- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 22, 2005

BEMIDJI, Minn. (AP) — A high school student went on a shooting rampage on this Indian reservation yesterday, killing his grandparents at their home and then seven persons at his school, “grinning and waving” as he fired, authorities and witnesses said.

The gunman apparently killed himself after exchanging fire with police, authorities said. It was the nation’s worst school shooting since the Columbine High School massacre in Littleton, Colo., in 1999.

Students pleaded with the gunman to stop shooting.

“You could hear a girl saying, ‘No, Jeff, quit, quit. Leave me alone. What are you doing?’” Sondra Hegstrom told the Pioneer newspaper of Bemidji, using the name of the shooting suspect.

Before the shootings at Red Lake High School, the suspect’s grandparents were shot in their home and died later. There was no immediate indication of the gunman’s motive.

Six students, including the gunman, were killed at the school, along with a teacher and a security guard, FBI spokesman Paul McCabe said at a press conference in Minneapolis.

Fourteen or 15 other students were injured, Mr. McCabe said. Some were being cared for in Bemidji, about 20 miles south of Red Lake. Authorities have closed the reservation while they investigate the shootings.

Sondra described the gunman grinning and waving at a student at whom his gun was pointed, then swiveling to shoot someone else.

“I looked him in the eye and ran in the room, and that’s when I hid,” she told the Pioneer.

Mr. McCabe declined to talk about a potential connection between the suspect and the couple killed at the home, but Red Lake Fire Director Roman Stately said they were the grandparents of the shooter.

He identified the shooter’s grandfather as Daryl Lussier, a longtime officer with the Red Lake Police Department, and said Mr. Lussier’s guns may have been used in the shootings.

Mr. Stately said the shooter had two handguns and a shotgun.

“After he shot a security guard, he walked down the hallway shooting and went into a classroom, where he shot a teacher and more students,” he told Minneapolis TV station KARE.

Students and a teacher, Diane Schwanz, said the shooter tried to break down a door to get into her classroom.

“I just got on the floor and called the cops,” Miss Schwanz told the Pioneer. “I was still just half-believing it.”

Ashley Morrison, another student, had taken refuge in Miss Schwanz’s classroom. With the shooter banging on the door, she dialed her mother on her cellular phone. Her mother, Wendy Morrison, said she could hear gunshots on the line.

“Mom, he’s trying to get in here and I’m scared,” Ashley said, according to the mother.

All of the dead students were found in one room. One of them was a boy thought to be the shooter, said the FBI’s Mr. McCabe. The school was evacuated and locked down for investigation, he added.

“It will probably take us throughout the night to really put the whole picture together,” he said.

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