· On the last day of his life, Eric Harris arrives alone at the student parking lot at Columbine High School and parks his 1986 gray Honda Civic in a space assigned to another student in the south junior parking lot.
· Dylan Klebold subsequently arrives at the high school student parking lot alone in his 1982 black BMW. He parks in a space assigned to another student in the southwest senior lot. Klebold's and Harris' cars flank the school's cafeteria and the exits and entrances into the lower level.
· Harris speaks to one student briefly outside the west entrance of the school. According to the student, Harris tells him to leave the school because he likes him. Shortly thereafter, the same student is seen by witnesses walking south on Pierce Street away from the area. This student is the only person Harris and Klebold direct away from the school grounds moments before the killing begins.
· Between 11:14 a.m. and 11:22 a.m. Harris and Klebold leave their cars and walk into the school's cafeteria, carrying two large duffel bags containing enough explosive power to kill the majority of the students who soon would be arriving for "A" lunch. The gunmen place the bags on the floor beside two lunch tables and walk back out.
· Blending in with 400 other backpacks and bags scattered throughout the cafeteria, the duffel bags conceal 20-pound propane bombs timed to explode at 11:17 a.m. Harris earlier had determined that 11:17 a.m. was the exact time for the high school cafeteria to be packed with the maximum number of students possible.
· The school custodian goes into the video room to change the school's cafeteria surveillance videotape.
· After placing two 20-lb. propane bombs in the cafeteria, Harris and Klebold go back out to the student parking lots to sit in their respective cars and wait for the bombs to explode.
· From their cars, they have a clear view of the cafeteria area. Based on comments Klebold and Harris made in their homemade videotapes, the investigation determined the two planned to shoot any surviving students able to escape from the cafeteria after the bombs exploded.
· Klebold and Harris also have bombs constructed with timers in their cars, set to go off once they go back into the school.
· Jefferson County Dispatch Center receives the first 911 call from a citizen reporting an explosion in a field on the east side of Wadsworth Boulevard between Ken Caryl and Chatfield Avenues. The explosion is actually a timed diversionary device. Two backpacks with pipe bombs, aerosol canisters and small propane tanks had been placed in a grassy open space three miles southwest of Columbine High School. Only the pipe bombs and one of the aerosol canisters explode but the explosion and subsequent grass fire are enough to get the attention of the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office and the Littleton Fire Department. The bombs exploding in the field along Wadsworth Boulevard are intended to divert the attention of law enforcement away from what is planned to be a much more devastating scene at the school.
11:19 - 11:23
· Several witnesses identify Harris and Klebold standing together at the top of the west exterior steps, both wearing black trench coats and carrying a backpack and duffel bag. That location is the highest point on campus and allows them an elevated vantage point of the school's west side, the southwest senior parking lot and portions of the junior lot, the cafeteria exits and entrances, and the athletic fields to the west.
· At about 11:19 a.m. a witness hears one of the suspects say, "GO! GO!" Klebold and Harris then pull their shotguns out of their bags. They already have 9-mm semi-automatic weapons hidden under their coats. From their position at the top of the steps they begin shooting at students in the area. Thus begins what is now known as the worst U.S. school shooting in history.
· The first gunshots, fired toward the west doors, kill Rachel Scott and injure Richard Castaldo, students at Columbine High School. Rachel and Richard had been sitting on the grass eating their lunch outside the school's west upper entrance near the north side of the library.
· Students Daniel Rohrbough, Sean Graves, and Lance Kirklin, having just come outside through a side door of the school cafeteria on their way to the "Smoker's Pit" at Clement Park, are hit by gunfire. All three fall to the ground.
· Five students, sitting on the grass to the west of the stairs, are shot at as they begin to run from the melee. Michael Johnson suffers gunshots wounds but is able to reach the outdoor athletic storage shed where he takes cover with others. Mark Taylor suffers a debilitating gunshot wound and falls to the ground, unable to flee with the others.
· Klebold goes back down the stairs to the area outside the cafeteria and shoots Daniel Rohrbough again at close range, killing him instantly. He also shoots Lance Kirklin again, this time at close range, but Lance survives.
· Klebold briefly enters the side entrance to the cafeteria and stands just inside the doorway, perhaps to discover why the propane bombs have not exploded. He then goes back outside and joins Harris at the top of the outside stairs.
· Harris shoots down the stairs hitting Anne Marie Hochhalter. Anne Marie is shot multiple times as she stands to run for cover into the cafeteria.
· Witnesses hear one of the gunmen shout, "This is what we always wanted to do. This is awesome!"
· From the onset, both suspects are seen lighting and throwing explosive devices onto the roof, into the parking lot and toward the grassy hillside.
· Deputy Paul Magor, a Jefferson County Sheriff's deputy patrolling the south Jeffco area, is dispatched to the scene of the fire and explosion on Wadsworth Boulevard.
· The school custodian, after rewinding a recycled videotape, hits the record button on the VCR that records images of lunchtime activities in the school cafeteria. The tape immediately shows students near the windows beginning to notice something happening outside and some start toward the cafeteria windows to look.
· Jefferson County Sheriff's Deputy Neil Gardner, community resource officer at Columbine High School, has just finished his lunch while sitting in his patrol car at the students' "Smoker's Pit" when he receives a call from the school custodian on the school's radio. He's needed in the "back lot" of the school.
· A 911 call from a Columbine High School student reports a girl injured in the south lower parking lot of the high school. "I think she's paralyzed," the caller tells dispatch.
· Deputy Magor, on his way to the explosion in a field off Wadsworth, is advised of a female down in the south parking lot of Columbine High School.
· Deputy Gardner, pulling his car onto Pierce Street and heading south to the student parking lot, hears the same call, this time coming over the Sheriff's radio, "Female down in the south lot of Columbine High School." He activates his lights and siren.
· Several of the school's custodial staff and faculty, including teacher William "Dave" Sanders, are attempting to find out what is happening outside the school cafeteria.
· Realizing a danger, Sanders and school custodians Jon Curtis and Jay Gallatine enter the cafeteria and direct students to get down. Students begin to hide under the cafeteria tables.
· Deputy Paul Smoker, a motorcycle patrolman for the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, is writing a speeding ticket on West Bowles Avenue, just west of Pierce Street, when he hears dispatch report that a female is down in the south lower lot of Columbine High School. Smoker's traffic stop is just north of the school so he radios dispatch that he is responding to the school.
· Teacher Patricia (Patti) Nielson is working as a hall monitor when she hears a commotion outside the west entrance of the school. She looks outside, seeing two male students with what she thinks are toy guns, and assumes that a school video production is being taped. She is on her way outside to tell the boys to "knock it off" when one of the gunmen fires into the west entrance, causing glass and metal fragments to spray into the hallway. Nielson suffers abrasions to her shoulder, forearm and knee from the fragments.
· Beside Nielson is student Brian Anderson. Brian had been told by a teacher to get out of the school because of the explosions and commotion. Not realizing where the danger is, he exits through the first set of west doors, and is caught between the interior and exterior doors when Harris fires at the doors in front of him, shattering the glass. Brian suffers wounds to his chest from the flying glass fragments.
· Despite their injuries, Patti Nielson and Brian are able to flee into the school library while Harris and Klebold are distracted by the arrival of Deputy Gardner. Gardner has just pulled up in the lower south parking lot of the school with the lights on his patrol car flashing and the siren sounding.
· As Gardner steps out of his patrol car, Eric Harris turns his attention from shooting into the west doors of the high school to the student parking lot and to the deputy. Gardner, particularly visible in the bright yellow shirt of the community resource officer's uniform, is the target of Harris' bullets. Harris fires about 10 shots at the deputy with his rifle before his weapon jams.
· Gardner fires four shots at Harris.
· Harris spins hard to his right and Gardner momentarily thinks he has hit him. Seconds later, Harris begins shooting again at the deputy. Although Gardner's patrol car is not hit by bullets, two vehicles that he is parked behind are hit by Harris' gunfire. Investigators later found two bullet holes in each of the cars.
· Harris then turns and enters the school through the west doors.
· Students in the cafeteria realize the activity occurring outside is more serious than a senior prank. A mass exodus of students is seen on the school's surveillance videotape as students escape up the stairs from the cafeteria to the second level. Several students recalled Sanders directing them to safety by telling them to go down the hallway to the east side exits of the school.
· Jefferson County Sheriff's Office dispatch advises that there are possible shots fired at Columbine High School. "Attention, south units. Possible shots fired at Columbine High School, 6201 S. Pierce, possibly in the south lower lot towards the east end. One female is down."
· Teacher Patti Nielson, hiding under the front counter in the school library, calls 911 to report shots being fired outside the library.
· Littleton Fire Department dispatches a fire engine to the explosion and grass fire on Wadsworth.
· After exchanging gunfire with Harris, Gardner calls on his police radio for additional units. "Shots in the building. I need someone in the south lot with me."
· Dispatch reports several shots fired at Columbine High School.
· Teacher's 911 call from inside the library reports smoke coming in through the doorway. She yells at students to get on the floor and under the tables.
· Jefferson County Deputies Scott Taborsky and Paul Smoker arrive on the west side of the school and begin the rescue of two wounded students lying on the ground near the ball fields.
· Smoker sees Gardner down the hill to his right, holding a service pistol. Gardner yells to Smoker as a gunman, carrying a semi-automatic rifle, appears on the inside of the double doors.
· Harris, leaning out of a broken window on the set of double doors into the school, begins shooting a rifle. Smoker fires three rounds at him and the gunman disappears from the window. Smoker continues to hear gunfire from inside the building as more students flee from the school.
· Student witnesses who entered the north main hallway from adjoining classrooms see Klebold and Harris standing just inside the school's northwest entry doors. Both suspects, they later recalled, are armed with guns. Witnesses see Klebold fire a semi-automatic weapon east towards the students in the main hallway and south down the library hallway. They also hear bullets hitting lockers and other objects in the hallway as students run for cover.
· A student in the gym hallway observes Klebold and Harris walking east down the north hallway. Both are firing weapons … and both are laughing.
· Student Stephanie Munson and another student walk out of a classroom into the school's north main hallway. As they enter the hallway, they see a teacher and several students running behind them. The teacher yells for the students to "Run! Get out of the building!" They both run through the main hallway leading to the school's main entrance on the east side. Stephanie is shot in the ankle but both are able to escape the building and continue across the street to safety at Leawood Park.
· A student in the counseling hallway sees students in the north hallway running east through the lobby. Klebold is running behind them, but comes to an abrupt halt near a bank of phones at the entrance to the main lobby area.
· Yet another student, on the telephone with her mother, glances up in time to see the sleeve of a black trench coat shooting a TEC-9 towards the main entrance of the school. She drops the phone and hides in a nearby restroom until she can no longer hear any activity in the hallway. The gunman, she assumes, has turned around and gone back the other way. She goes back to the phone and whispers to her mother to come pick her up and then escapes through the east doors to the outside. Her mother's cell phone bill shows this call is made between 11:23 and 11:26 and lasts 3.8 minutes. The student estimates that she talks to her mother about two minutes before she sees the gunman.
· Klebold is last seen running back down the north hall to the west in the direction of the library hallway.
· Teacher Dave Sanders, still on the second level, turns into the library hallway toward the west entrance and the sounds of gunfire. As Sanders passes the entrance to the library, he apparently sees a gunman coming toward him from the north hallway. Sanders turns around and heads back the way he had just come. Just before turning the corner to go east, he is shot. Sanders is able to crawl to the corner of the Science hallway where teacher Richard Long helps him down the hallway into classroom SCI-3. A group of students, including two Eagle Scouts, Aaron Hancey and Kevin Starkey, gather around him, attending to his injuries and administering first aid.
