Friday, March 25, 2005

BEMIDJI, Minn. (AP) — The teenager who fatally shot five fellow students at his high school had watched a movie about a school shooting with friends earlier this month — skipping ahead to some of the most violent scenes, a friend said yesterday.

Jeff Weise also was taking the antidepressant Prozac after a suicide scare last summer, said Sky Grant, 16, a friend of Weise’s since sixth grade.

Sky said Weise brought the 2003 movie “Elephant” to his house on March 4, then skipped ahead to the parts of the movie that show two students planning and carrying out a school shooting.

The teens talked about the movie afterward, but Weise didn’t say anything that made friends think he planned to emulate the movie, Sky said. “It all seemed normal,” he said.

Authorities said they don’t know what motivated Weise, 16, to kill nine persons before he shot himself on Monday at Red Lake High School. The dead included a teacher and a security guard at the school; Weise’s grandfather and his companion were killed earlier at the grandfather’s house.

Sky and his mother, Gayle Downwind, said Weise was taken to a psychiatric ward in Thief River Falls last summer after Weise frightened another friend with suicidal computer messages. Sky said he didn’t know how long Weise stayed at the hospital.

Sky, who was taking Zoloft, said he and Weise talked in detail about antidepressants. He said Weise told him he was taking 40 milligrams a day of Prozac: 20 milligrams in the morning, 20 milligrams at night.

“He was a lot more quiet. I wouldn’t say any better,” Sky said.

In October, the Food and Drug Administration ordered that all antidepressants carry “black-box” warnings of an increased risk of suicidal thinking and behavior in children. Prozac is the only antidepressant found to be safe and effective for children.

In a number of online postings attributed to Weise, he wrote of depression and feelings of worthlessness. In a Jan. 4 Web log posting, he wrote: “I should’ve taken the razor blade express last time around. … Well, whatever, man. Maybe they’ve got another shuttle comin’ around soon?”

Dr. David Fassler, an American Psychiatric Association trustee and child and adolescent psychiatrist in Burlington, Vt., said Prozac and other antidepressants can be effective with other treatment, such as therapy.

Dr. Fassler said daily dosage ranges from 10 milligrams to 60 milligrams, based on body size and composition and individual treatment plans. The severity of a child’s depression is not a factor in determining dosage, he said.

Wakes had begun for some of the Red Lake victims, with the first funerals scheduled today for Weise’s grandfather, Daryl “Dash” Lussier, and his companion, Michelle Sigana. Gov. Tim Pawlenty was scheduled to attend.

The school isn’t scheduled to reopen until next month.

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