Immortality Doesn’t Mean Never Dying: The Jeff Weise Story
First a bit of background. I wrote this for my Insanity & Crime class at the University of North Florida. The date on the paper is April 1. I was to write a paper on someone who committed a crime. I was originally going to do mine on Charles Manson (no, hadn’t discovered the Unabomber at this time). The day after I was to start writing, Jeff Weise did his thing, and I asked my professor if I could do my paper on him instead. She agreed.
I would like to revisit this paper and expand on it, maybe turn it into a larger work. Looking back on it today, it looks amateurish, I know I could easily do a tighter, larger, and more in-depth essay on him and school shooters in general. Of course, over the past seven years more information has undoubtedly come to the fore. I had been interested in school shooters for years and was always saddened that none had ever been taken into custody alive. Today one in Ohio was apprehended alive, so maybe this will help shed light on these kinds of things. Here I present the paper as it appeared in 2005 (with a few small pieces of editing to make it read better, I would love to do a complete rewrite of this thing), oh, and if you read this and are aware that certain things do not jive with what really happened (example: I say he was shot in the leg when most reports now say he was shot in the arm), this was because the data I had at the time said whatever it was that I say that is now known as being wrong.
Insanity & Crime
Immortality Doesn’t Mean Never Dying: The Jeff Weise Story
Well now I’m back in the middle of the day that starts it all.
Well I can’t begin to let you know just what I’m feeling.
And now these red ones make me fly,
And the blue ones help me fall.
And I think I’ll blow my brain against the ceiling.
~ Headfirst for Halos, My Chemical Romance
March 21st 2005 was a day like any other. For many people, it was. It was a beautiful Spring day. Flowers were in bloom, Spring Break was a looming thought, and the end of the current semester was on everyone’s mind. But, while most people were having the time of their lives, a group of ten people were having the last moments of theirs as they were gunned down by Jeff Weise in Red Lake, Minnesota.
Weise is the latest person to be a “school shooter,” as in, he went to school one day armed with guns and the intent to kill as many innocents as possible before turning the gun on himself.
Weise’s background is very interesting. According to the Wikipedia entry, his father committed suicide in 1997 after a feud with police. Oddly enough, Jeff’s grandfather, Daryl Lussier, was a police officer himself. A couple years later, Jeff’s mother was injured in a car accident that left her brain damaged. It was this final event that made him live with his grandfather (1). It must have felt weird living with a person who not only was a blood relative, but also was a member of the same group that pushed his father to suicide.
What makes Weise so interesting, is that never before have the writings of a killer been placed where anyone could see them. Jeff Weise posted online on several websites, including Nazist sites, Zombie forums, Newgrounds, and LiveJournal. The last two are visited by almost everyone who has an Internet account.
On http://www.newgrounds.com, he posted under the screen name of “Regret.” Newgrounds is a site devoted to Flash animation. Weise created two short films in the Flash format and posted them to this site. In one, called “Target Practice,” a lone figure walks up, takes a drag of a cigarette-like thing, pulls an AK-47 from a bag and proceeds to shoot everyone in sight, blows up a cop car, then shoots himself in the head (1).
Looking back in retrospect, it could be thought “he was trying to tell us something,” but, if everyone who writes has murderous tendencies lurking inside them I wonder what Koushun Takami (author of Battle Royale, see endnotes) and Stephen King have been trying to tell us in their stories.
In his posts, he says that once he decides something, he sticks it through to the end, and he’s a budding writer. He posted a three-part story called “Rise of the Dead” on a zombie fan website that features what is first thought to be a school shooting from the perspective of a potential victim, but turns out to be a zombie on the loose in the school. At which time, the military steps in and cleans up. Aside from a few grammatical problems, it was a very good read.
On the various forums, he used a variety of aliases, including blades11, Todesengel, NativeNazi, Regret and others.
BEHAVIOUR: BEFORE AND DURING THE CRIME
Aside from the circumstances surrounding the death of his father and debilitating injury of his mother, Weise was largely ridiculed and made fun of by other kids (4). He was also on antidepressants. His dosage had been increased to 60MG of Prozac the week before the shootings (4). Most antidepressants have warning labels signifying that people should monitor those who actively use them since suicidal thoughts can manifest.