· Deputy Gardner, who is in the south parking lot and has exchanged gunfire with Eric Harris, radios dispatch with a "Code 33." Code 33 means "officer needs emergency assistance."
· Deputy Magor sets up a road block on Pierce Street at the southeast corner of the student parking lot. He immediately is approached by a teacher as well as students reporting a person in the school with a gun.
· Dispatch announces that possible hand-grenades have been detonated at the school.
· Harris and Klebold walk up and down the library hallway, randomly shooting but not injuring anyone. Investigators later scrutinized Nielson's 911 call made from the school's library. From the tape, the investigation shows that Harris and Klebold spend almost three minutes in the library hallway randomly shooting their weapons and lighting and throwing pipe bombs. They throw two pipe bombs in the hallway and more over the stairway railing to the lower level.
· A pipe bomb is thrown into the stairwell from the library hallway and lands in the cafeteria below. A large flash is observed on the cafeteria videotape. A second pipe bomb also is thrown into the cafeteria from the upper level.
· Teacher Patti Nielson, hiding under the front counter just inside the library entrance, continues her phone contact with the Jefferson County dispatcher. Nielson reacts to the sounds of gunshots and explosions coming from the hallway outside the library. Interspersed with short conversations with the dispatcher, she screams at the students in the library to get under the tables and to stay hidden. She then reports that a gunman is just outside the library entrance.
· Numerous students, running from the school, seek safety behind Taborsky's patrol car on the school's west side. The students tell the deputies that gunmen are inside the school randomly shooting at people with UZIs or shotguns and throwing hand-grenades. They describe the younger of the two gunmen as possibly high school age and wearing a black trench coat and a hat on backwards. The second gunman is described as "taller, a little older" and also wearing a black trench coat.
· Smoker can see other deputies on the west side of the school near the concrete shed and the ballfields.
· Dispatch alerts the deputies that the shooter may have a shotgun.
· A 911 call reports that students are injured outside the school.
· Deputy Smoker radios that students are saying the shooter is wearing a black trench coat.
· Gardner requests emergency medical response to the west side of the school.
· Dispatch alerts all units that Deputy Gardner is under fire and the suspect just ran into the building. "Shots fired on the southwest side with a large weapon."
· Harris and Klebold walk into the school library. The 911 call records a male voice yelling, "Get up!"
11:29 - 11:36
· Harris shoots down the length of the front counter. One student, crouched behind a paper copier, is injured by flying wood splinters from the counter.
· The gunmen walk through the library toward the west windows, killing one student on the way, before they shoot out the windows toward law enforcement and fleeing students.
· Law enforcement returns the fire.
· The gunmen then turn their attention to students inside the library. They kill four and injure four more in the west area of the library before moving back toward the library entrance to the east.
· Harris and Klebold shoot out the display cabinet near the front door before firing their guns in this section of the library, injuring five and killing three.
· Harris and Klebold leave the library's east area and enter the center section, reloading their weapons at this point.
· Two more students are killed and two more injured in the library's center section before the gunmen leave the library.
· In 7 ½ minutes, 10 people are killed and 12 more wounded. There are a total of 56 people in the library; 34 escape injury.
· Two library employees remain hidden in the television studio. One teacher hides in the periodicals room. Patti Nielson, originally hiding under the front counter, drops the phone. She ultimately crawls into the library's break room to hide in a cupboard. All four women remain in the library until they are evacuated by SWAT around 3:30 p.m.
· Jefferson County Patrol Deputy Rick Searle, on the upper grassy area on the southwest side of the school, is evacuating students who have taken cover behind Taborsky's patrol car. In three separate trips, Searle transports the students, including those wounded, south to a safe location at Caley Avenue and Yukon Street. Medical triage soon will be established at this spot. As soon as he gets back from his evacuation trips, he discovers even more students who have escaped the school and taken cover behind Taborsky's patrol car.
· Deputy Kevin Walker, positioned at a southern point in the student parking lot, is able to watch the lower level main south doors of the school and the entrance to the cafeteria. He can provide rescue and cover for the students fleeing to the south from the school's lower level.
· Deputy Taborsky reports hearing additional shots being fired inside the school -- "large caliber."
· Dispatch reports possible shots fired in the library.
· Littleton Fire calls for personnel to stage at the scene. As the department learns that some students fleeing the school are possibly injured, personnel are instructed to stage in several areas nearby and set up triage sites to treat the injured.
· The county's dispatch center goes into an emergency command system as the incoming reports begin to provide glimpses of the incident's magnitude. Additional dispatchers soon arrive to help deal with the escalating radio traffic and 911 calls.
· Deputy Searle reports smoke coming from the building.
· Deputy Taborsky reports a person down on the southwest side of the school.
· The 911 tape from the library records the sound of many gunshots being fired during this minute. One of the gunmen in the library yells, "Yahoo!"
· The first fire alarm sounds from the upper level corridor of Columbine High School.
· Deputy Walker reports possibly seeing one of the gunmen through the windows on the upper level, southwest corner. Walker describes him as wearing a "white T-shirt with some kind of holster vest."
· As students and faculty escape the school to the south, they report what they saw or experienced to Deputy Magor, whose patrol car is blocking the traffic on Pierce Street to the south. Magor realizes the severity of the escalating situation and radios that the Sheriff's Office needs mutual aid at the scene.
· Many agencies already are aware of the situation at the high school because of the radio traffic they are hearing and personnel are quick to arrive at the scene. Several arriving Denver police officers and one Littleton police officer have children who are students at Columbine. One student, hiding with others inside the school's kitchen, is on a cell phone with the Denver Police Department. His father is an officer in the department.
· The first call is received by the Sheriff's Office from the media requesting information about what is happening at Columbine High School.
· Jefferson County SWAT commander Lt. Terry Manwaring, on his way to the high school, orders the Jefferson County SWAT team and the Sheriff's Office command staff to be paged.
· Dispatch reports a possible shooter on the football field behind the shed.
· Jefferson County Dispatch asks if any deputies on scene have a "long gun" (a rifle or shotgun).
· In response to Magor's call for mutual aid, Jefferson County Dispatch advises that additional assistance is coming from other agencies.
· Suspects move to the center section of the library.
· Dispatch advises additional gunfire being reported.
· Dispatch advises that several SWAT teams are en route.
· The last victim is killed at Columbine High School.
· Suspects move to the front counter of the library.
11:36 - 11:44 a.m.
· From the library Harris and Klebold go into the hallway and make their way to the science area. Witnesses describe the two as looking through the windows of some of the classrooms' locked doors, making eye contact with some of the students, yet not attempting to break into the rooms or harm any more students.
· A teacher sees Klebold and Harris in the science hallway, stopping in front of the chemical storage room just east of Science Room 3 where she is hiding.
· Several students witness the suspects shooting into empty rooms. Klebold and Harris also tape an explosive device on the storage room door next to the area where teacher Dave Sanders and several students are hiding. Witnesses say the gunmen do not appear to be overly intent on gaining access to any of the rooms. The gunmen easily could have shot the locks on the doors or through the windows into the classrooms, but they do not. Their behavior now seems directionless.
· Deputy Searle reports a man on the roof wearing a red, white and blue striped shirt. Initially thought to be a possible shooter, the man is later identified an employee of a heating and air conditioning company on a service call at the school to fix a leak above the girls' locker room. The repairman is on the roof when the first shots are fired and, when he realizes something is wrong, he uses a pair of vice grips to clamp the roof access hatch closed so nobody can come up to the roof.
· Sgt. Ken Ester of the Intelligence Unit reports to the southeast side of the school and assists Deputy Magor.
· Several more pipe bombs are thrown into the cafeteria from the library hallway a floor above. Another explosion can be seen at this time on the cafeteria videotape.
· Dispatch advises multiple reports of shots in the library and multiple suspects with different descriptions -- the last being "a white, red and blue striped shirt up on the roof."
· Jeffco SWAT team commander Manwaring arrives at Pierce and Leawood and advises dispatch that the command post and the SWAT staging area will be set up at that location
· Another pipe bomb is thrown over the railing from the hallway above and
into the cafeteria area where it explodes. This can be heard on the 911 call
made from inside the library.
· Littleton Fire Department is staged at Weaver and Pierce Streets.
· Deputy Walker, on the south side of the school, reports an explosion that blows out windows near the cafeteria. The explosion is from a pipe bomb.
· As the pipe bomb explodes, several students run out of the south cafeteria doors toward Walker. The deputy directs them to take cover behind several cars, covering them with his own gun while they position themselves away from the line of fire. Walker radios to dispatch that he has students with him, but he does not have any safe path to evacuate them from the parking lot.
· Dispatch reports that one shooter is in the food preparation area and that the shooter has 17 students in that area with him. In actuality, a 911 call received from a student hiding with 17 others in the school's kitchen reports what he thinks is a shooter in the area. The investigation determined from the cafeteria videotape that several custodial staff, equipped with keys and school radios, were in the kitchen area at that time. The student assumed what he heard were the shooters and reported to dispatch that the shooters had keys to the school and walkie talkies.
· Jefferson County Patrol Sgt. Phil Hy arrives on scene and begins identifying and disseminating pertinent information to the initial responders.
· Deputies report 30 students have exited the school on the west side. Many of these students taking cover behind the patrol cars are those who are able to escape from the school library after Klebold and Harris leave the library and go into the science area.
· Deputy Taborsky, protecting students who have fled out the west side of the school, reports that one of the shooters might be "Ned Harris" and that he is possibly wearing bulletproof armor. The witness probably was saying "Reb," which was Harris' nickname.
· Dispatch advises that the suspects are possibly wearing body armor.
· Deputy Walker reports more explosions inside the school. The explosions seem to be moving east.
· Deputy Searle reports the man is still on the roof and has moved over to the north side.
11:42 - 11:43
· Based on 911 calls coming in, dispatch advises that a suspect has possibly left the building.
· Dispatch also reports one person wearing a red and white shirt on the north side of the roof, one suspect in the library with a shotgun and several bombs, and another person in the cafeteria with "bulletproof equipment and several bombs."
· In response to reports that one of the suspects may have left the building, several deputies on scene radio their positions around the school, confirming that a perimeter has been established and all exits are covered by law enforcement.
· Klebold and Harris leave the science area and go down into the cafeteria. The cafeteria videotape records Harris kneeling down and resting his rifle on the stair railing and firing several shots at one of the large 20-pound propane bombs hidden in a duffel bag. Photos of the cafeteria show duffel bags and backpacks scattered throughout the area, yet Harris seems to know exactly where the bombs are located and in what bags. He apparently shoots at the one, presumably in an attempt to make it explode. It does not.
· The videotape also shows Klebold walking directly over to the same bomb after Harris' failed attempts to detonate it. Klebold seems to be tampering with something on the floor.
· The suspects both take a moment to drink from water bottles left by students on the school lunch tables.
· A witness hiding in the cafeteria hears one of the gunmen say, "Today the world's going to come to an end. Today's the day we die."
· Harris and Klebold walk toward the food serving line in the cafeteria area.
· Klebold throws something in the vicinity of the propane bomb.
· Lt. Dave Walcher of the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office arrives on scene. Walcher assumes the role of incident commander.
