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Floyd Jourdain a news conference after the shooting at Red Lake High School. Mr. Jourdain's son Louis, in the hooded sweatshirt, with federal officials on Monday.

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Tribe Is Shaken by Arrest of Leader's Son in Shootings


Published: March 30, 2005

RED LAKE, Minn., March 29 - Among the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians, the Jourdain family name resonates like few others.

From Roger Jourdain, who ruled the tribe for 31 years beginning in the late 1950's, to Floyd Jourdain Jr., who was elected tribal chairman last year, the name carries influence and meaning here and among Indians across the country, tribe members and outsiders say.


So the arrest over the weekend of Floyd Jourdain's 16-year-old son, Louis, in connection with the shootings last week at and near Red Lake High School that left 10 people dead, is not just another blow to a wounded community, tribe members said.

What had been a path of loss and grief over the actions of one troubled young man has become more complex with the suggestion that a member of a family that has been central to the community might have shared the same violent thoughts.

"It seems like this has gone from bad to worse," said Eileen Sumner, 46, who works at Red Lake Hospital, as she stood beside a memorial to those killed. Her daughter Katie, 20, said that what had stunned everyone was that Louis Jourdain seemed to have such a positive family.

"If this kid could be in this kind of trouble," she said, "anybody's kid could be in trouble."

Floyd Jourdain, who as tribal leader led the mourning last week, was compelled as a father on Tuesday to defend his son, who government officials say was intimately involved in planning the attack, although the police say it was also clear that the gunman, Jeff Weise, acted alone.

The link between Mr. Weise, who killed himself in the attack, and Louis Jourdain has been established by numerous e-mail messages, said an official who has been briefed on the case and asked not to be identified in discussing a case involving a minor.

The official said the messages indicated that Mr. Weise and Mr. Jourdain planned an attack, with graphic discussions about logistics and targets. The two even conducted a walk-through of the building, deciding how to carry out the assault. The official said it was not clear why Mr. Jourdain did not participate.

The official said Louis Jourdain had told investigators that he never had any intention of going through with the plan and that he did not believe Mr. Weise did, either.

Two students who said they were in the school library with Louis said that when the shooting began, he yelled that the gunman was Mr. Weise before anyone could see him, The Star Tribune of Minneapolis reported. One of the students said Louis then ran toward the gunfire, saying he had to talk to Mr. Weise.

Floyd Jourdain, 40, said in an emotional statement that Louis was innocent and that Mr. Weise acted alone.

"He is a good boy with a good heart who never harmed anyone in his entire life," Mr. Jourdain said of Louis. "I know my son, and he is incapable of committing such an act."

One question for prosecutors as a result of Louis Jourdain's arrest is whether to pursue an adult or a juvenile prosecution, a question that seemed moot last week when the sole suspect, Mr. Weise, died. In a juvenile prosecution, the proceeding is largely closed to the public. An adult prosecution would be in public view.

Louis Jourdain appeared in Federal District Court in Duluth on Tuesday, and his father watched the hearing, which was closed to the public.

Officials have said other arrests are possible.

The official who insisted on anonymity said prosecutors were leaning away from charging Mr. Jourdain as an adult because he was said to be troubled and clinically depressed. But there was also an unspoken sense, the official said, that trying him as an adult could tear apart the community and deepen social problems on the reservation.

On March 21, Mr. Weise killed his grandfather and his grandfather's companion, drove to the high school and shot seven more people to death before killing himself.

There have been indications on the reservation in the last week that Mr. Weise's interest in guns and violence was not really a secret. One student wounded in the attack, Cody Thunder, 15, said Mr. Weise spoke about often about an attack.

The Red Lake superintendent of schools, Stuart Desjarlait, said students did not notify him or other school officials of Mr. Weise's discussions about violence.

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