Red Lake reactions were 'by the book'


Andrew Rothman
August 25, 2005, 07:49 PM

Red Lake reactions were 'by the book'
David Chanen, Star Tribune
August 24, 2005

Jeff Weise wasn't done with his Red Lake High School rampage when he looked through the window of Cynthia Rowell's classroom. As the teen entered, the science teacher was frantically herding students to the back.

Weise was pointing his stolen gun, but she continued to move the children into another room and slammed the door shut. But there was no lock.

Rowell used her foot to bar the door and held it tight. Weise started to shoot. Rowell yelled at the students to escape through a side door, but to run in an evasive pattern to avoid bullets.

Rowell quickly followed the children as Weise shot through two glass windows, bullets whizzing over her head. The story, told Tuesday by U.S. Attorney Tom Heffelfinger, mesmerized the hundreds of police officers and attorneys who had gathered to hear several officials tell how to keep kids safe in school.

Although Rowell had no formal training, she did what school districts such as Lakeville have recently taught their staff members to do if a shooter is in the building. Stearns County Attorney Janelle Kendall said St. Cloud police are being trained to handle "active shooter" scenarios in schools, training she said she believes should be taking place statewide.

"Cold Spring is a changed place since the shootings at Rocori High School," she said.

"Don't think it can't happen."

Kendall, who spoke before Heffelfinger, went on to discuss what was learned from that shooting.

Two Rocori High students died at the hands of John Jason McLaughlin in the incident nearly two years ago.

Parents didn't want armed guards or metal detectors, but they wanted teachers to help students who feel they are being bullied. After a shooting, get accurate information out quickly to prevent rumors, she said. Take all threats seriously, because you can't predict who might follow through on a threat.

"My family was close to the McLaughlins. We watched football together. My children played video games with John," she said. "Next week, I will watch him go to prison for the rest of his life."

The Red Lake shootings were different from those at Rocori, because McLaughlin targeted at least one of his victims, Kendall said. Weise, 16, who killed nine people before turning the gun on himself, was going to shoot until somebody shot him, she said. That's why officers nationwide are now being trained to aggressively go after the shooter and not wait for backup to arrive, she said.

In Lakeville, school staff members are involved in a scenario with officers that includes loud noises, smoke and the sounds of gun blasts. They are taught safety measures, including pulling students from hallways into classrooms, but they're not expected to act like police officers, said Police Chief Steve Strachan.

Heffelfinger said he has no doubt that the actions of Rowell and the heroism of a security guard and members of the Red Lake police SWAT team stopped the death toll from being higher that day in March. This wasn't an Indian crime but part of a national epidemic of school violence, he said.

"There is concern about the survival of the high school," he said. "This was a tragedy of unspeakable proportions."

He didn't discuss the specifics of what was learned from the shootings because the investigation is ongoing. U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank has yet to decide if Louis Jourdain, who has been linked to the shootings, should be tried as an adult. The 16-year-old son of Red Lake Tribal Chairman Buck Jourdain Jr. was arrested shortly after the shootings.

Heffelfinger said several of the stories of bravery he shared Tuesday at the 40th annual Criminal Justice Institute in Bloomington were being made public for the first time. He wanted to tell them because he doesn't want people to forget.

He praised security guard Derrick Brun, who could have run after Weise drove a stolen police vehicle to the front doors of the school.

"But [Brun] got up from his desk and walked toward Weise as [Weise] pulled out a shotgun from his coat and shot him," Heffelfinger said.

That created "the noise" to start a lockdown that was picked up by Rowell. Then there was the work of officer Cliff Martell and three other members of the SWAT team. They identified the sounds as gunshots, saw Weise shooting at students and followed him to a room where he had already killed several people.

"Because he was cornered, Weise killed himself," Heffelfinger said. "They absolutely did everything by the book."

Martell was sent a termination letter last month by Floyd Jourdain's assistant, but Heffelfinger said he didn't know the circumstances. Martell is appealing it, he said. Tribal officials couldn't be reached for comment.

The shootings were difficult for Heffelfinger because he knew Brun and Daryl (Dash) Lussier Sr., a longtime police officer and Weise's grandfather, who was one of the first two people killed.

"Keep the people of Red Lake in your prayers," he told the audience. "They're still suffering great pain."

The school acts in loco parentis during the school day.

Well, this parent would kill or die defending his kids. It is disappointing in the extreme that less is expected of teachers and staff.

If you enjoyed reading about "Red Lake reactions were 'by the book'" here in archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join today for the full version!
Standing Wolf
August 25, 2005, 08:48 PM
The story, told Tuesday by U.S. Attorney Tom Heffelfinger, mesmerized the hundreds of police officers and attorneys who had gathered to hear several officials tell how to keep kids safe in school.

If that was safe, I'd hate to see kids run into lethal.

Agent P
August 26, 2005, 12:06 AM
The September issue of Reader's Digest had this story in their Everyday Heroes section. Jeff May, a ninth-grade student at Red Lake, attacked Weise with a pencil and wrestled with him, getting shot in the face. The story goes on to say that "the two had grappeled for just enough time, witnesses estimate, to spare the lives of the remaining dozen people in the classroom." I'm surprised the Star Tribune article didn't mention May's actions.

August 26, 2005, 01:12 AM
Odd that Red Lake's "SWAT Team" was never mentioned in anything I read until this article.

Hell, I don't think Red Lake even has a SWAT Team.

August 26, 2005, 04:16 AM
You cant just hide your kids in a classroom, your just filling the barrel with fish. You cant send them running into the hallways as that creates a shooting gallery (not to mention some serious friendly fire issues with responding cops).

The easy solution? Have all the kids "duck and cover" in their classrooms (hey its finaly useful!) while the instructor retrieves their state issued 12-guage from the lock box and trains it on the locked entrance to the classroom.

Andrew Rothman
August 26, 2005, 12:00 PM
Red Lake reactions were 'by the book'

I wish I'd said it earlier: They need a new book.

August 26, 2005, 02:55 PM
I was getting to high school age about the time that the whole Columbine thing happened. We were told that we should all go huddle in a corner if somebody started shooting up the place. The thought occured to me that our desks weren't that big, and could probably be thrown with enough force to at least temporarily disorient an attacker, thus allowing others to aid in our common defence. I don't like the idea of 12 year olds having to fend off murdering nutballs, but what ever happened to "everybody fights?" It seemed like a better idea than a dogpile of targets in the corner.

Sounds like this Jeff May fellow agrees with me.

'Course, C_yeager's idea sounds like the best solution.

August 26, 2005, 04:48 PM
That would be SOOOOO nice c_yeager. I can see it now.

A 12 Gauge in a wall mounted case. Use RFID cards that the teachers have in their ID's to unlock it. (The stressfull situation could make teachers forget a combination.) Have a backup combination lock as well just in case. Have a system that will let the office know if any of the cases are unlocked.

If you enjoyed reading about "Red Lake reactions were 'by the book'" here in archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join today for the full version!