· Harris and Klebold are in the cafeteria about 2 ½ minutes.
· The cafeteria videotape shows that, as the gunmen are walking away, there is a partial detonation of a bomb and a subsequent fire. The bomb is attached to smaller containers of flammable liquids that may have been ignited by a device thrown by Klebold. That explosion causes the fire in the cafeteria that, in turn, moments later activates 5 fire sprinklers in the area. These events are recorded on the cafeteria's surveillance cameras. The large 20-lb propane tank and the second complete bomb/duffel bag beside a nearby table do not explode.
· Deputy Searle, outside the building, reports a fire in the cafeteria.
· Four students run out of the cafeteria through a side door.
· One student can be seen on the cafeteria videotape crawling out of the cafeteria side door.
· One gallon of fuel ignites in the area of the partially detonated propane bomb.
· Dispatch advises of reports of two suspects with UZIs, pipe bombs and shotguns.
· During its late morning news program, Denver's KMGH-TV Channel 7 announces that Jefferson County has confirmed gunshots fired at Columbine High School.
· Suspects are in the office area.
· Sgt. Ester reports that Denver Metro SWAT has arrived on the east side of the school.
· The 911 call made by Patti Nielson from the library is terminated by the dispatch center since no more activity could be heard on the line.
· Jefferson County Under-sheriff John Dunaway arrives at the command post and authorizes SWAT to make an immediate entry into the school.
· Deputy Byerly reports shots fired on the east side of the building.
· The fire sprinkler system alarm in the cafeteria is activated.
· Jefferson County Sheriff John Stone, on his way to Columbine High School, calls Jefferson County Commissioner and Board Chairman Patricia Holloway. He alerts her that gunshots are being fired at the south Jefferson County school and there are reports of students injured and possible hostages taken.
· Dispatch informs the command post that bomb squads from the Jefferson County and Arapahoe County Sheriff's Offices are en route.
· Dispatch also confirms a live bomb at Wadsworth and Chatfield. "Repeat. A live bomb at Wadsworth and Chatfield."
11:53 - 11:55
· Law enforcement officers on the east side of the school report noises and shots coming from the school's northeast side.
· Searle reports that Denver Police Department personnel are at the shed on the west side of the school and they have "long guns."
· A two-hour 911 phone call (from 11:29 a.m. to 1:24 p.m.) from a school secretary and a school security officer hiding in the school's main office reports shots fired in the office, into the ceiling and in the art hallway to the north.
· Dispatch gives the command post a description of one of the suspects: "Eric Harris, 5'10", thin build, shaved blond hair, black pants and white T-shirt, light blue gym backpack."
· Littleton paramedics transport student Stephanie Munson, shot in the ankle while escaping out the east main entrance, to Littleton Hospital.
· Klebold and Harris' movements continue to be extremely random. The cafeteria videotape shows the gunmen coming back down the stairs and into the cafeteria. Klebold is holding the TEC 9.
· Television news announces reports of two gunmen at Columbine High School.
· Deputy Smoker advises dispatch that four down on the west side need to be evacuated.
· Two ambulances, responding to Gardner's call for medical assistance on the south side, approach the south parking lot.
· Walker reports shots fired from inside the school.
· The cafeteria videotape shows Klebold and Harris standing in the cafeteria surveying the damage.
· The suspects walk back toward the kitchen area.
· Deputy Schwieterman reports an ambulance has arrived on the south side.
· Schwieterman, positioned by the west side athletic shed, reports that there are five victims outside on the southwest side of the school and gives directions where ambulances should come into the area to rescue them.
· Littleton Fire Department announces that its command post is set up at Leawood and Pierce.
· The suspects leave the kitchen area.
· Klebold and Harris leave the cafeteria and go upstairs to the library.
· The command post tells dispatch to request Channel 7's news helicopter flying overhead to land in Clement Park in order to pick up a Sheriff's deputy for an aerial survey of the school.
· An armored vehicle is requested to rescue the injured because the scene is "not safe for medical."
· Uninterrupted media coverage about the shooting in progress at Columbine High School begins on local television channels.
· SWAT commands use of a Littleton fire truck to provide cover as the first Jefferson County, Littleton and Denver SWAT officers approach the school. Deputy Del Kleinschmidt, a Jefferson County K-9 team member assigned to SWAT, volunteers to drive the truck.
· A television reporter interviews the mother of a student who told her about gunmen dressed in black in the high school's commons area. The station also reports that, according to information gleaned from its police scanners, the school is being evacuated.
12:02 - 12:05
· Littleton Fire Department paramedics rescue Sean Graves, Lance Kirklin and Anne Marie Hochhalter as they lay wounded outside the cafeteria. Because the scene is not safe, law enforcement deputies and officers move in closer to provide cover for paramedics Mark Gorman, Monte Fleming and John Aylward and emergency medical technician Jerry LoSasso as they retrieve the victims.
· Gunfire erupts from the second story library windows above the cafeteria as the paramedics rescue the wounded students outside.
· Deputy Walker sees a muzzle flash from a library window and returns fire.
· Deputy Gardner fires three shots at the gunmen.
· Denver police officers also provide suppression fire to the library windows. This allows the paramedics to retrieve the three wounded teens. The fourth student, Dan Rohrbough, is determined to be deceased. The paramedics rush the living to medical attention.
· After the ambulances leave the scene with the wounded, the gunfire coming from the library windows ceases. No gunshots attributed to the gunmen are heard again.
· Gardner turns his attention to a group of 15 students huddled behind a vehicle in the parking lot just a car away from him. One at a time, he evacuates the students down the line of cars to the protection of the last car farthest away from the school and the shooters.
· Other students begin to escape, some out a side door of the cafeteria, and the officers "leapfrog" them back to Gardner or other waiting deputies.
· A television news helicopter begins broadcasting aerial images of Columbine High School.
· Jefferson County crime lab is en route to the scene with its mobile crime laboratory unit.
· The first SWAT team, on foot behind a Littleton fire truck, arrives at the east main entrance to the school. Manwaring, leading the ad hoc team, splits the group into two teams and directs Jefferson County SWAT Deputy Allen Simmons to take his team into the school. It is estimated that at 12:06 p.m., Simmons' team of five officers enters Columbine High School through the southeast doors. Manwaring will lead the second team, using the fire truck as a shield, to the west side where students are reported "down" and gunfire occurring.
· Television news coverage broadcasts images of the SWAT team outside the high school.
· Student Anne Marie Hochhalter is transported to Swedish Medical Hospital.
· Dispatch advises that a victim shot in the head is at the Caley/Yukon triage area
· Deputy Walker asks dispatch to check on the status of the party on the roof.
12:08 The deaths of Klebold and Harris
· Shortly after that last gunshot is fired from the library window at law enforcement and paramedics, Harris and Klebold kill themselves.
· Medical triage is officially established at Yukon Street and Caley Avenue southwest of the school at the south entrance to Clement Park. Law enforcement had already transported numerous students to the area as they were evacuated from the school's south and west sides. One patient is transported by Air Life and several are transported by ambulance from this area. A second triage and treatment area is set up on the east side of the school after the command post is informed the remaining victims will be brought from inside the school out the east side.
· The heating and air conditioning repairman, initially thought to be a possible sniper, is removed from the roof.
· A television reporter positioned at the Yukon and Caley triage area describes the scene as a "very bad situation." He tells the television audience that four or five students are currently being treated and some are bleeding extensively.
· Sean Graves, critically injured outside the cafeteria, is transported to Swedish Medical.
· Dispatch tells the command post that a dispatcher is still on the line with students who say that there are suspects in "Rooms 1, 2 and 3" and several parties are shot, including one faculty member.
· The Jefferson County, Denver and Arapahoe County bomb squads begin to arrive and stage in the parking lot at Clement Park north of the school. As the incident progresses, bomb technicians from Littleton Fire, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) join the initial bomb squads. A total of 16 bomb technicians share in the initial response, some sent to evaluate the construction of the divisionary device, others sent to the homes of the suspects, still others providing safety information to the responders, and many later entering the school to deactivate and/or remove the explosives.
· Sgt. Hy, at the command post on Pierce, reports a possible shooter and hostages at the front door of the school.
· Moments later a lone student comes out of the main doors and runs to the fire truck. The teen is quickly checked for weapons and injuries, then picked up and put in the back end of the truck's cab. The boy reports that no other people are in the office area.
· A news helicopter lands at Clement Park. Jefferson County Sheriff's Sgt. Phil Domenico is put on board and uses the helicopter's camera system to survey the school's roof. He remains in the helicopter for the next several hours surveying the area.
· The Jefferson County administrator, emergency management coordinator and public information officer arrive at the Sheriff's Dispatch Center to offer assistance. They soon are asked to help field the escalating media calls as the word of the Columbine shootings begins to spread worldwide. County Commissioners Pat Holloway and Rick Sheehan arrive at the dispatch center soon after the county staff.
· The Victim Services Unit of the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office reports to the command post. Personnel are assigned to Columbine Public Library to provide services to the students and parents collecting there. By 12:45, additional counselors and volunteers respond to Leawood Elementary School where high school students and parents are also gathering.
· Deputy Byerly reports that a male wearing a white shirt and black pants is walking on the west side of the school. The young man had heard of the shooting on TV and ran through Clement Park towards the school carrying an unloaded .22 Caliber rifle and a knife in order to "help the police." He subsequently is contacted at gunpoint. Deputies determine that the individual is not involved in the incident.
· Medical personnel at the Yukon/Caley triage area report four critical, four serious and three stable patients and request 10 ambulances and one helicopter.
· Deputy Walker reports that he has six students with him.
· A student being interviewed on air by a television reporter says that the gunmen shot one of his friends. He recognizes the shooters as Columbine students and members of the "Trench Coat Mafia" but does not know their names. He also reports that there may be two or three shooters and they have pipe bombs, sawed-off shotguns, and automatics.
· Lance Kirklin, shot outside the cafeteria during the first few minutes of the shooting rampage, is transported to Denver Health Medical.
· The Air Life helicopter lands in Clement Park in preparation to transport critically wounded to area hospitals.
· Dispatch reports that all cellular lines are busy and it is unable to call the command post.
· Mark Taylor is transported to University Hospital. Mark was injured outside as he and a group of friends sat on the grassy hill to the west of the stairs where Klebold and Harris first began their shooting rampage.
· Dispatch advises that parents are to go to Leawood Elementary School. Law enforcement and victim advocates will assist in coordinating the reunion of parents and children at the elementary school.
· Mike Johnson is transported to St. Anthony's Hospital. Mike was shot as he fled the grassy hill to the west of where Klebold and Harris first began shooting.
· The news reports that there are possibly two gunmen and eight victims at Columbine High School.
· Jeanna Park is transported to Denver Health Medical. Kacey Ruegsegger is transported to St. Anthony's. Both girls had been injured by gunfire in the library. All of those who escaped the library ran out of the emergency exit next to the west entrance to the school. They ran to Deputy Taborsky's patrol vehicle and hid behind it until Deputy Searle and several Denver officers were able to load the students in their vehicles. The officers then transported the students either to Deputy Schwieterman at the shed by the ballfields or directly to triage.
· Aided by the local news stations, the Jefferson County School District announces a parent hotline number for parents of Columbine students.
· The Jefferson County SORT team (Special Operations Response Team) is paged. The SORT team, which deals primarily with jail disturbances and crowd control, will respond to Leawood Elementary School where students are being evacuated, and parents and media will soon be collecting.
