Aerial view of Red lake, Minnesota. John Doman / Pioneer Press

Memories of a School Shooting: Revisiting Red Lake

Twelve years after a horrific high school shooting, a photographer travels to talk to and photograph the survivors.

Entering Red Lake on Highway 1.

ON MARCH 21, 2005, A 16-YEAR-OLD NAMED Jeffrey Weise, armed with three firearms, entered his former high school on a Native American reservation in Red Lake, Minnesota, and shot over a dozen people, killing 7 and wounding 5 others.

“It ended up being, at that point, the deadliest school shooting since Columbine,” says photographer Andres Gonzalez. “It had stayed out of the media, and our collective memory, for a few apparent reasons. I found that the Tribal Council in Red Lake asked the media to leave the reservation soon after the shooting. The community then turned inward, to heal internally. I also discovered that President George W. Bush had waited five days to acknowledge the tragedy publicly, and then only as part of his weekly radio address — there was no televised press conference.”

Earlier this year, Gonzalez traveled to Red Lake in order to learn more about the shooting, its aftermath, and understand how this community attempted to heal. During his time in the area, he photographed and interviewed survivors of the shooting about their memories of that day, and the days, weeks, and months that followed. He also collected images and assets from various sources: FBI files on the shooting, condolence cards, and yearbook photos.

The following story is a collection of these images interspersed with comments from five individuals in the Red Lake community. Anchoring the essay are the remarks eventually made by President Bush during a radio address on March 26, 2005, one day before Easter.

Red Lake, MN.

PRESIDENT BUSH

“Good morning.”

Red Lake, MN.

RYAN AUGINASH

“On the morning of March 21st, 2005, it was a normal morning, like any other. My mom bitched me out as usual. I listened to my music on the way to school.”

Christopher Morrison is surrounded by reporters outside a hospital in Bemidji while visiting fellow classmates who were injured during the shooting. Monte Draper / Bemidji Pioneer

THOMAS BARRETT

“I remember all the details as if it happened yesterday.”

Red Lake High School 2004 yearbook.
Screengrab from news coverage of Red Lake shooting.

PRESIDENT BUSH

“This weekend, millions of Americans celebrate the joyous holiday of Easter. Easter is the most important event of the Christian faith, when people around the world join together with family and friends to celebrate the power of love conquering death.”

Ryan Auginash's scars from being shot in the chest.

WHITNEY SPEARS

“It was about 2:45, we heard two loud noises in the hallway. We thought they were books hitting the floor or textbooks hitting the lockers. And there was me and three others. We were trying to pick and see who was going to go and see what that noise was, and so we voted Ryan to go in the hallway. And he went out in the hallway, and he came back and there was blood squirting out of his chest, he was pretty calm about it, and he just kept saying, ‘I got shot.’”

From the FBI files, a page from Jeff Weise’s notebook.

THOMAS BARRETT

“We were in 7th period biology class. I was 15. And, um, it was just a normal, regular day… and we heard three shots back to back. But at the time we didn’t know they were gunshots. So all the students, nobody said anything… we heard two or three more, and then they got a little more quiet, and I think they got a little more quiet because he stepped into a classroom where he killed everybody.”

Thomas Barrett’s tattoo memorializing Alicia White, his best friend at the time of the shooting.

PRESIDENT BUSH

“At Easter time we pray for all who serve in our military. The outstanding members of our Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard are keeping America secure and advancing liberty in the world. We remember especially those who have given their lives in freedom's cause. Their sacrifice is a testament to the words of scripture: "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

Boy running in the woods of Red Lake, MN.

RYAN AUGINASH

“I didn’t really think about myself after I got hit. I was just more worried about everybody else, I figured I was going to die, so I wanted to use whatever bit of life I had left to protect those who… So we all started running. I helped that teacher. I didn’t think about it. I just, I don’t know, instinct I guess.”

Student outside of Red Lake High School after the shooting.

RYAN AUGINASH

“Out of nowhere a girl I did not like all the time—I knew her—came to my aid. She was yelling at some guy that had frantically ran by us. But she had the courage and perseverance to stay at my side while under gunfire. I was in so much pain and agony.”

Red Lake, MN.
Red Lake High School.

PRESIDENT BUSH

“Easter has a special meaning for the families of our men and women in uniform who miss their loved ones during the holidays. It can be very difficult when someone you love is deployed on a dangerous mission in a distant land. I appreciate the sacrifices our military families are making, and Americans know that their contributions are vital to our success in the war on terror.”

A card in memory of Alicia White, who was killed during the shooting at Red Lake.

THOMAS BARRETT

“…when I saw Ryan with a bloody chest, I realized there was somebody here shooting us and we could die. And I had thoughts, thinking, ‘This is so unfair, I didn’t get to tell my parents goodbye,’ you know, my mom and dad had just lost a son ten months before this, and here I am about to die.”

