- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 27, 2005

RED LAKE, Minn. (AP) — With the bang of a drum and a high-pitched wail, the first funerals began yesterday for victims of the shootings on the Red Lake Indian Reservation in which 10 persons died.

A lone man’s sad cry gave way to songs and more drumming from a circle of a dozen men, and soon hundreds of people who had gathered in the community center began filing past a pair of open caskets.

Daryl Lussier, 58, a tribal police officer, and his longtime companion, Michelle Sigana, 31, were the first victims in Monday’s attack by his grandson, Jeff Weise, 16.

Officer Lussier, dressed in his police uniform, had an eagle feather placed in his hands. In his casket were an American flag, a teddy bear, a few cigarettes and his police badge. A ceramic dish filled with cigarettes was placed in Miss Sigana’s casket.

More than 100 police officers attended the five-hour service, including Gov. Tim Pawlenty and U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman.

In brief remarks, the Republican governor alluded to Red Lake’s reputation as a place of poverty. Wealth is not measured in the value of a home, he said, but in the strength of communities and families.

“Even in grief, I can see that the Red Lake Nation is one of Minnesota’s wealthiest places,” Mr. Pawlenty said.

The funeral for 15-year-old student Chase Lussier was also held yesterday.

After killing his grandfather and Miss Sigana in their home on the northern Minnesota reservation, Weise went to Red Lake High School, where he killed five students, a teacher and a security guard before shooting himself.

While investigators say they don’t know Weise’s motive, a long trail of Internet postings paint a picture of a deeply depressed, suicidal boy. Friends and family members have said he had been taking the anti-depressant Prozac since a suicide attempt last summer.

Family members told the New York Times that Weise’s dose recently was increased to 60 mg a day.

“I can’t help but think it was too much, that it must have set him off,” an aunt, Tammy Lussier, told the paper.

Outside the Red Lake community center, which shares space with the Red Lake Band of Chippewas Seven Clans Casino, an electronic sign flashed a message: “Red Lake Nation sends heartfelt condolences to all family members of tragic event. We are one in our sorrow and in our love.”

Yesterday, President Bush made his first public comments on the shooting, praising a security guard credited with saving some students by confronting Weise. Mr. Bush said he and first lady Laura Bush were praying for the victims.

The Red Lake school isn’t expected to reopen until next month.


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