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Shooting victims might be eligible for aid

Associated Press

ST. PAUL -- The state is seeking $250,000 in federal reparations to help victims of the Red Lake High School shootings cover the cost of funerals, lost wages, counseling and other benefits.

Authorities say Jeff Weise, 16, killed nine people on March 21 before turning the gun on himself.

So far, the Minnesota Crime Victims Reparations Program has received 30 claims from Red Lake, said Marie Bibus, state reparations director. Six were for funeral costs, totaling nearly $42,000.

But more are expected. Anyone who saw or heard the shooting could be eligible for outpatient counseling and people threatened by Weise -- those directly in the "zone of danger" -- will be considered injured victims, and they are eligible for additional benefits, including lost wages and inpatient mental health care, Bibus said.

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Victims have three years to file claims. Other resources, such as health insurance, must be exhausted first, Bibus said.

The federal Indian Health Service has already pledged to meet the tribe's health needs, and counselors have been available through agencies such as the Red Cross.

Minnesota has been offering compensation to violent-crime victims and their families since 1974, but this is the first time the state has sought emergency funding from the federal government for an instance of mass violence, Bibus said.

Under the federal Victims of Crime Act, every state receives routine federal funding. Of the Minnesota program's $4.3 million budget in fiscal year 2004, 34 percent came from a federal grant, 6 percent from state inmates' wages, 11 percent from restitution paid by offenders and the rest from a state appropriation.

Sandra Rosebear, the mother of 15-year-old victim Chanelle Rosebear, said she wasn't aware of the Minnesota Crime Victims Reparations Program.

"I ain't thinking about money," she said. "My daughter's always on my mind. Right now I just can't think."

But because Rosebear doesn't know when she can return to work, Chanelle always visited her at noon, she said she might seek help for lost wages.

After the Columbine High School shooting, Colorado received $1.7 million for victims and their families, along with counseling services for thousands in the community.

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In the case of Columbine, all victim compensation came from the federal government and didn't subtract money from other claims, said Rob Gallup, Colorado Victims of Crime Act administrator. The 1999 shooting, left 15 people dead, including the two teenage gunmen.

There were 1,050 claims, totaling $842,000, in the Columbine case, Gallup said. An additional grant went to Columbine Connections, a recreational center that offered counseling and served 7,600 victims between April 1999 and September 2001.

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