounded seven others before taking his own life.
The New York Times quoted one prominent Indian, Vernon Bellecourt, as saying, “No one would ever think that that type of violence would visit itself in our communities, it’s not part of our culture and our traditions, so we’re kind of puzzled by it all. But our young people are not exempt from the same problems young people have across the country,” he said, “so our communities are now being victimized by this same kind of violence” (March 22).
Once again, we are left to assume that the cause of such bloody massacres is violence in general, or society—or perhaps guns, or poverty, or lack of psychological counseling—maybe even faulty security systems.
But what was Weise’s family like? That should have been the question journalists demanded an answer to. As it turns out, his father committed suicide four years ago. What were the circumstances surrounding that? His mother had been confined to an institution after suffering brain damage in a car accident. We are left to assume that Jeff lived with his grandfather—the one he murdered before driving to school to shoot his classmates.
All signs point to one inescapable fact: This young boy had a rotten home life. And his dysfunctional home—surprise, surprise—ended up producing a terribly troubled child. Like the Columbine killers of 1999, Weise was a Nazi sympathizer who admired Adolf Hitler. He had posted 34 messages on an anti-Semitic website. He was fascinated with Goth culture and often wore a black trenchcoat. Fellow students said he was withdrawn and depressed, even suicidal. Once he even made a comment about how “cool” it would be to shoot up his school. Last October, he posted on a website a 30-second animation called “Target Practice,” where an armed assailant shoots and kills four innocents, blows up a police car, and then commits suicide.
Five months later, that cartoon turned into a live-action reality show, starring Jeff Weise, America’s latest adolescent suicidal murderer.
The Trumpet addressed the subject of school shootings after the Columbine tragedy. Please see our May 1999 issue for more on this subject.