Columbine Comparisons Begin

March 2005

The school shootings in Red Lake, MN yesterday were a nightmare. It was inevitable that comparisons to the Columbine shootings would begin. They have been hastened by the disclosure today that the shooter, who committed suicide, had Nazi leanings and posted his thoughts on the Internet.

Yet Monday's school shooting, in which 16-year-old Jeff Weise allegedly killed nine people and wounded at least 14 others before killing himself, is the worst since the tragedy at Littleton's Columbine High School six years ago and, in some ways, has a grim similarity. Reports Tuesday were circulating of the shooter's social isolation, ties to Nazi beliefs, even of a black trenchcoat.

Did Weise's Native American heritage contribute to his rage and need to strike out violently? Some experts think so. Others point out that like Columbine, these killings could have happened anywhere. I wonder whether the common demoninator is not the culture of intolerance among kids. Jeff Wiese was an outsider who was taunted and ridculed by other kids. So were Harris and Klebold .

Relatives told the St. Paul Pioneer Press that Weise was a loner who was often teased by others. They said his father committed suicide four years ago and his mother was living in a Minneapolis nursing home because she suffered brain injuries in a car accident.
Indian leaders, however, were quick to distance the incident from specific native American issues, and to say it shocks them as much Columbine and other school shootings shocked the local communities. "The scary thing about this is it could happen anywhere," says Tuleah Palmer, director of the Boys and Girls Club in Leech Lake. "Red Lake was an extraordinarily secure school."

Here's more on Weise's Nazi leanings, including messages he left on the Internet.