· An officer from the Salvation Army arrives and immediately calls in a mobile kitchen, which sets up near the command post to provide water and nourishment for those at the scene. By 1:30 p.m., the Red Cross has staffed its mass feeding vehicle and sends it to the command post and nearby Clement Park where media, students and families are gathering.
· Lt. Manwaring reports that his SWAT team is on the north side of the school with the fire truck, working its way toward the west side.
· Valeen Schnurr is transported to Swedish Medical with gunshot wounds. Valeen was in the library at the time of her injuries and was able to escape through the library's emergency exit when Klebold and Harris left the library.
12:34 - 12:39
· Manwaring's SWAT team reports that it is now on the west side at the back entrance, upper level.
· The first objective of Manwaring's team is to rescue two students lying in front of the west doors. Using the fire truck as a shield, the team of Jefferson County and Denver SWAT officers inch the truck as close to the west doors as possible.
· Two Denver SWAT members rescue student Richard Castaldo from the area in front of the west doors and lay him on the bumper of the fire truck.
· Jefferson County Deputy Scott Taborsky puts Richard in his patrol car and rushes him to medical assistance.
· The SWAT team makes a second approach to the area outside the west doors, this time to retrieve Rachel Scott. They bring Rachel to the fire truck and determine that she has already died.
· The team makes a third approach, this time in an attempt to rescue the boy at the bottom of the stairs. They return without him, acknowledging that Daniel Rohrbough is deceased.
· Dispatch announces that the Jefferson County Sheriff's mobile command bus is on scene and activated.
· Manwaring's SWAT team requests a floor plan of the school.
· Dan Steepleton is transported to Littleton Hospital.
· Information is received that a natural gas leak is occurring in the school. A decision is made to have Public Service Company shut off the gas as soon as it is considered safe to approach the main valve. A crew from PSC is present and is notified to be ready to accompany officers into the school when possible.
· Additional SWAT from Jefferson County arrive at the command post on Pierce Street. This team of 10 is commanded by Sgt. Barry Williams.
· Reports being relayed to the command post include possible multiple shooters, a hostage situation, and gunfire and explosions in nearly every wing of the school building.
· Students on cell phones inside the school are calling out - to 911, their parents, and several times to local television stations.
· Students calling from their cell phones report hearing shots inside the school and give numerous locations for the gunshots, including the gymnasium, the auditorium, the business wing, the music rooms, the science area and the business offices.
· The news media announces that students who have safely escaped the school should call the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office or 911 to report their safety. The phones at the Sheriff's Office are immediately jammed until personnel contact local TV stations to correct the message. Students are encouraged to call the school district's parent hotline instead.
· Deputy Simmons, leader of the first SWAT team that entered the 250,000-square-foot school, requests additional SWAT for the east side. Due to the size of the school, the numerous rooms and hallways that have to be searched, and the amount of students and faculty being rescued, Simmons calls for more assistance.
· Makai Hall is transported to Littleton Hospital. He is later transported to St. Anthony's Hospital by Air Life.
· Dispatch reports cover fire by Denver Police Department, most likely during SWAT's rescue of Richard Castaldo at the school's upper west entrance.
· Dispatch reports that an EMT dispatcher is on the phone with a party inside the school. The individual is with a critically injured victim.
12:50 - 13:09
· Two SWAT deputies are positioned on rooftops of houses on West Polk Avenue, the first neighborhood street just south of the school. From their vantage point, the marksmen have a clear view of the south parking lot, the library windows and the cafeteria area.
· Williams' SWAT team utilizes a front-end loader parked near the command post to move around the school to the west side.
· Using the front-end loader as cover, Williams' team first moves into position on the northwest corner of the school, opposite from where Simmons' SWAT team had entered the building.
· Williams is advised that students have been shot and numerous bombs have exploded. The number of suspects, still in the building, is unknown but reports indicate as many as eight.
· Williams' team is also told that activity has been reported in both the cafeteria and the library.
· A "live" bomb blocks the outside west doors leading into the upper level hallway and entrance to the library. The closest point of entry is into the cafeteria directly underneath the library.
· A window into the teachers' lounge next to the cafeteria will provide an entry point for Williams' team.
· Nicole Nowlen is transported to Lutheran Medical Center
· Media reports that several area schools are in "lock down." Schools are locked from the inside and, for safety reasons, "no one goes out and no one goes in."
· Austin Eubanks and Jennifer Doyle are transported to Littleton Hospital.
· The Jefferson County Critical Incident (Shoot) Team is activated.
· Nick Foss is transported to Littleton Hospital.
· Richard Castaldo, rescued by SWAT from the outside upper west entrance, is transported to Swedish Medical Center.
· Williams' team breaks an outside window to gain entrance into the teachers' lounge. The team is met with the deafening noise of fire alarms, the flash of strobe lights, ceiling tiles hanging at odd angles and three inches of water coming in under the closed door to the cafeteria. The alarms and the sprinkler system have been set off by the explosions and the cafeteria area and adjacent rooms are flooding. Another concern is "a hissing sound and the sound of something spraying." Williams fears it might be a broken natural gas line.
· Williams' team first clears the kitchen and back storage areas, evacuating groups of students and staff hiding behind locked doors.
· Air Life transports Mark Kintgen from the Yukon/Caley triage to Denver Health Medical.
· Investigators are at or en route to area hospitals as injured victims are being transported.
· Brian Anderson is transported to Lutheran Medical Center.
· The medical triage at Yukon and Caley reports that all injured have been transported to area hospitals.
· Investigators arrive at the Harris and the Klebold residences.
· Simmons' SWAT team evacuates 30 students and faculty from south classrooms on the upper level.
· SWAT teams continue a search and rescue inside the school building. Simmons' team works east to west on the upper level, and Williams' team works west to east on the lower level.
· Dispatch reports that Arapahoe SWAT team is on scene and ready to assist when needed.
· Williams' team evacuates numerous students and staff from the back storage rooms and kitchen area. The students are evacuated out the same window that provided entry for the SWAT team.
· Manwaring's SWAT team requests a floor plan of the school.
· The cafeteria videotape shows Williams' SWAT team entering the main cafeteria area, commonly referred to as the "commons." The team had just finished clearing and evacuating students and staff from the teachers' lounge, kitchen area and back storage areas.
· Williams is advised by radio that there are possible bombs throughout the school. He is told the bombs may be hidden in backpacks and constructed with timers and motion-activated devices. The information is relayed from bomb technicians who have inspected the diversionary bombs placed on Wadsworth and realize similar devices may have been placed inside the high school.
· Williams' team is advised that the suspects' last known location was downstairs by the business classrooms. This information was relayed by a student on a cell phone inside the school.
· Air Life transports Makai Hall from Littleton Hospital to St. Anthony's Hospital.
· Three male subjects, appearing in a field north of the high school in Clement Park, are contacted by Jefferson County Sheriff's deputies and detained for questioning.
· The three are dressed in black clothing, which matches the known description of the shooters, and are spotted in an unsecured area close to the school.
· These individuals, who are not Columbine students, identify themselves as the "Splatter Punks" and insist they have shown up at Columbine High School mainly out of curiosity.
· The images of the three being taken into custody by law enforcement authorities, aired live on local television channels, raised numerous questions from the community about their involvement in the crime.
· After initial questioning, the three youths are released the same afternoon and are re-interviewed at length on April 24. It is determined that they had no known affiliation with the Trench Coat Mafia, and, shortly thereafter, are cleared of any involvement.
· Jefferson County SORT arrives at Leawood Elementary School where they provide perimeter security, assist with the evacuation of the elementary children to their parents, assist in the reuniting of Columbine students and parents, handle traffic control and maintain a media area outside the school building.
· Williams' SWAT team announces that it has found several students and faculty hiding in the ceiling of the kitchen. Six individuals are evacuated out the west side.
· Dispatch tells Williams there is a male upstairs "in the library past the stairs" doing CPR on an injured party. The SWAT team is also told that a blue and white shirt is hanging on the door knob.
· Williams asks for better directions on how to get to the injured party.
· Students are evacuated from the Technology Lab on the main floor.
· The Lakewood SWAT team, with an armored vehicle, approaches the west side of the school next to the south parking lot.
· SWAT positioned on the roof of a residence to the south of the school reports a sign in a window on the upper level. The sign reads, "1 bleeding to death."
· Williams splits his team and half clears the computer and business classrooms on the lower level southeast of the cafeteria. They evacuate two people found in the furthest business classroom out the south side.
· A Columbine parent, waiting at Leawood Elementary for word about his son, is transported to Littleton Hospital because of chest pains. He is one of many parents in anguish awaiting word of their children.
· Adam Kyler is transported to Littleton Hospital.
· The second half of Williams' SWAT team, having cleared the two-story auditorium, is entering into the school's music area on the second floor where there are reports of students hiding in a music room closet. The team discovers 60 students and evacuates them in groups of 10 through a protective wall of SWAT officers and out the west side.
· The same SWAT team then moves into an area across the hallway and to the left of the music room where an additional 60 students are found and safely evacuated from the building.
· Sgt. Domenico, surveying the area from Channel 7 news helicopter, reports that someone is trying to climb out a second story window on the southwest side of the school.
· Simmons advises that the administration area on the upper level is cleared and his group is moving to the art and consumer education areas.
· The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office requests Littleton Fire to dispatch engines and rescue units to Eric Harris' residence. Already on scene are the Sheridan and Lakewood Police Department investigators, ATF personnel and Arapahoe County bomb technicians preparing to investigate a gasoline smell and the report of a bomb at the residence.
· Having just searched the business and computer classrooms, the first half of Williams' team clears the stairs to the upper level. Once on the upper level, Williams sees Simmons' team clearing the school to the east of where he stands.
· President Clinton refers to the shooting at a high school in Littleton, Colorado, during a scheduled news conference to talk about the American economy. "Ladies and Gentlemen, we all know there has been a terrible shooting at a high school in Littleton, Colorado. Because the situation, as I left to come out here, apparently is ongoing, I think it would be inappropriate for me to say anything other than I hope the American people will be praying for the students, the parents and the teachers and we'll wait for events to unfold and there will be more to say."
· Patrick Ireland, shot in the library and slipping in and out of consciousness, has slowly made his way to the west window. Sgt. Domenico, in a news helicopter, and deputies on the south and west sides of the school see a figure at the window and realize the young man is attempting to climb out the second story broken window. The only thing below him is a concrete sidewalk. The image of Patrick's rescue has come to epitomize the Columbine tragedy. Using the roof of an armored vehicle so they can reach him, several Lakewood SWAT members catch the young man as he falls out the window at 2:38 p.m.
· Patrick Ireland is transported to St. Anthony's Hospital.
· Forty students are evacuated out of the vocal room.
· Littleton Fire shuts off the electricity and natural gas to the Harris' residence.
· Williams' SWAT team requests medical assistance to the science area on the second floor, west side, for a teacher with multiple gunshot wounds. The teacher is Dave Sanders.
· Williams' also announces that 60 students are to be evacuated from this same area.
· Members of Williams' SWAT team evacuate approximately 60 people from the science area. Two SWAT members move the students and teachers first to the stairway landing, then down to the lower level and through the recently cleared cafeteria and out the west side door. Two SWAT members stay with Sanders waiting for paramedics.
· Simmons' SWAT team working on the upper east side of the building announces the band room and woodshop areas are clear. The team is progressing west down the hallways to clear various rooms including a gym and weight room.
15:12 - 15:17
· Fifty students are evacuated from the east upper level and are directed across the street to safety.
