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Posted on Sat, Apr. 02, 2005

School shooting probe asks how many teens knew


As many as 20 teenagers may have known ahead of time about plans for the shooting spree that resulted in the deaths of 10 people on an Indian reservation March 21, tribal and federal officials said Friday.

Capt. Dewayne Dow of the tribal police told a group of parents, teachers and staff at a three-hour school board meeting that authorities believe as many as 20 students were involved.

One law enforcement official said the FBI believes that as many as four students, including gunman Jeff Weise and Louis Jourdain, a classmate arrested Sunday, were directly involved in planning an attack on Red Lake High School, while well more than a dozen others may have heard about the plot.

"There may have been as many as four of these kids who were active participants in the plot," said the official, who declined to be identified discussing an ongoing investigation. "The question is, how many other kids had some knowledge of this or had heard about it somehow? We think there were quite a few."

FBI agents seized 30 to 40 computers from the high school computer laboratory Friday to perform forensic analysis on the machines, FBI and school officials said.

Investigators hope to learn more from the school computers, because much of the alleged discussion and planning among Weise and his friends occurred through e-mails and instant messages, the law enforcement official said.

Those developments capped a week in which daily funerals or wakes kept many members of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa in a state of stunned disbelief.

As the week passed in this isolated community, the FBI's continuing investigation was compounding the residents' ingrained distrust of outside authorities.

"It still feels like it's a bad dream," said Donald May, a member of the tribal council. "We're in shock."

The last of the 10 dead was to be buried today. "I went to a lot of these funerals these past few days, and I'm just numb," said Allen Pemberton, another tribal council member.

"It used to be when you saw someone who's a non-Indian coming on the reservation, there's only one reason -- he's either an FBI agent or a Mormon," said Mike Fairbanks, a 40-year law enforcement veteran and member of Red Lake.

Some of the distrust was cropping up between tribal members.

"I've been getting strange looks," said Cartera Hart, 16, as she left a grocery store on the reservation. Hart, who was dressed in black and wore a hoop through her lip, said she hangs out in a group of about a dozen students who had been friends with Weise and Jourdain, who is the tribal chairman's son. Her friend Alyssa Roy, 15, said, "There's going to be more and more people tormenting us and thinking we're involved."

To cope with the onslaught of attention, and with the shootings, some tribal members simply withdrew to their homes. As the weather turned warm and sunny Thursday, baseball courts and parks were empty. A few younger children rode bikes around in their yards, close to their houses.

At two counseling centers set up on the reservation, a handful of the counselors who had been brought in from around the area sat one afternoon, sipping the donated sodas and waiting for someone to counsel.

Some parents said that their teenagers had gone for counseling the first few days after the shooting, but that they would like to see the roughly 30 counselors come to their houses because they are nervous and afraid.

Many tribal members said they felt more comfortable talking about their grief in private, with friends and family.

Some people said they were on edge as FBI agents showed up at people's houses, and teenagers were being taken to the detention center for hours of questioning.

At the high school grounds, police cars and yellow tape blocked the entrance. Teddy bears, flowers, candles and signs offering condolences hung along a metal fence in the school yard. Inside the school, the sounds of drills could be heard as workers repaired the damage.

School officials said they plan to reopen the nearby elementary school April 11, but were unsure when the middle and high schools would reopen.

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