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Tribal chairman: Son innocent in Red Lake shootings
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Red Lake tribal chairman Buck Jourdain and his son Louis, in a family photo from 2004. The elder Jourdain issued a statement Tuesday, saying he's confident his son is innocent of any involvement in the Red Lake shootings. (Photo courtesy of www.floydjourdain.com)

Red Lake, Minn. — (AP) - The chairman of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa said Tuesday that his son, arrested this weekend as a possible accomplice in last week's shootings on the reservation, is innocent.

"My heart is heavy as a result of the tragic events that unfolded here at our nation," Buck Jourdain. said, in a statement issued through the band. "But it is with optimism that I state my son Louis's innocence. He is a good boy with a good heart, who never harmed anyone in his entire life."

The younger Jourdain, 16, was arrested by federal authorities on Sunday.

Federal authorities announced a juvenile's arrest on Monday, and a law enforcement source speaking on condition of anonymity had identified the boy to The Associated Press as Louis Jourdain. The source said the arrest was part of an investigation into a potentially wider plot.

Jeff Weise, 16, killed nine people in an attack on the reservation last Monday before taking his own life. Five of the dead were students, killed at the high school; it was the worst U.S. school shooting since Columbine.

Federal authorities said in the days after the attack that they believed Weise had acted alone, but said they were looking at whether he might have had accomplices. In announcing the new arrest Monday, U.S. Attorney Tom Heffelfinger declined to provide any details on Louis Jourdain's role in the case.

A government official briefed on the investigation told AP that prosecutors were contemplating charging Jourdain as an adult with conspiracy to commit murder. The official spoke only on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.

Authorities began to suspect that Wiese may not have plotted the attack by himself after examining his computer and e-mails he exchanged with Jourdain, this official said. More arrests are possible, said this official and the law enforcement official.

The law enforcement official said FBI behavioral analysts who were brought into the case also doubted that Wiese acted alone, based on personality traits they identified.

Louis Jourdain, handcuffed and wearing a black hooded sweatshirt, was escorted into a federal courtroom in Duluth Tuesday afternoon, and Floyd Jourdain entered the courtroom a few moments later. The hearing was closed to reporters, and court officials would not comment because it was a juvenile proceeding.

The Washington Post, citing two unidentified law enforcement officials familiar with the investigation, reported Tuesday that Louis Jourdain was suspected of helping Weise plan the assault and had expected to take part.

Buck Jourdain said his son was "incapable of committing such an act."

"As events unfold, it will be proven that the individual who committed this horrible crime did so of his own choice and that he acted alone," the tribal leader said in his statement.

"I strongly believe that my son will be cleared of these charges."

Holly Cook, a tribal spokeswoman, said Jourdain would not be available for comment beyond the statement.

On Tuesday, it was difficult to find people who knew Louis who would talk.

"Of course we know Louis, he's one of these boys' friends, but we have nothing to say," said Gayle Downwind, whose son, Sky Grant, knew Weise.

Sky Grant's stepfather, Leo Downwind, told the Post that Sky was questioned by authorities for about four hours starting Sunday morning. Police told Downwind that there was information on Weise's computer and on a computer of "another of Jeff's buddies," according to the Post.

Sky Grant told AP earlier that he and Weise watched the movie "Elephant," about a Columbine-style school shooting, with other friends just weeks before the shooting. Grant said Weise skipped ahead to the film's shooting sequence. It wasn't immediately clear who the other friends were.

High school principal Chris Dunshee said the FBI has not told him about the arrest. But he said Louis was not a discipline proble, and didn't seem to be part of the same circle of friends as Weise.

"He's one of those kids that I didn't have a lot of contact with, because he really wasn't a discipline problem. He was a pretty good student, to tell you the truth," Dunshee said.

"I just really feel sorry for Buck," he said. "My heart goes out to him, he's such a good guy. If it could happen to his son, it could happen to anybody, because Buck is a good parent."

Dunshee also said the district's two elementary schools would reopen on Monday, but that the high school complex, which includes the middle school, might be closed for the rest of the school year. He said the district is considering an extensive remodeling to make the high school interior look different than it looked on the day of the shootings.

Word of Louis Jourdain's arrest spread out over the reservation on Monday, a day when many band members were attending funerals for three of Weise's victims.

"The community itself is still in shock. I mean, I am," said Edward Cook, 47, a tow-truck operator who also works in a group home.

Several other tribal members approached by The Associated Press said they didn't want to talk because they too were in shock from the events of the week.

At the Red Lake post office, Lorene Gurneau was picking up her mail when she was asked what she thought about the arrest. "I thought it was just the one kid," Gurneau told a reporter. "I thought it was all over when you guys were packing up." Gurneau said the situation has made her think about leaving from the reservation. "You don't know who to trust," she said.

Buck Jourdain was 40 when he was sworn in last summer as Red Lake's youngest-ever chairman. On his Web site, he writes about post-college work counseling people in alcohol recovery and celebrating his own 20 years of sobriety in June last year. Among the issues he pledges to address is the concerns of young people.

At a news conference in the days after the shooting, he spoke of tribal members keeping track of their kids: "This is a wake-up call to us all. We need to spend more time with one another and paying more attention to our young people and what they're doing and what they are saying."

On Jourdain's personal Web site, a collection of family photos includes one of him and Louis with the caption: "My pride and joy Louie who always shares his school achievements with me."

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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