15:22 - 15:37
· The first team to enter the library is Williams' team of four Jefferson County SWAT members. A Denver SWAT officer holds the doorway. The four Jefferson County members spread out and work their way through sections of the library. They step over numerous bombs trying to get to each one of the children.
· Among three victims laying on the floor under desks is Lisa Kreutz. She has been shot several times but she is alive. SWAT, seeing her wounds, calls for a paramedic.
· In addition to the one girl who is injured, Williams' team reports that they have found 12 dead. Among the 12 are two males on the floor in the southwest part of the library who appear to have self-inflicted gunshot wounds to the head. Guns and numerous explosive devices lay on the ground beside the bodies. Williams advises the command post that the two males match the description of the suspects.
· A female employee, hiding in the magazine room in a back part of the library, comes out of hiding. She is instructed to put her hand on the back of one of the SWAT officers, look only at the back of his helmet and follow him out of the library. She is quickly passed off to another officer and evacuated to the outside.
· Three other employees subsequently are evacuated from the library, including teacher Patti Nielson who was hiding in a cupboard in a west room of the library.
· Williams' SWAT team works its way to the back emergency door that opens to the outside upper level near the west entrance. Although several bombs are laying inside the door, the SWAT team realizes the urgent need to get a team of paramedics into the library to attend to Lisa Kreutz. Two paramedics come in with a backboard, put the wounded student on it and quickly get her out of the library. Lisa is transported to Denver Health Medical at 3:37 p.m.
· After searching the library, Williams' SWAT team requests the bomb squad.
· The other half of Williams' team and Simmons' SWAT team, still searching other parts of the school building, hear over the radio that William's first team has made it to the library and found one female still alive. They continue clearing classrooms on the upper levels, working their way toward the library.
· Littleton Fire reports that live bombs and gasoline have been located at the Harris residence. Adjacent houses in the neighborhood are evacuated.
· SWAT command personnel meet at the east doors of the school to discuss follow up sweeps of the school and to relieve initial teams, replenishing them with fresh SWAT teams from other agencies.
· Simmons' team, after clearing the gymnasium and weight room, enters a north-south hallway which is where the library is located. The team arrives outside the library as Williams' team completes clearing the library.
· Teacher Patti Nielson is transported to Littleton Hospital.
· Lakewood SWAT reports two cars on the southwest side of the school are possibly booby trapped. One car is described as being a black Honda Civic, Mercedes or BMW with NIN bumper stickers. The other is a blue 1980's two-door with a Ramstein sticker.
· Bomb technicians remove an explosive device from the Harris residence.
· A Littleton fire captain enters the school and is able to silence the fire alarms and shut off the emergency sprinkler systems.
· Two explosions are reported on the north side of the school. SWAT advises that they are shock locks fired by a SWAT team. Shock locks are explosive devices used to gain entry into locked rooms.
· Dr. Christopher Colwell, attending emergency room physician at Denver Health Medical Center, and Robert Montoya, a Denver Health paramedic, are escorted by SWAT team members through the library "to look for any signs of life." Dr. Colwell had already pronounced Rachel Scott and Daniel Rohrbough, two of the youths shot outside, as deceased.
· Colwell performs a second sweep of the library, this time pronouncing each of the 10 victims and the two suspects deceased. He is also escorted to the science area where he pronounces teacher Dave Sanders as deceased.
By 4:45, the SWAT teams finished the initial search of Columbine High School, clearing the 250,000 square-foot two-story building. The deceased, including two suspects, had been checked and pronounced dead by Dr. Colwell of the Denver Health Medical Center. The deadly shootings and massacre at Columbine was over.
On Wednesday April 21, 1999, personnel from the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, including Lt. Dave Walcher, incident commander; Sgt. Randy West, investigations supervisor; Investigator Kate Battan, lead investigator; Chris Andrist, lab supervisor, and Dr. Nancy Bodelson, county coroner, entered the school at 7:30 a.m., April 21. Their first priority was to begin the process of identifying the deceased and to then begin the investigation into the tragedy at Columbine High School.
CRITICAL ISSUES-FIRST RESPONSE
By noon or shortly after, all of the pieces of the response puzzle were in place. In the very first minutes of the incident and over the next several hours, many obstacles and concerns came to light that needed to be addressed by those at the command post, including:
Number of Shooters - At one time or another, the number of shooters believed to be involved in the incident ranged from two to eight. Differing descriptions of the gunmen, different reports of their locations inside the school, the sheer volume of calls received about sightings and knowledge related to the incident, different observations made by law enforcement officers around the school, the number of explosions occurring, and the number of victims all played a part in the challenge to identify how many shooters were involved and where they were in the school. Additionally, there were erroneous reports that a suspect had left the school.
Entry into Building -- Sheriff's deputies began arriving at Columbine High School within minutes of the attack. The deputy assigned to the school engaged one of the suspects in a gun battle as soon as he stepped out of his patrol car. Acting on years of training, other deputies hastily established a perimeter to prevent the escape of the gunmen. Deputies and officers from other agencies assisted escaping students to safety and rendered aid to the injured. The Sheriff's SWAT commander arrived at the scene within 15 minutes of the first shots that were fired. He identified other tactical officers at the scene and began to assemble an ad hoc team representing three agencies. Officers who did not know one another, much less having trained together, entered the school not knowing how many suspects they might face, their locations, whether hostages had been taken, and with their sensory and communication abilities severely impaired. Meanwhile other officers and SWAT teams arrived to assist amid reports of possible snipers and multiple shooters wearing body armor and armed with automatic weapons and explosives. The long-established SWAT practice of "time, talk, and tactics" was discarded out of necessity.
Containment - One of the most significant challenges in any law enforcement situation is the containment of a scene. In a situation such as the one faced at Columbine, it is critical to the safety of the public at large that the gunmen not escape. On April 20, law enforcement established a perimeter around the school within minutes of their arrival. Deputies moved into positions to rescue and provide protection for the many children who ran to them for safety, to protect other people who might try to rush into the school, and to prevent the gunmen from getting out. If portions of the perimeter were not in place around the school, the suspects could have slipped out one of the building's 25 exits - potentially harming innocent students and staff seeking safety away from the school and also taking their wrath into the larger community. When the gunmen's bodies were discovered in the school library with self-inflicted gunshot wounds, law enforcement also found numerous unexploded devices, knives, firearms and rounds of live ammunition, more than enough to kill all 56 people initially in the library. By the number of weapons and ammunition found with them, it was apparent that Harris and Klebold were prepared to kill or maim many more than the 13 who died at their hands that day. The number of law enforcement officers on scene within minutes of the reported shootings plus the entry of SWAT inside the school minutes before their suicides denied the gunmen additional time to plan further actions or take other lives or hostages.
Escaping Suspect (s) - There was a report that a suspect had escaped the school. Law enforcement officers on scene were concerned of who might be behind them and who might be a threat to those groups of students they were protecting. An additional concern was that if a suspect escaped Columbine High School, where was he or she going and what was the next target?
Medical Assistance for Victims - The continued flow of injured victims to medical assistance was being accomplished by transporting victims to one of four triage sites set up in the area. After receiving emergency medical aid, the injured were transported to one of six regional hospitals. Shortly after noon, medical personnel came in too close to the school to rescue several wounded students and were fired on by at least one suspect. Law enforcement personnel provided cover fire to protect the students' evacuation. As the situation progressed, medical personnel moved closer to the school in order to get medical assistance to the wounded as quickly as possible.
Sniper(s) - There were reports of snipers on the roof of the school, which could have had an effect on the response and the ability to approach the scene. As it turned out, there was an innocent person on the roof of Columbine High School but, at the time, the proper assumption was that he or she was a suspect/sniper.
Bombs - There were continued reports of bombs exploding -- a diversionary device near Wadsworth Boulevard and Ken Caryl Avenue, outside the school, inside the school, and the discovery of two car bombs in the student parking lot set on timers. Bomb technicians investigating the initial diversionary bombs realized that similar bombs with timers and motion-activated devices could have been placed at the school and relayed that information to the command post. Ultimately, bomb technicians responded from several different agencies to safely handle explosive devices as the incident progressed.
One of the technical limitations that surfaced during the Columbine shootings on April 20 was the difficulty for separate agencies to communicate directly with one another. With 46 separate agencies responding, it was inevitable that they would be operating on different emergency radio channels, and in different parts of the radio spectrum or bandwidth.
Jefferson County Sheriff's Office and Littleton Fire Department, the two primary response agencies, both operated on VHF frequencies. The Colorado State Patrol also used VHF, but the Denver and Lakewood Police Departments and West Metro Fire Protection District used Ericsson 800 megahertz (MHz). Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office and Littleton Police Department used an analog 800 MHz system while Douglas County Sheriff's Office uses a digital 800 MHz "trunked" format.
With such varying systems being used, not only were agencies prevented from communicating directly with each other, but groups with similar functions also could not communicate via radio. Ideally, groups with the same responsibility, such as the various SWAT teams or those officers setting up inner or outer perimeters, would have their own channel to use in order to report and obtain vital information about their particular area.
Additionally, if all agencies are using the same system, a central, or command, channel is established by the lead agency as the single point to which all agencies could report. At Columbine, so many agencies using a variety of radio channels and systems prevented the establishment of such a common command channel.
The inability to establish a common channel for all responders to use during Columbine also has a positive side. The use of a single radio channel would not have fixed all problems. The number of radios in use during the incident would have created an immediate bottleneck if all agencies were attempting to use a single channel. Keeping communications separate between law enforcement, fire and emergency responders helped minimize the confusion and overload that would have occurred on one single channel.
Without a common command channel, each agency had to communicate independently, or attempt to use one of the normal mutual aid channels such as ITAC (International Tactical Channel), CLEER (Colorado Law Enforcement Emergency Radio), NLEEC (National Law Enforcement Emergency Channel) or FERN (Fire Emergency Radio Network).
Each agency communicated predominantly with its own dispatch center. Communications between agencies often had to be relayed through their dispatch center, or through an agency representative at the incident command post.
This emergency procedure to communicate vital information was established out of necessity and, although somewhat cumbersome, the approach worked. The fact that numerous separate agencies did not have common radio channels did not hinder their ability to respond
Even as the events unfolded inside Columbine High School on April 20, 1999, investigators began their investigation of the shootings. Jefferson County Sheriff's Office Directed Investigations Unit Sergeant Randy West arrived at the school at about 11:45 a.m. and was briefed by the incident commander, Lt. David Walcher. Investigation Division Lt. John Kiekbusch arrived minutes later and began to establish an investigation command post in the Clement Park parking lot near the incident command post. After consulting with Sgt. West, Kiekbusch assigned Investigator Kathleen "Kate" Battan as lead investigator.
By noon, the majority of the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office investigators were on scene interviewing the fleeing students and faculty who provided vital information on what was occurring inside the school and who might be involved. This information was passed on to the incident commander to be relayed to the SWAT teams searching the school. Several investigators remained at the Sheriff's Office headquarters in Golden to assist with warrants and interviews taking place at the headquarters. Investigation Division Captain Daniel Harris coordinated information exchange with the school district and other agencies.
