Gunman goes on rampage at school
Published 7:00 pm, Sunday, March 20, 2005
It was the nation's worst school shooting since the Columbine massacre in 1999.
Students pleaded with the gunman to stop shooting.
"You could hear a girl saying, 'No, Jeff, quit, quit. Leave me alone. What are you doing?" Sondra Hegstrom told The Pioneer of Bemidji, using the name of the suspected shooter.
Before the shootings at Red Lake High School, the suspect's grandparents were shot in their home and died later.
Six students including the gunman were killed at the school, along with a teacher and a security guard, FBI spokesman Paul McCabe said at a news conference in Minneapolis.
Hegstrom described the gunman grinning and waving at a student his gun was pointed at, then swiveling to shoot someone else. "I looked him in the eye and ran in the room, and that's when I hid," she told The Pioneer.
McCabe declined to talk about a possible connection between the suspect and the couple killed at the home, but Red Lake Fire Director Roman Stately said they were the grandparents of the shooter. He identified the shooter's grandfather as Daryl Lussier, a longtime officer with the Red Lake Police Department, and said Lussier's guns may have been used in the shootings.
Stately said the shooter had two handguns and a shotgun.
"After he shot a security guard, he walked down the hallway shooting and went into a classroom where he shot a teacher and more students," Stately told Minneapolis television station KARE.
Students and a teacher at the scene, Diane Schwanz, said the shooter tried to break down a door to get into a room where some students were.
"I just got on the floor and called the cops," Schwanz told the Pioneer. "I was still just half-believing it."
Ashley Morrison, another student, took refuge in a classroom. With the shooter banging on the door, she dialed her mother on her cell phone. Her mother, Wendy Morrison, said she could hear gunshots on the line.
"'Mom, he's trying to get in here and I'm scared,"' Ashley Morrison told her mother.
Schwanz was the teacher in that room. She said, "I just got down on the floor and (said), 'Kids, down on the ground, under the benches!"' She said she called police on her cell phone.
All of the dead students were found in one room. One of them was a boy believed to be the shooter, McCabe said. He would not comment on reports that the boy shot himself and said it was too early to speculate on a motive.
Fourteen to 15 other students were injured, McCabe said.
The school was evacuated after the shootings and locked down for investigation, McCabe said.
"It will probably take us throughout the night to really put the whole picture together," he said.
It was the nation's worst school shooting since two students at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., killed 12 students and a teacher and wounded 23 before killing themselves on April 20, 1999.
The last apparent fatal school shootings involving a student also happened in Minnesota in September 2003, when two students were killed at Rocori High School in Cold Spring. Classmate John Jason McLaughlin, who was 15 at the time of the shooting, awaits trial in the case.
That shooting was the first major incident reported since 2001.
Red Lake High School, on the Red Lake Indian Reservation in far northern Minnesota, has about 300 students, according to its Web site.
The reservation is about 240 miles north of the Twin Cities. It is home to the Red Lake Chippewa Tribe, one of the poorest in the state. According to the 2000 census, 5,162 people lived on the reservation, and all but 91 were full-blooded Indians.