MINNEAPOLIS – Tribal leaders on Thursday defended a $5,000 victims-aid grant given to the family of a teenager who killed nine people before killing himself, saying his relatives had "a double burden."
Red Lake Tribal Secretary Judy Roy said the tribal council had decided unanimously that shooter Jeff Weise (search) should be considered a victim of the March 21 violence centered on a high school, and that his family should get help paying for his funeral and burial.
"It's not for him, it's for the family. ... They have a double burden," she said.
Some relatives of others who were killed had denounced the council's decision to award the check, one of 15 awards of $5,000 each given out Wednesday in the first distribution from a memorial fund that has received more than $200,000 in donations.
Donna Lewis, mother of 15-year-old victim Dewayne Lewis (search), stormed out of the meeting where the donation was discussed, the Star Tribune of Minneapolis reported. "He ain't no victim in this," Lewis screamed. "He was a murderer."
"Why are they considering him to be a victim when he killed everybody?" asked Victoria Brun, sister of slain guard Derrick Brun (search). "The people who donated the money have a right to know and question how the money is divided."
However, the mother of wounded student Jeffrey May, who was recovering Thursday at a hospital in Fargo, N.D., was more sympathetic toward Weise.
"The way I think of it, you know, he was a victim before this all happened. Nobody reached out to help him. That's all I have to say," Jodi May said.
Weise's family has also received money from a small memorial fund run by tribe member and distant Weise relative Wanda Parkhurst. She said the fund gave 16 families a total of about $1,500, or about $95 per family.
Parkhurst said Weise was a victim who hurt people because he was under the bad influence of the neo-Nazi Web sites he visited and because he was picked on by others. "Those families have a right to hate, but they also have to look at what caused it," she said.
Weise's family is not eligible for assistance from the state victim's fund, said Kevin Smith, spokesman for the Department of Public Safety. "By law, if you commit the crime, you are not eligible for reparations," Smith said.
Last week, the Justice Department said it would provide $250,000 for Red Lake (search) victims and families. An agency spokeswoman did not immediately return a phone call Thursday seeking information on whether Weise's family would be eligible.