It was soon apparent that Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris were being named as possible suspects in the shootings at Columbine High School. Investigators and patrol officers were sent to secure the Klebold and Harris residences in order to preserve any evidence until search warrants could be obtained. When investigators arrived at the Klebold residence they contacted Thomas and Susan Klebold, the parents of Dylan and his brother, Byron. Also present was a family friend who had been staying in their guesthouse. A second team of investigators arrived at the Harris residence and contacted Wayne and Kathy Harris, the parents of Eric. A family friend was also at the residence. Investigators walked through the residences to ensure that no one else was present and discovered incendiary devices in both homes. The occupants were evacuated and bomb technicians were immediately dispatched to both homes. Meanwhile, the investigators at the school were giving critical information from their interviews to investigator Kate Battan who, in turn, telephoned headquarters and dictated search warrants for the Harris and Klebold homes. A Jefferson County judge subsequently signed the warrants, and the searches were conducted on both homes. Searches of both suspects' residences were in progress before the bodies of the two killers were found inside the school.
Lt. Kiekbusch phoned Arvada and Lakewood police investigation commanders and requested assistance in interviewing victims taken to the metro area hospitals. Investigators were to obtain information on the injured students and to preserve and collect any evidence. Interviews were conducted with those injured students who were able and vital information on the suspects was obtained. Throughout the day investigators from nearly all the metro area law enforcement agencies arrived at Columbine High School and assisted in interviews, searches, and tracking down known and possible associates of Harris and Klebold. This activity continued for the next three days.
On Friday, April 23, 1999, over 100 investigators met in the band room at Columbine High School and shared the critical information each had obtained during the previous three days. Over 500 preliminary interviews were reviewed which named several critical witnesses, associates of Harris and Klebold, background information on the Trench Coat Mafia, and any indications of involvement by others.
On Sunday, May 2, 1999, Sheriff Stone and Undersheriff Dunaway conferred with several key investigators, including Lt. Kiekbusch and investigators from other jurisdictions, to discuss the information currently known and to plan the direction of the investigation from that point. The discussion ultimately led to the development of a multi-jurisdictional task force that would investigate the incident, an organization that would become the Columbine Investigation Task Force. Undersheriff Dunaway assigned Kiekbusch to direct the investigation.
Over the weekend, Capt. Harris helped secure space in the Countys' administration building for the task force operations. Clerical support was provided by the FBI, the ATF and the Sheriff's Office. Forty computers were installed for report writing, Internet searches and criminal history searches. The FBI "Rapid Start" automated tracking software was installed on several computers to assist in tracking leads. Rapid Start required every lead that came into the task force to be written on a lead sheet, entered into the computer, assigned a number and then given to an investigator to follow up. The investigator would complete the assignment, and only after the written report was turned in, was the lead closed. The Rapid Start program ensured that every lead was followed up and duplicate leads were kept to a minimum. The task force completed over 3,900 leads in addition to the initial 500 interviews.
At the onset of this investigation it was apparent that no one agency could effectively handle the number of leads, interviews and evidence analysis which this case required. Approximately 80 investigators from a dozen city, county, state and federal law enforcement agencies formed the Columbine Task Force.
The main objective of the investigation was to determine exactly what occurred at Columbine High School and to determine whether anyone else participated in the shootings, assisted in the planning or had prior knowledge of what Harris and Klebold did on April 20. Another objective was to interview every student, faculty member and employee of Columbine High School and determine where each individual was at the time of the shootings and what they witnessed. The investigation also gathered background information on Harris and Klebold, the Trench Coat Mafia and their activities.
Seven teams were formed to deal with specific areas of the investigation. Each team identified critical witnesses who provided significant information or witnessed the actions of Harris and Klebold on April 20, 1999. Summaries were then prepared detailing those critical witnesses.
¢ The Threats Team, led by Jefferson County Sheriff's Office Sgt. JJ Webb, focused on the threat of additional violence that began pouring in within hours of the shootings. They responded to all threats in the metro area and provided assistance to other law enforcement agencies who were experiencing threats of copycat crimes.
¢ Running parallel to this were Internet investigators that followed up on all Internet threats.
¢ The Associates Team, led by Jefferson County Sheriff's Office Investigator Don Estep and FBI Special Agent Mark Holstlaw, identified and interviewed all friends and associates of Klebold and Harris. Some of the associates submitted to polygraphs and had their computers searched.
¢ The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) Team was led by Special Agents Marcus Motte and Matthew Traver. This team traced the weapons and bomb components, used by Harris and Klebold.
¢ The Outside Team, led by FBI Special Agent Mike Barnett and JCSO Investigators Jack McFadden and Cheryl Zimmermen, determined the activities of Harris and Klebold the morning of April 20 as well as interviewing all of the witnesses who were outside during the shooting.
¢ The Cafeteria Team, led by FBI Special Agent Rich Price and Denver Police Department Sergeant Calvin Hemphill, interviewed all the witnesses in the cafeteria and determined when the two incendiary devises were placed there.
¢ The Library Team, led by Arvada Police Detective Russ Boatright, FBI Special Agent John Elvig and JCSO Investigator Diane Obbema, interviewed all survivors in the library and established a "second by second" sequence of events.
¢ The Computer/Internet Forensics Team, led by CBI Agent Chuck Davis,
conducted all the forensic evaluations and searches on the many computers,
floppy discs and compact discs belonging to Harris, Klebold and other
individuals. This team also identified and evaluated various Internet sites used
by Harris and Klebold and many Internet sites that formed after April 20 by
those sympathetic to Harris and Klebold.
¢ Complementing these teams was a Documentation Team, led by Jefferson County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Chris Tomford, who organized and indexed all the reports according to where each witness was on April 20. Many of these same reports were organized according to background information on Harris, Klebold and their associates. Initially, there were many duplicate reports in many different books so that the reports could be quickly located. At the conclusion of the investigation, all the duplicate reports were removed and all the information was cross-referenced. Gateway provided computers, scanners and software with a sophisticated database. The reports will be scanned into the database so that the information contained in the reports can be quickly located by making a simple query.
¢ Working alongside these investigation teams was the Crime Scene Team, led by Jefferson County Sheriff's Office crime lab supervisor Chris Andrist, which was actually a group of teams composed of members of different agencies and specialties. Each of the seven teams had experts in blood spatter, firearms/ballistics and general crime scene, and each team was assigned a specific area of the school for crime scene processing.
As the investigation came to a conclusion, a timeline was compiled detailing all the significant activities and events which occurred on April 20, 1999. This is the timeline used as a basis for this comprehensive report. The information for the timeline came from many different sources to include witness interviews, written reports, videotapes, 911 calls, law enforcement and medical radio traffic, evidence, ballistic reports and autopsy reports.
Although the investigation into the shootings at Columbine High School reached conclusion in January 2000, the case remains open in the event that any new information comes to light.
THE TRENCH COAT MAFIA & ASSOCIATES
On April 20, 1999, eyewitnesses to the shooting at Columbine High School tentatively identified Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold as two of the gunmen. There were also unconfirmed reports of a third, and possibly more, shooters involved. The identities of Harris and Klebold were later confirmed after their bodies were found in the Columbine High School library. Both died of apparent self-inflicted gunshot wounds.
Early intelligence information gathered at the crime scene from witnesses referred to Harris and Klebold's involvement, or membership, in a group at Columbine High School commonly known as the Trench Coat Mafia (TCM). A number of Columbine students and faculty were interviewed as the events at the school unfolded on April 20 and many claimed to be familiar with the TCM and its members.
ASSOCIATES TEAM CREATED
The Associates Team, led by Jefferson County Sheriff's Office Investigator Don Estep and FBI Special Agent Mark Holstlaw, had the responsibility of identifying all associates of Harris and Klebold. Included in the identification were any members, past or present, of the TCM.
Once identified, all members and associates were to be interviewed and investigated by the associates team. The goal was to determine if any other person may have participated or conspired with Harris and Klebold in the preparation or carrying out of the events of April 20 or any related crime. The team was also assigned to identify anyone who had any prior knowledge that Harris and Klebold were planning the shootings.
Twenty-one individuals were initially identified as TCM members. These initial 21 provided pertinent information regarding the origin and membership of the Trench Coat Mafia and their associates. Some of these individuals also provided specific information about Harris and Klebold and how they related to the other members in their social circle.
From these interviews, 20 additional individuals were identified as associates of Harris and Klebold, and several others were identified as acquaintances. In addition, the associates team identified any friends or co-workers of Harris and Klebold in order to obtain background information on the activities of the two.
After conducting numerous interviews, the associates team determined each identified person's relationship to Harris and/or Klebold. Some appeared to have had only a peripheral or minimal relationship with the shooters. Close associates of Harris and Klebold and the Trench Coat Mafia primarily consisted of friends within Columbine High School. Others were initially associated with the group only because they were friends of an alleged TCM member. Several individuals were identified as associates because they worked at Blackjack Pizza with Harris and Klebold or socialized with them outside of Columbine High School.
THE TRENCH COAT MAFIA
Although the investigation identified Harris and Klebold as being "members" of the TCM, it appears that the Trench Coat Mafia was a loose, social affiliation of former and current Columbine High School students with no formal organizational structure, leadership or purpose such as that typically found in traditional juvenile street gangs. Contrary to reports following the Columbine shootings, there is no evidence of affiliated Trench Coat Mafia groups nationwide.
The origination of the title "Trench Coat Mafia" is not clear. It appears that some of the early group members had begun wearing black trench coats or dusters to school. A common characteristic used by Columbine students to initially identify TCM members was the black trench coats. That type of dress, combined with members being viewed within the school population as "outcasts," led to the creation of the name, either by the members themselves or by someone outside the group.
Many of the TCM members also participated in playing video games, such as Doom, and producing videos together for school projects.
A number of those interviewed related that members of the TCM (individually and as a group) were often harassed by student athletes ("jocks").
The TCM appears to have had cliques or small subgroups, not much different than most other social groups in a high school setting. Harris and Klebold had a few close associates in the TCM, but overall were not described as having any particular influence or leadership roles within the Trench Coat Mafia. Their friends and associates described them as often wearing the same black dusters which they wore during the shootings on April 20.
Photographs appearing in the high school's 1998 yearbook were obtained, identifying those in a group photo as TCM members. Additionally, the 1999 senior class photo (taken in March 1999) reflected several of the same members posing as if they were pointing weapons at the camera. Neither Klebold or Harris appear in the '98 TCM photograph, but they are a part of the senior class photo in which they are pretending to be firing weapons.
ASSOCIATES OF KLEBOLD AND HARRIS
Close to 100 individuals had some connection to Harris or Klebold and were included in the investigation. A few had only a passing acquaintance with Harris or Klebold or simply had a mutual friend but did not associate with Harris or Klebold personally.
The associate team ultimately identified 22 of these individuals as those most familiar with Harris and Klebold, their background and their activities.
Those determined to be close associates of Klebold or Harris were asked to give background information on the TCM and the two gunmen. Where appropriate, the individual may have had property searched, either because of a court-ordered search warrant or a consensual search.
Thirteen computers belonging to these associates were searched and evaluated for evidence of prior knowledge; however, no such evidence was found. Only two of the 13 searches required warrants; the remaining searches were done by the consent and cooperation of the individual.
Of the associates requested to submit to polygraph examinations regarding prior knowledge or assistance in the actual crime, only three refused. Two of those refused on the advice of their attorneys. Although three of the main associates retained attorneys, all three continued to cooperate with investigators. In fact, most of the 22 individuals identified by the associate team were cooperative and agreed to additional interviews to clarify inconsistencies in their previous statements. These 22 were interviewed a total of 71 times.
