Listen: 20150318_PKG :Red Lake #2(gunderson)

MPR’s Dan Gunderson & John Enger reports on the survivors of the 2005 mass shooting at Red Lake High School in northern Minnesota. The tragedy changed everyone involved. A survivor, investigator, and community leader discuss how they cope and look for ways to prevent future shootings.

On March 21, 2005, 16-year-old Jeff Wiese shot his grandfather, his grandfather's partner, an unarmed security guard at the entrance of the school, a teacher, and five students, before shooting himself. Numerous students were left injured as well.

This is second of a two-part report.

Click links below for other report:


2015 Minnesota AP Award, first place in Writing - Radio Division, Class Three category


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SPEAKER: The high schools in Red Lake and Cold Spring, Minnesota, share a moment in history. Each has had a student walk in armed to kill people and succeed. Two students were killed in Cold Spring, but Red Lake remains the most deadly. 10 years ago this week in Northern Minnesota, a teenage student walked into Red Lake High School with three guns and started shooting. When it was over, 10 people were dead. Many of them died in Missy Dodds' classroom.

MISSY DODDS: Teaching was my everything.

JOHN EGELHOFF: The kids that survived that shooting in Missy Dodds' classroom, they will never forget that.

MISSY DODDS: Those parents sent me their babies, and I didn't send their babies home to them.

SPEAKER: Reporters John Enger and Dan Gunderson found the shooting left scars on survivors, and people whose job it was to understand what happened at Red Lake

DAN GUNDERSON: 10 years ago, Missy Dodds had a job she loved, teaching math at Red Lake High School. She hasn't been in front of a class since the day five students and a teacher were gunned down in her classroom, when 16-year-old Jeff Weise burst in and opened fire.

MISSY DODDS: Teaching was my everything. And when you give something your all, and then you get your heart broke-- I don't know if I'll ever go back to the classroom. Some days I think I might. Some days I'm thinking, no way.

DAN GUNDERSON: Dodds talks in a busy Bemidji coffee shop. She needs to face the door. And as she does in any public place, she has an escape route planned if a gunman walks in. 10 years ago, Dodds narrowly escaped death at Red Lake High School. She says after killing some of her students, Jeff Weise pointed a pistol at her and pulled the trigger. But the gun was empty.

As police arrived, most people ran away from the school, but she hung around in shock. FBI Agent John Egelhoff rushed to the scene from his office in Bemidji. He was the first federal agent to arrive at the school. He needed to identify the dead, so he brought Missy Dodds back to her bullet-riddled, blood-soaked classroom. He says he had no choice, but still feels guilty about it.

JOHN EGELHOFF: To have some FBI agent or a police officer lifting up a kid, so she could see the face, and of course, that these kids had been butchered. I felt very bad about that later on.

MISSY DODDS: I was in such shock. I just remember telling him, well, is it going to look like CSI? Then the FBI agent was like, well, I guess, kind of. I got this, then. And then when I walked back in my room, all I could think about was, man, my classroom is so messy.

DAN GUNDERSON: Missy Dodds has blocked out many of the images from her classroom. To this day, she can talk about the shooting with little emotion.

MISSY DODDS: Because it's still not me there. It's like a movie that you watch. And I think in my mind, I still keep trying to fight that it even really happened.

DAN GUNDERSON: FBI Agent John Egelhoff had to watch the shooting play out over and over again in security camera videos, as he and other investigators tried to piece together what happened. He was immersed in the investigation for months. He says his trust in kids was shattered by the evil the investigation uncovered. Egelhoff says computer messages showed that for two years, Jeff Weise tried to recruit other students to help with the shooting. He left behind sketchbooks filled with dark drawings that predicted the killings.

JOHN EGELHOFF: They were a sketch of a room and several boys carrying out a school shooting in graphic, horrific, graphic detail. And I realized later that these were scenes that were of the Red Lake High School.

DAN GUNDERSON: About a year after the shooting, Egelhoff had a heart attack. He doesn't blame the shooting, but says it was probably one factor. In 2008, he retired from the FBI. He still lives near Bemidji and now works as a private investigator. He continued to train law enforcement officers about school shootings for a few years.

JOHN EGELHOFF: I just got sick of doing it. I don't even like talking about it anymore.

DAN GUNDERSON: You don't want to keep reliving it.

JOHN EGELHOFF: No, absolutely not. I had a chance to do that again about a year ago. And I said, no, I'm done.

DAN GUNDERSON: The shooting was traumatic even for professionals trained to respond to such scenes. Egelhoff says it had to be much worse for teachers and students who survived.

JOHN EGELHOFF: They were in combat, but they couldn't defend themselves. A Marine goes into horrible situations, he's got the ability, at least, to defend himself. They had nothing. And I think that that's just so traumatic.

