April 2, 2005 in Nation/World

20 may have known about shooting plot

Dana Hedgpeth and Dan Eggen Washington Post
 

RED LAKE, Minn. – 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 the Indian reservation here 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 over 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,” Donald May, a member of the tribal council, said in midweek. “We’re in shock.”

The last of the 10 fatalities 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, a tribal council member.

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