Prayers offered after shooting

Hours after the tragic school shooting in Red Lake, Minnesota, communities and churches nationwide offered prayers of condolence.

BY SUSAN KIM | BALTIMORE | March 22, 2005

Hours after the tragic school shooting in Red Lake, Minnesota, communities and churches nationwide offered prayers of condolence.

A boy killed his grandparents, then opened fire at Red Lake High School, killing five students, a teacher, a security guard, then himself, according to FBI and police reports. At least 14 others were wounded, and two of them remained in critical condition Tuesday at MeritCare in Fargo, North Dakota.

The shooting occurred Monday afternoon at the Red Lake Indian Reservation in far northern Minnesota.

By Tuesday morning, at least some faith-based groups were assessing the situation and offering to assist the community with emotional care.

The reservation, some 240 miles north of the Twin Cities, is home to the Red Lake Chippewa Tribe, one of the poorest tribes in the state. According to the 2000 census, 5,162 people lived on the reservation, and all but 91 were Native Americans. Red Lake High School has about 300 students.

Several response leaders, saying they wished to respect the local response plans of tribal leaders, indicated they were ready to assist the community if they were invited to do so.

Lutheran Disaster Response (LDR), among other groups, reported it was monitoring the situation. At an invitation from the tribe, LDR was prepared to offer counseling to those affected.

The American Bible Society also stood ready to offer materials and booklets that cover emotional support, said spokesperson Paul Savage. “I know we are one of many groups who want to reach out and help in some way,” he said.

At least some responders asked the well-meaning public to refrain from sending material donations - such as teddy bears or other items - to the Red Lake community. Instead, supporting a responding group with a cash donation was recommended.

The shooting is the worst school shooting since Columbine in April 1999 that ended with the deaths of 12 students, a teacher and the two teen gunmen.

Witnesses said the gunman, 17-year old Jeff Weise, was smiling and waving as he shot people, and he reportedly asked students if they believed in God. The teen was armed with two handguns and a shotgun.

The gunman exchanged gunfire with Red Lake police in a hallway, then retreated to a classroom, where he was believed to have shot himself, said FBI spokesman Paul McCabe.

In a public statement, Tribe Chairman Floyd Jourdain Jr., expressed his grief: “There's not a soul that will go untouched by the tragic loss that we've experienced here,” he said.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty urged people to pray. "We ask Minnesotans to help comfort the families and friends of the victims who are suffering unimaginable pain by extending prayers and expressions of support," he said in a public statement.

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