BEMIDJI, Minnesota — On March 21, 2005, a 16-year-old student opened fire inside a high school on the Red Lake Indian reservation in northern Minnesota. He then killed himself in front of multiple students and a teacher. The rampage left 10 people dead, including the shooter.
The Red Lake school shooting has been largely eclipsed by the many that have taken place since. But survivors of the massacre say lessons should be drawn from it. “Once someone shows up to your school with a gun, you’re done with [prevention],” said Missy Dodds, a math teacher who survived the Red Lake shooting and is now a school safety advocate. “You are strictly moving into the mitigation and response phases of trying to keep your body count low.”
Dodds has teamed up with Jillian Peterson and James Densley, researchers in Minneapolis-St. Paul who compiled the most comprehensive database of mass shooters to date. Peterson and Densley found that 95% of mass shooters in schools are suicidal. They believe this finding should reorient the way we approach violence prevention in schools. “If a student says, ‘I’m going to kill everyone tomorrow,’ it’s an automatic police response: expel, suspend... a big, punitive response,” said Densley. “If that same student said, ‘I’m going to kill myself tomorrow,’ we would respond totally differently.”
In the second of three installments in UNSAFE: Learning from America’s School Shootings, VICE News Tonight revisits a forgotten tragedy and the people trying to learn from it.