Sunday, March 27, 2005

Minnesota school victims buried


Minnesota school victims buried

The first funerals have taken place for victims of the bloody high-school shooting which left 10 dead on a Native American reservation in Minnesota.

Among those buried was 15-year-old Chase Lussier, one of seven shot dead by Jeff Weise, 16, at his school before he turned the gun on himself.

The funerals were also held of Weise's grandfather and his grandfather's partner, his first two victims.

President George W Bush made his first comment on the "tragedy" on Saturday.

More funerals were due to be held on Sunday and Monday.

Government officials attended the services for the teenager Chase Lussier, himself a father, and Weise's grandfather Daryl Lussier and his grandfather's partner Michelle Sigana.

Mr Bush had faced criticism for leaving it until his weekly radio address on Saturday to make his first public comments on Monday's school shooting, the worst in the US since Columbine six years ago.

"We are doing everything we can to meet the needs of the community at this tragic time," Mr Bush said in his address, while on holiday at his ranch in Texas.

He praised school security guard Derrick Brun for trying to save the lives of students by confronting Weise before he was shot.

"Derrick's bravery cost him his life," he said.

A day earlier, Mr Bush had called Floyd Jourdain, chairman of the Red Lake Chippewa tribe, to offer his condolences.

But Clyde Bellecourt, another prominent Chippewa tribe member, told Reuters news agency Mr Bush's response came too late.

"He should have been the first one to reach out to the Red Lake Indian community," he said.

Mr Bellecourt pointed out that Mr Bush broke off his holiday to sign emergency legislation on Monday concerning the case of a brain-damaged woman, but did not comment then on the Minnesota deaths.

"He does not have any problems flying in to restore the feeding tube to Terri Schiavo," Mr Bellecourt said.

"I'm sure if this happened in some school in Texas and a bunch of white kids were shot, he would have been there too."

In his address, Mr Bush said the FBI and justice department were working with local and tribal authorities to co-ordinate relief, and expressed the condolences of the American people.

The FBI, which has been investigating the killings at Red Lake School, has tried to establish a motive for Weise's actions.

Theories range from the teen's reported neo-Nazi leanings to school bullying and a troubled family background.

Daryl Lussier, 58, Jeff Weise's grandfather
Michelle Sigana, 32, Daryl Lussier's partner
Alicia Spike, 14, student
Thurlene Stillday, 15, student
Chase Lussier, 15, student
Chanelle Rosebear, 15, student
Dwayne Lewis, 15, student
Derrick Brun, 28, security guard
Neva Winnecoup Rogers, 62, teacher