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From the Associated Press


Friend Says Minn. Teen Gunman on Prozac

Friday March 25, 2005 8:01 PM

AP Photo MNDP117


Associated Press Writer

BEMIDJI, Minn. (AP) - The teen who shot five fellow students to death at his high school had watched a movie about a school shooting with friends earlier this month - skipping ahead to some of the most violent scenes, a friend said on Friday.

Jeff Weise was also taking the antidepressant Prozac following a suicide scare last summer, said Sky Grant, 16, a friend of Weise's since sixth grade.

Grant said Weise brought the movie ``Elephant'' to Grant's house on March 4. Several of Grant's friends were over that night to play video games, and Weise arrived late because he said he had to pick up a refill on his antidepressant prescription, according to Grant.

Grant said Weise skipped ahead to the parts of the movie that show two students planning and then carrying out a Columbine-style massacre. The teens who watched that night talked about the movie, but Weise didn't say anything that made them think he planned to do something like that, Grant said.

Authorities say they don't know what motivated Weise, 16, to kill nine people before they believe he shot himself on Monday at Red Lake High School. The dead included a teacher and a security guard at the school; Weise's grandfather and his companion were killed earlier at the grandfather's house.

Sky Grant said he and Weise and other friends often watched movies with dark themes, and ``Elephant'' was in that vein.

``Most of us are all basically horror movie fans,'' Grant said. The conversation as they watched ``Elephant'' was about the characters, or how people got shot - the same as usual, he said.

``It all seemed normal,'' Grant said of that night watching the movie.

Grant and his mother, Gayle Downwind, said Weise was taken to a psychiatric ward in Thief River Falls last summer after a suicide scare. Grant said a mututal friend had been exchanging computer messages with Weise. The friend called police and asked them to get over there right away because Weise was ``talking suicidal,'' Grant said. He said the friend doesn't want to talk to reporters, and Grant declined to name him.

Grant said he himself was taking 20 milligrams a day of Zoloft, another antidepressant, and the boys talked in detail about their medication. He said Weise told him he was taking 40 milligrams a day of Prozac: 20 in the morning, 20 at night.

``Everybody changes when they start taking antidepressants,'' Grant said. ``He was a lot more quiet. I wouldn't say any better.''

Prozac and its generic, Fluoxetine, are widely prescribed to children and adolescents with depression. According to Prozac's Web site - the trademarked drug is made by Eli Lilly - antidepressants can increase the risk of suicidal thinking and behavior in youth.

In a number of online postings attributed to Weise, he wrote of depression and feelings of worthlessness. For example, in a Jan. 4 blog posting, he wrote:

`` ... I don't know, but what I do know is I'm a retarded (expletive) for ever believing things would change for me. I'm starting to regret sticking around, I should've taken the razor blade express last time around. ... Well, whatever, man. Maybe they've got another shuttle comin' around soon?''

Dr. David Fassler, an American Psychiatric Association trustee and child and adolescent psychiatrist in Burlington, Vt., said Prozac and other antidepressants can be effective along with other treatment, such as therapy.

Fassler said daily dosage ranges from 10 to 60 milligrams, based on body size and composition and individual treatment plans. The severity of a child's depression is not a factor in determining dosage, he said.

Fassler said that because suicide is a risk for youth with depression, it's difficult to determine if antidepressants can be blamed.

``Ideally, a physician will work with the family to develop a treatment program and to decide together how to monitor the child's progress,'' Fassler said.

Wakes had begun for some of the Red Lake victims, with the first funerals scheduled for Saturday for Daryl ``Dash'' Lussier and his companion, Michelle Sigana. Gov. Tim Pawlenty was scheduled to attend.

The school wasn't expected to re-open until next month.

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