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By Molly Miron Pioneer Editor
Families of victims of the 2005 Red Lake shootings are a step closer to receiving settlement money.
The 21 families settled a lawsuit last month against the Red Lake School District for $1 million. The agreement was subject to court approval.
Beltrami County District Judge Paul Benshoof signed a settlement agreement on Wednesday afternoon in Beltrami County District Court. Philip Sieff of Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi law firm of Minneapolis and Mark Rodgers of Rodgers Law Office in Bemidji represented the families during Wednesday's hearing. Shamus O'Meara of Johnson & Condon of Minneapolis and Mary K. Klein, Red Lake School District corporate attorney, represented the school.
The settlement will allot $900,000 to the 21 families and put $100,000 in an escrow fund until 2011 for potential other victims who haven't yet come forward. The estates of some victims, such as Neva Rogers and Derrick Brun, who were killed during the shooting rampage, will receive settlements from workers' compensation.
"The million dollars is the limit the school can pay on that tragedy," said Rodgers.
Sieff agreed, saying the settlement puts any issues with the school district and these victims to rest. However, he said other parties not part of this settlement could still come forward.
"The district is very pleased that a settlement was able to be reached in a very timely manner," said Klein.
"The settlement agreement is the result of near daily communication over the last year," said O'Meara. "The families are glad to this part of the tragedy behind them."
Rodgers said the injured parties feel the settlement is a positive step and will give them and their families some monetary compensation for the harm suffered as a result of the tragic shootings. He added that the investigation continues in relation to other responsible parties.
A federal court will decide how the $1 million will be divided, Rodgers said.
"We're hoping to resolve that fairly quickly," he said.
On March 21, 2005, 16-yearold Jeff Weise killed his grandfather and grandfather's girlfriend on the Red Lake Reservation. He then went to Red Lake High School and killed five students, a teacher and a security guard and injured seven others before killing himself.