Gunman Found Haven on Nazi Web Site

Washington Post/March 23, 2005
By Shankar Vedantam

The messages came just after midnight -- half plea, half boast.

The troubled teenager from an Indian reservation in Minnesota wanted to know whether he was too young to join an Aryan supremacist group and, more poignantly, whether the group would accept a nonwhite such as himself.

In those early notes posted a year ago to the Web site, the writer, who identified himself as Jeff Weise from the Red Lake reservation, sounded like a lost boy who had finally found some friends.

What he really seemed to crave was validation. The group's acceptance prompted Weise to confide in the others, even though the teenager seemed aware of the irony of a Chippewa youth making common cause with Aryan supremacists.

Red Lake school officials had accused him of planning to shoot up the school last year on April 20, Adolf Hitler's birthday, Weise wrote. He was angry to have been unfairly picked on, but he proved them correct 11 months later.

Authorities said Weise, 16, killed nine people and himself in a brief but bloody rampage Monday, apparently gunning down victims at random. The FBI yesterday offered no motive and declined to comment on Weise's links to supremacist groups, but it said investigators are exploring all avenues.

Weise's father had killed himself a few years earlier, said Audrey Thayer, a family friend who lives in nearby Bemidji. Media reports said Weise's mother is in a nursing home with head injuries suffered in a car accident, and Thayer said the youth lived with his grandfather, a well-regarded police sergeant in Red Lake. (Authorities said Weise lived elsewhere, but they declined to specify the location.) The family, like others in the community, struggled with money and with the clash between Native American and white cultures, Thayer said.

"It is a young person desperately needing to feel community," she said of the shootings. Teenagers such as Weise are "looking for where they are going to get heard."

Weise was heard on the supremacist Web site, where he called himself Todesengel, German for "angel of death." One member told him, "We welcome you, brother."

It was a welcome he was not given at school. Weise was a loner who wore combat boots and a trench coat to school, according to various reports. Classmate Parston Graves Jr. said Weise sketched a skeleton strumming a guitar about a month ago, with the caption, "march to the death song 'til your boots fill with blood," according to the Associated Press.

"He seemed angry a lot," Karla Lajeunesse said, based on a description by her daughter Ashley, 15, who knew Weise and was in a classroom when he went on the rampage.

In a statement yesterday, the shadowy supremacist group that befriended Weise said it "refused to wring hands" over the tragedy, contending that the shooting justified its core beliefs in "eugenics, racial separation and removal of elements hostile to a healthy society." Its members confirmed Weise's use of the Internet ID. The group did not respond to a request for an interview.

Weise expressed the belief that intermixing cultures and blood had stripped native tribes of their language and traditions. Much of Weise's anger was directed at fellow teenagers in Red Lake who he felt were unduly influenced by black culture.

"As a result of cultural dominance and interracial mixing, there is barely any full blooded Natives left," Weise wrote in a July posting that the Nazi group made public yesterday. "Where I live less than 1% of all the people on the Reservation can speak their own language, and among the youth wanting to be black has run ramped [rampant]."

Weise wrote, "I can't go 5 feet" without hearing someone "blasting some rap song over their speakers" and said that under a National Socialist government, the official name of Hitler's Nazi party, "things for us would improve vastly."

Weise openly identified himself by name on the forum, something few others did.

"What brings me to this forum?" Weise asked in a message posted at 1:15 a.m. on March 19, 2004, after he was told that there were no age restrictions. "Well, I stumbled across the site in my study of the Third Reich . . . I guess I've always carried a natural admiration for Hitler and his ideals."

Weise said he despised communists and, last May, said he had won a "fist fight" with a communist. He was encountering hostility because of his beliefs in Nazism, he said, "but because of my size and appearance people don't give me as much trouble as they would if I looked weak."

A month after school authorities had suspected him of wanting to attack the school, the threat passed and Weise wrote: "I was cleared as a suspect, I'm glad for that. I don't much care for jail, I've never been there and I don't plan on it."

One member of the Nazi group hoped Weise would stick with them, to which the teenager responded, "Once I commit myself to something, I stay until the end."

The group espouses positions on a number of issues but tends to return to racial purity and the elimination of certain individuals. Blaming overpopulation for environmental degradation, for instance, the group's platform proposes to "pick from among us those who have excelled and encourage them to breed while others do not. This ensures that every future generation will be stronger, smarter and of better character than the last."

Weise clearly admired some of the core beliefs of the group but disagreed with others. The group advocated crackdowns on Jews, demanded that African Americans and Asians be repatriated to Africa and Asia, and said mixed racial groups should be sent to North Africa or the Middle East.

Weise said in one posting that he was Native American but also had German, Irish and French Canadian blood.

In another posting, he wrote: "Breeding out the purity in all races is not the way to go . . . I disagree with you on that, as well as your idea to create a 'master race.' "

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