DAN GUNDERSON: Red Lake police and tribal officials were reluctant to talk. School leaders wouldn't talk either. The shooting and its memories are still fresh and raw. Missy Dodds and other teachers had to go to court to win disability claims for post-traumatic stress they suffered after the shooting.

Dodds still lives in Bemidji. She's now 40 and a mother to three children, but she has a hard time leaving her kids at daycare. She still sees a counselor every week. She's overcome some of her fear of public places, but her emotions are still fragile.

MISSY DODDS: It's like my cup's already full. So anything that can move that cup or shake your cup up, where some people could handle it, I just start freaking out.

DAN GUNDERSON: The Red Lake shooting remains the largest homicide investigation in Minnesota history, according to former US Attorney Tom Heffelfinger. Heffelfinger made Indian country a focus during his time as US attorney. He'd spent time at Red Lake. Tribal leaders weren't strangers. He says the investigation left only frustration for investigators and prosecutors.

TOM HEFFELFINGER: When you have a personal engagement in one of these, you can't help but repeatedly ask yourself, why, why, why? And can't we do something to stop this?

DAN GUNDERSON: Heffelfinger believes Minnesota schools are safer today because of lessons learned from Red Lake. Schools do a better job sharing information with police, and he says more of the professionals inside schools talk to each other about troubled kids. For a few years after the shootings, he did trainings on the warning signs-- how to tell when a student is disturbed enough to become violent. And there were some surprises.

TOM HEFFELFINGER: We found that the school custodians were really, really engaged in this. These are the folks that are in the hallways a lot. They actually get to know these kids better than the teachers do. Because there's no judgment involved, they are one of the greatest sources of information about what's really happening inside a school.

DAN GUNDERSON: The trainings helped ease Heffelfinger's need to do something, but he remains frustrated that Red Lake is often forgotten because it's Indian country. Because the Red Lake investigation involved juveniles, it was sealed. Some details were released to Red Lake families, but Heffelfinger says he knew nothing could provide the answers people wanted. After 19 years as a prosecutor, Heffelfinger stepped down as US attorney about a year after the shooting. Red Lake is the case he will never forget. It's the case that makes him need to remember the people who died that day.

TOM HEFFELFINGER: The shooter's name is well-known, but you forget who died. There were nine victims-- Daryl Lussier, Michelle Sigana, Derrick Brun, Neva Rogers, Dewayne Lewis Jr., Chase Lussier, Chanelle Star Rosebear, Thurlene Stillday, and Alicia White. In addition, Jeffrey Weise.

BUCK JOURDAIN: This was just 10 years ago. It's like yesterday to us.

DAN GUNDERSON: Buck Jourdain was tribal chairman of Red Lake in 2005. In the days that followed, he mourned at funerals for those who died. He took a call from President Bush, who said the nation was mourning. Jourdain says the wave of satellite trucks and reporters from around the nation was something to see. He calls it Indian 101 for many who had never been to a reservation, and didn't understand that tribal sovereignty meant Red Lake could restrict reporters' access.

Jourdain dealt with all of this while federal law enforcement investigated the shooting. It was an investigation that involved his son. As it turned out, his son Louis was one of many students communicating with gunman Jeff Weise before the shooting. The federal investigation is sealed, but Jourdain feels his son was singled out.

BUCK JOURDAIN: It was really aggressive, and I didn't feel that what my family and my son went through was warranted. The investigation showed that there was 30, 40 people who all were aware that the young man who took the lives of these people had some pretty serious issues. And no one really thought that he would ever do anything.

DAN GUNDERSON: Jourdain says charges against his son were eventually dropped. The shootings prompted renewed efforts to help kids at Red Lake. Jourdain says for a few years after the shooting, adults kept a closer eye on their kids and things were better. But former and current tribal leaders agree that recently, drug use has gotten worse. Retired FBI Agent John Egelhoff calls the Red Lake shooting toxic to the lives of everyone it touched.

JOHN EGELHOFF: I think the ripple effect of this will go on forever. Lives were changed that day, and a great many lives were changed. And the fact that the reason is so inexplicable is part of the problem.

DAN GUNDERSON: After 10 years of feeling the ripples from March 21, Red Lake teacher Missy Dodds is determined the shooting won't cast a shadow over the rest of her life.

MISSY DODDS: I feel like the shooting at this point has taken 10 years of my life, and I don't want it to affect my kids. And so I think that's one thing where I grit my teeth and be like, no, it's not going to take any more.

DAN GUNDERSON: Dodds says through the struggles of the past 10 years, she's learned she's stronger than she thought she was, and that gives her hope for the future. With reporting by John Enger, Dan Gunderson, Minnesota Public Radio News.

SPEAKER: To learn more about the Red Lake shooting 10 years later and read remembrances of those who died, you can find that coverage at


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