Some individuals knew of Klebolds' and Harris' interest in building pipe bombs and had actually seen a few pipe bombs or CO2 cartridge devices they made. However, all denied recognizing any indications from either Klebold or Harris that they were planning the Columbine murders. Nor were comments indicative of Klebold's and Harris' intentions reported.
The investigation revealed that a friend, Robyn Anderson, accompanied Harris and Klebold to a gun show in late 1998 since she was of legal age to buy a firearm. At the gun show, 18-year-old Anderson purchased two shotguns and one rifle for the two killers. Those same guns were later used in the Columbine killings.
Anderson denies any prior knowledge of their plans. No law, state or federal, prohibits the purchase of a long gun (rifle) from a private individual (non-licensed dealer). Because of this, Anderson could not be charged with any crime. If Anderson had purchased the guns from a federally licensed dealer, it would have been considered a "straw purchase" and considered illegal under federal law to make the purchase for Harris and Klebold.
The State of Colorado has a specific statute prohibiting anyone from providing or permitting a juvenile (under 18) to possess a handgun. Mark Manes sold his Intratec, model TEC-9, 9mm pistol to Klebold for $500. He also purchased two boxes (100 rounds) of 9mm ammunition for Eric Harris the night of April 19. Manes was charged with one count of unlawfully providing or permitting a juvenile to possess a handgun. Manes was also charged with one count of possession of a dangerous or illegal weapon because he had gone shooting with Klebold and Harris in March 1999 and had shot one of their sawed off shotguns.
Manes entered a plea of guilty to the charges and, on Nov. 12, 1999, was sent to the Colorado Department of Corrections for six years on the first charge and three years on the second charge, to be served concurrently.
Phillip Duran, who worked with
Harris and Klebold at a local Pizza establishment, allegedly introduced them to
Manes and allegedly was involved in the brokering of the TEC-9 for Harris and
Klebold. He was charged with unlawfully providing or permitting a juvenile to
possess a handgun as well as a charge of possession of a dangerous or illegal
weapon. He was also charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
Duran's trial is scheduled for June of 2000. If Duran is convicted of all three
counts, he could be sentenced up to 12 years to the Colorado Department of
Both Manes and Duran deny any knowledge of Harris and Klebold's plans.
On the afternoon of April 20, three male subjects were contacted by Jefferson County Sheriff's deputies near the school in Clement Park and detained for questioning. The three were dressed in black clothing, which matched the known description of the shooters, and were spotted in an unsecured area close to the crime scene. These individuals, who were not Columbine students, identified themselves as the "Splatter Punks," and said that they had shown up at Columbine High School mainly out of curiosity.
The images of the three being contacted and detained by law enforcement authorities were aired live on local television stations and raised numerous questions from the community about their involvement in the crime. After initial questioning, the three young men were released the same afternoon and re-interviewed at length on April 24. It was determined that they had no known affiliation with the TCM and, shortly thereafter, were cleared of any involvement.
A THIRD SHOOTER?
Despite the supporting evidence, both from ballistics and eyewitness accounts, that only two people, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, were the gunmen on April 20, 1999, seven eyewitnesses remain firm in their account of another person with a gun that day.
Numerous witnesses reported the gunmen were wearing black trench coats when they were seen outside the school. Some described them as having huge belts on their waists. One witness said both coats were somewhat closed and it looked like they were hiding something underneath because they looked very bulky. The taller one, many claimed, was wearing a black baseball cap backwards with a "B" emblem on it.
After the initial shots were fired, Harris took off his trench coat, revealing a white T-shirt underneath. This act of discarding his coat caused some confusion and speculation about the number of gunmen involved. Many witnesses initially believed that a third gunmen existed because they saw a person in a white T-shirt either holding or shooting a gun.
One student witness described seeing two males, wearing trench coats, shooting guns. The witness ran away from the gunmen across the parking lot. When he turned around to look back, he saw a gunman with a white T-shirt throwing a bomb and assumed a third person was involved in the activity. During the initial investigation, Harris' discarded trench coat was found lying in the dirt at the top of the hill.
The cafeteria videotape, that first recorded Harris in the cafeteria at 11:44 a.m., showed him in a white T-shirt and black cargo pants. Klebold took his trench coat off in the school library. He wore a black T-shirt underneath.
Both gunmen also wore utility belts and harnesses with straps that went over the shoulders like suspenders. The harnesses were equipped with ammunition pouches that allowed each gunman to carry extra shotgun shells, C02 cartridge devices, matches, and other supplies. Some witnesses described their attire as bulletproof vests or suspenders.
" Initially, many witnesses identified a previous student of Columbine High School as being the taller of the two shooters. This individual is similar in appearance and dresses in the same style clothing as Klebold. He was an acquaintance of Harris and Klebold and had been a member of the Trench Coat Mafia during the 1998 school year. He dropped out of school in January 1999 and was working full time in April 1999.
This individual was interviewed extensively as was his family and neighbor who provided an alibi for him. He gave consent to search his home and his computers. A timeline was compiled showing this individual's whereabouts between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. on April 20, 1999.
The actions described by these witnesses and attributed to this individual have been shown, through other witnesses as well as ballistic evidence, to be the actions of Dylan Klebold. Those witnesses who identified this individual as a shooter have been re-interviewed and, when appropriate, shown the timeline as well as still photographs from the cafeteria videotape showing the shooters. In most cases, the witnesses recognized Klebold as the person they saw on April 20. However, three witnesses continue to believe that the former student was the shooter they saw.
" Witnesses to the events of April 20 identified another past student of Columbine High School as being seen at the school that day and assumed that he was involved. This individual was also a previous member of the TCM and was acquainted with Harris and Klebold.
Investigators learned that this individual was at home with his family when the media announced the initial reports of the shootings. He then went to the Columbine Public Library with his mother to pick up his sister who had been inside the school library when the shootings began.
This individual consented to a search of his home and allowed investigators to take his computer for analysis. He also successfully passed a polygraph. After re-interviewing those who had identified this individual, all determined that they had mistakenly identified him as being at the school.
" Other witnesses identified one of the shooters as a student who was a TCM member and close friend of Harris and Klebold. He had attended morning classes at Columbine High School on April 20 but left the school after his third class at 10:20 a.m. He went to a grocery store and then to a friend's house to play video games.
When the student learned from newscasts that Harris and Klebold were being named as the gunmen at Columbine High School, he contacted the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office to provide background information on them.
Because this individual was quickly identified as a close associate of the shooters, patrol deputies immediately picked him up and took him to the incident command post at Columbine High School. Arrangements were made to have the student transported to the Sheriff's Office so an in-depth interview could be conducted.
The image of this student being led to a patrol car in handcuffs caused many to assume his involvement and guilt. The student was interviewed several times to clear up inconsistencies and answer additional questions. A detailed timeline was compiled providing his whereabouts on April 20 and he successfully passed a polygraph. His computer was also searched and no evidence implicating him of having knowledge or participation in the shootings was found. One witness continues to assert that this student was involved.
" A few witnesses identified one other Columbine High School student and TCM member as a shooter. Although this student was at the school earlier in the day, he left prior to the shootings to have lunch with several friends who provided an alibi for him. One witness continues to believe this student was involved.
" Only one associate of Klebold and Harris had personal contact with Harris moments before the gunmen killed 12 of their classmates and one teacher. This person was the only student the killers allowed to leave the school prior to the murders.
The Columbine Task Force investigation concluded that evidence indicates that no one, other than Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, participated in the shootings at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999. Additionally, there is no known evidence that anyone, other than Harris and Klebold, assisted in the planning or had any prior knowledge of that plan.
FINDING OF THE THREATS TEAM
On April 26, 1999 the Columbine Task Force was developed and teams of responsibility were designated to handle different aspects of the investigation. One of the teams was the Threats Team. Jefferson County Sheriff's Office Sergeant Richard Webb led this team.
The team's responsibility was to immediately respond to critical incidents and threats, which were fed into the investigation command post through a variety of sources. Immediately after the shooting on April 20, the command post received numerous reports of additional attacks that were to occur at other schools in the metro area as well as schools outside the state. Each of these incidents was followed up to assure each report was resolved. It is important to mention that many threats and problems that arose in the aftermath of the Columbine shootings were not reported to or handled by the Columbine Task Force. The majority of these incidents, nationwide, were followed up by the jurisdiction in which they occurred.
Of particular note, three other school shootings occurred shortly after the Columbine shootings. The first was in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on April 23; the second was in Taber, Alberta Canada on April 28, and the last was in Conyers, Georgia on May 20, 1999.
The Threats team followed up on 256 leads, resulting in eight arrests. Two arrests were the result of bomb threats at two local high schools and one arrest was for manufacturing bomb components at another local high school. Another arrest was made of an individual trespassing at Columbine High School while it was still a crime scene. A Columbine High School student was arrested for inciting destruction of life and property after threatening to "finish the job" and another individual was charged with disorderly conduct after making several statements about blowing up his former high school. Two arrests were made in Canada for uttering threats towards a high school in Ontario.
Additionally, the leads investigated by the threats team resulted in 11 students being expelled from local schools for making inflammatory and inappropriate statements which alarmed staff and / or students.
As the investigation continued, additional evidence was obtained which indicated Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris had identified numerous individuals who they had disliked for a variety of reasons. The names were found on computer generated lists, in Harris' 1998 yearbook and referenced in videotapes made by Harris and Klebold.
The names of these 67 individuals were compared to those injured and killed at Columbine to determine if they were victims. Only one was actually injured. He suffered injuries to his hand and knee.
Other responsibilities of the threats team were to respond to bomb threats at
other schools, threats of additional assaults, suspicious activity, threats to
witnesses, and individuals believed to have prior knowledge of the shooting. The
threats team also followed up on Internet threats which were reassigned by the
Computer / Internet Team.
After the shootings at Columbine High School, many individuals from across the nation claimed to be associates or members of the Trench Coat Mafia (TCM). The task force had already determined that the TCM was a loose group of individuals who were current or past students of Columbine High School. The small group of friends had been given the name in 1998 and was not a gang as commonly defined. The Associate Team investigated those individuals who were actually associated with Harris and Klebold and the threats team followed up on those individuals who were most likely not associates of the TCM.
During the first three weeks after the shootings, numerous bomb threats were called in to schools within Jefferson County. The command post was also notified of other bomb threats to schools within the state as well as nationwide. Several of these threats claimed association with the Trench Coat Mafia; however, no connection was found in any of the threats.
In October 1999, Sheriff's deputies initiated a threat investigation after a Columbine student reported hearing another juvenile claim that he intended to attack the school. As word of the threat spread, many students decided not to attend school the day of the planned attack. Investigators interviewed the juvenile suspect and collected evidence that led to the filing of felony criminal charges with the District Attorney. The juvenile case has since been concluded.
Also in October, threatening communications were sent to the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office and Columbine High School. An Assistant United States Attorney brought federal charges against Arthur Leon Thomas of Houston, Texas, who was interviewed and admitted to writing and mailing the two threat letters as well as sending a threatening internet message to an individual in Broomfield, Colorado. In January of 2000, Thomas appeared in Denver federal court and entered a plea of not guilty. Thomas is scheduled to appear on May 4 in a hearing for a change in his plea.
Another internet threat was made to a Columbine High School student by a Florida man. Michael Ian Campbell of Cape Coral, Florida, was charged with one count of transmitting a threat in interstate communications and was subsequently arrested. He pled guilty in Federal District Court on February 9, 2000 to the same charge. Campbell was sentenced on Friday, April 28, 2000 to 4 months in Federal Prison, and 3 years of probation after release from prison. Campbell was banned from using any Internet or electronic messaging service.
