BEMIDJI, Minn. – A teenager wounded in the Red Lake High School shooting said he reached out to gunman Jeff Weise (search) before the attack because the boy seemed to have no friends.
"He looked like a cool guy, and then I talked to him a few times," 15-year-old Cody Thunder said Thursday. "He talked about guns and shooting people.
Thunder said despite that, and even though Weise cultivated a dangerous appearance that included sculpting his hair into devil horns — "It looked like he was trying to be evil" — Thunder never thought Weise would shoot up their school.
At first, "I thought he was messing around, I thought it was a paintball gun or something," said Thunder, the first wounded student to describe the nation's deadliest school shooting since Columbine.
Weise, a hulking 16-year-old, shot to death five students, a security guard and a teacher Monday at the school on the Red Lake Indian reservation (search), then killed himself. Earlier, he shot to death his grandfather and the man's girlfriend.
Officials said the 350-student school is not expected to reopen until the week of April 12 at the earliest. Students were asked to visit the nearby elementary school Thursday to meet briefly with teachers.
The meeting in Ojibwe was not open to the media. Wanda Baxter, a teacher, estimated that 200 to 300 students and teachers attended. She said a tribal elder encouraged them to support one another.
Thunder was asked during a hospital news conference what kind of expression Weise had; some witnesses have said he was smiling and waving during the attack. "It was a mean face," Thunder said.
"He was aiming at me," said Thunder, who was shot once in the hip.
He said he had a few classes with Weise last year and spoke with him a few times. "Because no one talked to him. I just thought it would be nice to go talk to him, so I did," Thunder said.
Also at the news conference at North Country Regional Hospital was 15-year-old Lance Crowe, Thunder's cousin, who relatives said may have survived by playing dead after being shot. He declined to speak.
The wounded also included one 15-year-old in serious condition, and another in critical condition.
Superintendent Stuart Desjarlait said officials were working with professionals from around the country to reopen school. He defended security measures that included a disaster plan, cameras and security guards. The guards were not armed.
"It goes to show that if something is going to happen, it's going to happen," Desjarlait said. "No matter what you do."
Authorities were still trying to determine what set Weise off.
Authorities were investigating whether Weise, who dressed in black and wrote stories about zombies, posted messages on a neo-Nazi Web site expressing admiration for Adolf Hitler and using the name "Todesengel" — German for "Angel of Death."
On Wednesday, TheSmokingGun.com reported that Weise posted a computer animation on a Web site in October, Newgrounds.com, that showed a gunman shooting four people, blowing up a squad car and committing suicide. The animation was accompanied by a photograph of Weise and a description of him as "nothin' but a Native American teenage-stoner-industrialist."
Desjarlait said he didn't know about any such postings, but "if I had known about it, I would have checked it out." He also said he was investigating if anyone had reported Weise's talk of guns to school authorities, and if Weise had been getting counseling.
Wakes began Thursday for some of the shooting victims, with the first funerals scheduled for Saturday. Gov. Tim Pawlenty (search) was expected to attend a joint service that day in Red Lake for Daryl Lussier, Weise's grandfather, and his companion, Michelle Sigana.