A scar on Jeffrey May. Jeffrey was shot in the face and neck.

JEFFREY MAY

“I just wanted to get out of that room, get out of that school, and go home, and eat… but yeah, anyways, while all that stuff was going on, he came back into the room for a final shootout. It didn’t last too long, probably like five minutes maybe. Within that timeframe I looked up at him, he looked at me, I gave him a wink, I smiled a little bit, and then fell back down. Why did I smile? He couldn’t stop me… I was just letting him know I wasn’t scared of him. I don’t know.”

Condolence card sent to Ryan Auginash.

PRESIDENT BUSH

“This week we have seen tragedy at home. Families in Minnesota are mourning the loss of their loved ones after the terrible shootings at Red Lake High School. Hours after the shooting, communities and churches across the nation offered prayers for the victims and their families. The Red Lake Nation reports receiving thousands of calls from people all over the world offering their sympathy and support. Laura and I are praying for the families of the victims, as are millions of Americans.”

The woods on the Red Lake Native American Reservation.

ANTHONY GREEN

“I knew that in school he was being picked on. You know, a kid would talk dirty, or talk bad about him just because he was tall and he was different than everybody else. I think he just got fed up with everything, he didn’t know what else to do, where else to turn. He just lost it.”

Jeff Weise as a child in this undated family photo.

THOMAS BARRETT

“He was a really good drawer. He drew a lot of just very detailed images, but because of his tough past, it created a darkness in his mind. He liked to be into the whole school-shooter culture. He would talk about Dylan and Eric from Columbine. And he would even joke about the thing they did. And to all of us, it was, like, that was just Jeff clowning, that’s just Jeff saying some wild shit.”

The scoreboard on the football field near Red Lake High School.

Red Lake Nation College, Red Lake, MN.

PRESIDENT BUSH

“This week I spoke with Red Lake Tribal Chairman Floyd Jourdain to express the condolences of the American people and to pledge the continued help of the federal government. We are doing everything we can to meet the needs of the community at this tragic time. The FBI and the Department of Justice are working to coordinate relief through the Federal Crime Victim Assistance Fund. We’re working closely with state, local, and tribal authorities to provide counseling, help with funeral arrangements, and other assistance.”

Clouds over Red Lake.

JEFFREY MAY

“The three-day rule. After a death or a tragic event, we take three days to mourn and then move on. Like that process of mourning and grieving, after three days are done, it’s just forgive and forget.”

Sign on Highway 1 in Red Lake, MN.

PRESIDENT BUSH

“The tragedy at Red Lake was accompanied by acts of heroism and selflessness. A security guard named Derrick Brun saved the lives of countless students when he rose from his desk to confront the young gunman. Although he was unarmed, Derrick ignored the pleas of a colleague to run for his life. By engaging the assailant, he bought vital time for a fellow security guard to rush a group of students to safety. Derrick’s bravery cost him his life, and all Americans honor him.”

Red Lake, MN.

THOMAS BARRETT

“It was always all about Jeff and his hard life, and it was always about that it happened on a res, and the res is the ghetto. And, yeah, I wish that it was perceived differently, because it just got forgotten about. You know, me and you, we still talk about Columbine, Sandy Hook, and Virginia Tech… but people forgot about Red Lake.”

A drawing of a warrior’s head dress, made by Ryan Auginash's mother, given to him while he was in the hospital.

PRESIDENT BUSH

“As we help families in this community, we must do everything in our power to prevent tragedies like this from happening. Children benefit from a sense of community, and the support and involvement of caring adults. To keep our children safe and protected, we must continue to foster a culture that affirms life and provides love, and helps our young people build character.”

Platform outside Red Lake Nation College, in Red Lake, MN.

WHITNEY SPEARS

“There were a lot of us that first year. But after [it] happened… I didn’t go back. Like, my sophomore year I went back until, like, January… like every spring it would get hard and I would just drop out. I would just have flashbacks.”

An emotional moment during a ceremony to honor those killed at Red Lake High School.

PRESIDENT BUSH

“On this Easter weekend, we honor all Americans who give of themselves, from those helping neighbors at home to those defending liberty overseas. Easter is the victory of light over darkness. In this season of renewal, we remember that hope leads us closer to truth, and that in the end, even death, itself, will be defeated. That is the promise of Easter morning.”

Condolence card given to Ryan Auginash by a fellow student.

THOMAS BARRETT

“Yes, resilience is the best word to describe our people, especially us Ojibwes in this region. We have resistance running in our blood. It was our chiefs three generations ago who stood up for our people and kept our lands for us.”

Dog outside a residence in Red Lake, MN.

PRESIDENT BUSH

“Thank you.”

Share this story

Loading more