Following School Shootings, Red Lake, Minn., School District May Face Lawsuits

A St. Paul law firm representing families of most of the victims of the Red Lake School shootings has notified officials that the relatives may file wrongful death lawsuits against the state and the school district.

Randy Thompson, a lawyer with the Nolan, MacGregor, Thompson & Leighton firm, said he represents families of seven people who died in the shootings and two who were injured. He filed an official notice saying the group "may claim compensation" from the state and the school district. No lawsuits have been filed.

Ten people died and seven were injured in the two separate shooting incidents last March 21. All of the victims were shot by Jeff Weise, a troubled 16-year-old student. Weise shot and killed his grandfather, a tribal police officer, and his grandfather's partner at their home before the shootings at the school. Eight more people died at the school, including Weise, who took his own life.

Those represented by the firm include families of seven people who died. They are Michelle Sigana, the partner of Weise's grandfather; Derrick Brun, a security guard who was Weise's first victim at the school; and students Dewayne Lewis, 15; Thurlene Stillday, 15; Chase Lussier, 15; Alicia White, 14; and Chanelle Rosebear, 15. The firm is also representing two surviving students: Ryan Auginash, who was shot in the chest, and Cody Thunder, 15, who was shot in the hip.

Thompson said Wednesday the firm is investigating the incident, but declined to comment further. No amount of damages has been determined.

Shamus O'Meara, who is representing the school district in its response to the shootings, said Wednesday the district has been having discussions with representatives of victims' families.

"We hope that the very good dialogue we've had with the lawyers, not only for these families, but other families and individuals involved in the incident, will continue, so we can work out an amicable resolution to the claims that might be brought against the district," O'Meara said.

The school district, meanwhile, is seeking access to video recordings, computer hard drives and other materials seized by the FBI as part of its investigation into the shootings. O'Meara said local officials need to view the materials to evaluate school security and prepare for possible lawsuits.

(c) 2005 Associated Press