Tuesday, December 12, 2017
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Red Lake shootings
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Political leaders mourn Red Lake deaths
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Members of the Red Lake nation held a traditional Indian prayer service on the steps of the Capitol Tuesday, in response to the shootings in Red Lake. (MPR Photo/Laura McCallum)
Minnesota's political leaders are expressing their sorrow and condolences over the shooting rampage in Red Lake. Ten people are dead in the nation's worst school shooting since Columbine nearly six years ago. Many lawmakers attended a ceremony on the state Capitol steps to mourn the Red Lake deaths.

St. Paul, Minn. — Several hundred people, including some of the state's top political leaders, gathered on the Capitol steps for prayers and singing by members of the Red Lake nation. Gov. Tim Pawlenty told the crowd that the state should grieve the Red Lake deaths together.

"On behalf of all Minnesotans, I say to the members of the Red Lake nation, our heartfelt prayers and deepest concerns go out to you," Pawlenty said. "You have our condolences and our respect at this profoundly sad time."

Pawlenty said there are no easy answers to the questions of why so many lives were lost, and why the teenage suspect was so troubled.

He said earlier in the day that he's not sure how much could have been done to prevent the shootings. Pawlenty said it appears that the school had rigorous security measures, but that the shooter was a "deeply disturbed" young man intent on harming others.

Legislators who represent the Red Lake area say they're grieving with their constituents. State Sen. Rod Skoe, DFL-Clearbrook, struggled to contain his emotions as he addressed the crowd.

As you in Red Lake nation mourn the loss of your loved ones, know that your friends and neighbors are with you.
- Sen. Rod Skoe, DFL-Clearbrook

"As you in Red Lake nation mourn the loss of your loved ones, know that your friends and neighbors are with you today," Skoe said. "Additionally, know that we will be with you, Red Lake community, in the next weeks and for a longer time as we work to recover from this terrible, tragic day."

A legislator who represents the area near Red Lake, Rep. Frank Moe, DFL-Bemidji, said he hopes the tragedy doesn't paint Red Lake in a negative light.

"Especially given all the wonderful things that have been going on up in Red Lake right now, I hope that people don't lose sight of the great leadership and traditions that they have up there in Red Lake," said Moe. "This is an anomaly. This is just a tragic event, and it could have happened anywhere. It just so happens that it's up in Red Lake."

Moe said it's premature to start speculating on the reasons behind the shooting. He and other legislators say it's also premature to discuss what impact the Red Lake tragedy will have on the tribe's agenda at the Capitol.

Red Lake is one of three northern Minnesota tribes that has partnered with the Pawlenty administration to push for a new state-tribal casino in the metropolitan area. Money for Red Lake school projects is in a capital investment bill that passed the Senate, and is now being negotiated with the House. Pawlenty said now is not the time to talk about those issues.

"I just don't see there's a connection between the issues that we've been discussing at the Legislature and this incident. I think it's important that we just stay focused on bringing love and support and prayers and encouragement to the people impacted by this tragedy, and those other discussions can wait until another day," Pawlenty said.

Legislative leaders did take steps to delay action on at least one matter the tribe has a stake in. A committee vote on the state-tribal casino bill has been postponed. Also, a news conference to discuss opposition to the plan by some members of the northern tribes has been delayed.

For now, Pawlenty said state agencies are providing a crisis team of grief counselors and other specialists to help in the shooting's aftermath.

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