Some of those who know LaDue have described him as a “good” and a “quiet” boy who loved playing guitar, always said “thank you’’ and was never in trouble at school.
Several friends and neighbors said they were “amazed” to learn the accusations against LaDue outlined in the criminal complaint.
Looking back, many in Waseca now wonder: What did they miss?
Several neighbors said they saw LaDue throwing knives and axes almost daily at tall pine trees in his front yard. One neighbor said that in hindsight, “it’s kind of disturbing.”
But until last week, apparently, nobody had a clue what the quiet teen was hiding.
“This is not something otherwise mentally health people do,’’ Brock said. “All these perpetrators of these acts have mental health challenges.”
Experts say a key to averting tragedy is making sure adults are attuned to the signs often given by troubled kids.
“If you’re paying attention, you can see these kinds of acts coming,” Brock said. “Someone doesn’t wake up one morning and decide to blow up a school.”
Everett Arnold, school superintendent in Red Lake, where 10 people, including the teen gunman, were killed and five others wounded in 2005, said the biggest lesson administrators learned from that tragedy was how important it is to develop relationships with each student.
“We just, as a staff and as a community, became much more attuned to mental health issues and tried to create a culture of inclusivity,” Arnold said.
While school security was heightened and metal detectors and cameras were added, Arnold said that in the years since, administrators and teachers have regularly participated in training sessions that focus on student needs, especially the kids whose academic performance or behavior has changed.
Matt Hillmann, director of administrative services in the Northfield School District, said teachers there fill out a “connectivity” survey to ensure that each student has some sort of relationship with a teacher or staff member.
Earlier this school year, the district hosted an “active shooter” training event that involved extensive discussions about how to spot warning signs that a student might be troubled, Hillmann said.
In Bemidji, school officials are “listening now more for the signs than in the past,” said Greg Liedl, transportation coordinator and liaison for emergency management for the school district.
Still, he added, sometimes those signs of trouble can be missed.
“It’s the same thing that happens in teen suicides — you see that sign after it happened,” Liedl said.
Preparation, and chance