In Internet posts, Weise stated that before her accident, his mother would beat and berate him saying things such as “You were a mistake.” (4). He was a loner who often got into fights at school (1). Various students said that he always carried a notebook that he’d draw “evil” pictures in (1). In his LiveJournal, he describes himself as “your ordinary Native American stoner (1).”
On that morning, he killed his grandfather, Daryl Lussier, and his girlfriend. Then, sometime after noon he donned his fallen grandfather’s bulletproof vest and his guns (some accounts say he took one pistol and one shotgun, though this is in conflict at this time), stole [his grandfather's] patrol vehicle, and rammed right into the front door [of his school]. He leapt out and killed security guard Derrick Brun (2).
The next part is interesting, he killed a few random students with the shotgun until he came face to face with teacher Neva Rogers. He lifted the shotgun and pulled the trigger, but it wouldn’t fire. After throwing it down, he shot her with the pistol (2). Leaving the classroom, he encountered a tribal police officer that shot Weise once in the hip and another time in the leg (3). Weise limped back to Rogers’ room where he lifted the formerly discarded shotgun and fired one last shot into his own head.
I do not know whether Weise would be categorized as an “organized” or “disorganized” killer. He showed symptoms of both kinds. He obviously planned his crime and brought his own weapons, which fit with the organized personality, but, he left the bodies where they fell and didn’t seem to care about leaving evidence such as his dead body behind. Also, I’m sure he doesn’t care to follow the investigation either. So, my guess is he fits half of each.
From what I’ve read, Weise was an emotionally disturbed young man. Surely he displayed quite a few “warning signs” that something was amiss inside his head. Many of these can still be seen today in his LJ posts, Flash animations, etc. People across the country are accessing these sites, reading what he had to say in his short life, and making notes. While researching some of the things he liked, I couldn’t help but think that if I were to have run across him online one day, that we could have been friends.
Yet no one tried to help him. Not his therapist, not his grandfather, no one. He was alone inside his torment. In this state, he found Adolf Hitler and his dream. Young Weise loved what Hitler stood, fought, and died for. Though I’m sure Hitler would have eventually ordered the slaughter of countless Native Americans in his conquest to rule the world. In this matter, Weise was oblivious.
Every time an event like this happens, people put on a show of pity and remorse for what happened, saying that the person who precipitated the attack “slipped through the cracks” somehow. And every time, it receives less and less attention. It’s almost like the country as a whole has become desensitized to this problem. Several years ago, the Columbine Massacre filled our TV screens, newspapers, and elected officials mouths for weeks, if not months. Now, with Red Lake, all we got was four or five days’ worth of newspaper articles and maybe three minutes on TV.
Is that what this country has come to? If the people in Weise’s life took a little more interest in what he was doing, he may have turned out all right. Surely his grandfather, the guy who BOUGHT Jeff’s prescriptions knew what they were for, so why didn’t he try just a little bit to see what his problem was? The world may never know.
Battle Royale: Battle Royale is a book written by Japanese writer Koushun Takami. The story centers on an alternate universe in the Republic of Greater East Asia. Every few months, a random ninth grade class is chosen to compete in the “Battle Royale.” In the Battle Royale, the students are taken to a remote island and each is given a bag containing a compass, food, water, a map, and a random weapon. The weapons range from a fork to a semi-automatic machinegun. The students are given three days to kill each other until only one remains and is announced as the winner. If after three days more than one student is still alive, they all die.
When it was released in Japan in 1999 (and in 2001 when it was released here), many anti-violence groups immediately protested against it. Their main claim was that the violence depicted in the book could plant ideas into the impressionable minds of young people around the world. Needless to say, I bought the book (and imported the movies based on it) and enjoyed every minute spent reading it.
1.Www.wikipedia.com entry on Jeff Weise. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeff_Weise
2.USA Today article, “Tribal leader says son didn’t help shooter” by Richard Willing. March 30, 2005
3. USA Today article, “School gunman was shot twice” by Kevin Johnson. March 30, 2005
4. Minnesota Star Tribune article, “Did meds play a role?” by Chuck Haga. March 25, 2005
A. Takami, Koushun. Battle Royale. Translated by Yuji Oniki. Published by Viz, LLC