Lead break down for the Columbine Task Force Threats Team
79 leads were generated from lists recovered during searches of the Klebold and Harris residences. Some were titled "shit" lists and others were merely lists of handwritten or typed names. All of the individuals were interviewed but none could provide investigators with definite reasons why their name would appear on one of the lists. Some of the individuals had been asked out by Harris and had declined. That was their only interaction with him. Others did not know Harris or Klebold except in passing.
11 leads were generated from references made in videotapes recovered pursuant to a search warrant. Each of these individuals claimed to have once dated, or been asked out by, Harris. However, they did not report any known hostility with Harris.
15 leads were generated from Harris' yearbook recovered during the search. All of these individuals were graduates of the 1998 class and could not explain why they were targeted.
24 leads were followed up on to determine if a particular individual had association with the Trench Coat Mafia. None were.
40 leads were generated due to reports of suspicious activity. Many citizens contacted the task force about students who were believed to be capable of violence or acting and/or dressing inappropriately in light of the shootings. Example: someone walking in a neighborhood mall with a trench coat and "acting suspicious."
33 leads were generated on reports of additional threats to schools.
8 leads were generated on reports of threats to witnesses. These threats were to known members of the TCM or associates of Harris and Klebold. None were found to be valid.
21 leads were generated on reports of individuals who had prior knowledge of the shootings at Columbine High School. No one was found to have such knowledge.
17 leads were followed up regarding bomb threats to schools. These threats resulted in schools being evacuated and classes disrupted. No actual explosive devices were ever located but arrests were made in some cases.
8 leads were turned over to the threats team from the Computer team involving threats of additional activity or claimed association to TCM.
DYLAN BENNET KLEBOLD
Dylan Bennet Klebold was born in Denver, Colorado on September 11, 1981. He was the second child of Thomas and Susan and the brother of Byron, three years older. As a boy, he was in the Boy Scouts and was a pitcher on his Little League team. His parents told investigators that Dylan was a gentle boy and never gave any indications of a violent nature.
Klebold attended Normandy Elementary School in Littleton, Colorado, for first and second grade and then transferred to Governor's Ranch Elementary School where he was part of the CHIPS (Challenging High Intellectual Potential Students) program for gifted and talented children. Klebold's parents told investigators he was somewhat sheltered at Governors Ranch Elementary and believed his transition to Ken Caryl Middle School was a little difficult for him because he was so quiet and shy. However, his parents thought the transition from elementary school to middle school is difficult for many adolescents and therefore they were not unduly concerned. During his earlier school years, he played T-ball, baseball and soccer.
While at Columbine High School, Klebold became active in school play productions and operated the lights and sounds. He was involved in video productions and Columbine High School's Rebel News Network. Klebold also became a computer assistant at school and helped maintain the school computer server. He also built his own home computer.
According to Thomas and Susan Klebold, their son was extraordinarily shy and did not have a girlfriend but did socialize with different groups of friends. He and his group of friends were interested in video games, midnight bowling and fantasy football leagues.
Klebold had few close friends other than Eric Harris. Klebold's nickname was VoDKa with his initials capitalized. His friends generally described him as shy and quiet and somewhat of a follower. In most accounts, he was a typical teenager with an interest in video games, movies, computers and spending time with groups of other teenagers. According to friends, nothing in his behavior gave clues of what he and Harris were planning.
Tom Klebold told investigators that, as far as he knew, Dylan never showed any fascination with guns. The Klebolds indicated that their son had dreams of being a computer science major and had been accepted at the University of Arizona. In fact, the Klebolds drove to Arizona with Dylan on March 25, 1999 to pick out Dylan's dorm room. The Klebolds spent four days driving to Arizona and back to Colorado with their son and saw nothing unusual with his behavior or demeanor.
On January 30, 1998, Klebold and Harris were arrested after breaking into a vehicle in Jefferson County. In April 1998, they were both placed in the juvenile diversion program offered by the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office. As part of the program Harris and Klebold were required to pay fines, attend anger management classes, counseling and complete community service. Once they successfully completed the diversion program, all charges were dropped and they were released from the program on February 9, 1999.*
After the tragedy at Columbine High School investigators searched for answers to why Klebold opened fire on his classmates and teachers. Although no clear-cut answers were found, there were clues. Investigators spoke with friends and teachers of Klebold who described him as a "nice, normal teenager."
But there was another darker side. Klebold left behind glimpses of his thoughts in the form of notes jotted down in a day planner, a 1997 journal and writings in a math notebook and a yearbook. Klebold and Harris also left videotapes behind articulating many of their thoughts and plans.
On the cover of Klebold's 1997 journal is written "Fact: People are so unaware…well, Ignorance is bliss I guess…that would explain my depression." Klebold began his journal on March 31, 1997 during a point he described as "a weird time, weird life, weird existence." He described not fitting in, being depressed and generally hating his existence and hating his life. He talked about suicide. In another entry in 1997 he wrote, "I swear - like I'm an outcast, & everyone is conspiring against me…"
During one period Klebold's tone briefly changed and he described his "first love." It appeared that this was an unrequited love. Throughout his journal, Klebold named several girls he "loves" but he did not indicate that he ever actually spoke to any of them. He even went so far as to write letters to one girl but it appears he never sent them because they remained in his journal.
Again in 1997 Klebold wrote that he wanted to die. He mentioned getting someone to buy him a gun so he could kill himself. In November of 1997, Klebold described getting a gun and going on a killing spree.
In Klebold's 1997/1998 academic day planner are what appear to be random thoughts and poems. One entry simply said, "The lonely man strikes with absolute rage."
In April of 1998, at the end of their junior year, Harris and Klebold received their copies of the Columbine High School 1998 yearbook. A full year before their rampage Klebold made four entries in Harris's yearbook. One such entry referred to "the holy April morning of NBK (Natural Born Killers)." Another entry says in part "killing enemies, blowing up stuff, killing cops!! My wrath for January's incident will be godlike. Not to mention our revenge in the commons." The January incident Klebold referred to is believed to be his arrest for breaking into a vehicle on January 30, 1998. The Columbine cafeteria is also called the commons.
In Klebold's notebook, along with his math homework, were eight pages of writings and drawings that appeared to be written the day before April 20. One part began, "About 26.5 hours from now the judgement will begin. Difficult but not impossible, necessary, nervewracking & fun. What fun is life without a little death? It's interesting, when i'm (sic) in my human form, knowing i'm going to die. Everything has a touch of triviality to it."
There were a few more pages of drawings and writings included in the
notebook. Klebold's last entry was
ERIC DAVID HARRIS
Eric David Harris was born April 9, 1981 in Wichita, Kansas, to Wayne and Kathy Harris. He had a brother, Kevin, who was three years older. Wayne Harris was in the U.S. Air Force and moved his family many times during the course of his career. In 1983 the Harris family moved to Dayton, Ohio; in 1989 they moved to Oscoda, Michigan, and in 1992 the Harris family moved to Plattsburg, New York. Wayne Harris retired from the Air Force, and in July of 1993 the family moved to Littleton, Colorado. Eric went to Ken Caryl Middle School where he met Dylan Klebold.
Wayne and Kathy Harris told investigators that, as a child, Harris played soccer and baseball, and by the 7th and 8th grades developed an interest in computers. Harris was also interested in baseball cards, computer games and videos. His parents said that their son was content to be by himself but also had close friends in high school. While attending Columbine High School, Harris became involved in video productions and the school's Rebel News Network as well as the school's computer labs. Harris went by the nickname "REB." This may have been short for "rebel," which is also the name of the school mascot.
On January 30, 1998, Harris and Klebold were arrested after breaking into a vehicle in Jefferson County. In April 1998, they were both placed in the juvenile diversion program offered by the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office and were required to pay fines, attend anger management classes, counseling and complete community service. Once they successfully completed the diversion program, all charges were dropped and they were released from the program on February 9, 1999.*
As part of the diversion program, Harris wrote a letter of apology to the victim. In the letter, Harris apologized and explained how disappointed he was in himself for his actions. It seemed to be a sincere, heartfelt letter from a young man who had made a mistake. Harris also wrote a paper on anger management and how to control his anger.
On March 18, 1998, the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office took a "suspicious incident" report from Randy Brown, stating that his son, Brooks, had received death threats from Harris. These threats were reported to have been contained in Harris' web pages. On his web pages, Harris also allegedly wrote about making and detonating pipe bombs and using them against people. Brown requested that he and his family remain anonymous in making the report for fear of retribution, particularly to his son.
The information was reviewed by Sheriff's investigators; however, Harris' web site could not be accessed nor could reports of pipe bomb detonations be substantiated. Because of Brown's request to remain anonymous, Klebold and Harris were not contacted. Further investigation was initiated but no additional information was developed.
Because of the routine nature of the report and investigation, the former Jefferson County Sheriff, Ronald Beckham, was not informed of the report at the time. The District Attorney, subsequent to April 20, was provided with information from Harris' web pages. After reviewing the report, the DA offered the opinion that, based upon the information in the report to law enforcement, there would have been insufficient basis to legally support a request to obtain search or arrest warrants.
Harris and Brooks Brown later reconciled their friendship and, on April 20, 1999, Harris allegedly told Brown, immediately prior to the shootings, to leave the school "because he (Harris) liked him (Brown)."
During the spring of 1998, Harris began his journal and wrote about how much he hated mankind and how much he loved his anger.
Harris' journal began in April 1998, and he wrote about how much he hated the world and his belief that he and V (Dylan Klebold) were different because they had self-awareness. Harris wrote, "I will sooner die than betray my own thoughts, but before I leave this worthless place, I will kill whoever I deem unfit…" He documented that he wanted revenge against anyone who he perceived had ever wronged him.
In October 1998, Harris wrote that someone was bound to ask, "What were they thinking?" He answered, "I want to burn the world, I want to kill everyone except about 5 people… if we get busted any time, we start killing then and there…I ain't going out without a fight."
Harris also talked about choices and the fact that he chose to kill. He went on to say, "It's my fault! Not my parents, not my brothers, not my friends, not my favorite bands, not computer games, not the media, it's mine." In another entry he stated, "I'm full of hate and I love it." There was only one journal entry in 1999 and in it Harris evaluated his and Klebold's preparations, to include their weapons and bombs. He ended by writing, "I hate you people for leaving me out of so many fun things."
In December 1998, Harris wrote that he would have been a good Marine, that "it would have given me a reason to be good." Whether Harris truly wanted to be a Marine or if he used this as an excuse to avoid planning for a future he would never have is unknown. Harris did apply for enlistment in the Marine Corps, but the medication he was taking disqualified him.
In Klebold's 1998 yearbook, a year before they went on their rampage, Harris wrote, "God I can't wait till they die. I can taste the blood now - NBK" (Natural Born Killer) "You know what I hate? …MANKIND!!!!…kill everything…kill everything…" Harris also drew a gunman standing amongst a sea of dead bodies with a caption, "The only reason your (sic) still alive is because someone has decided to let you live."
Harris also wrote in his own 1998 yearbook. He wrote on the photographs of almost every student words such as "worthless", "die", and "beat." As he continued through the yearbook, he simply put X's on those students who he did not like. Very few photos were not marked.
In Harris' 1998/1999 academic day planner were lists of things to buy and "things left to do." On the page for Mother's Day 1999 Harris wrote, "Good wombs have born bad sons."
An undated piece of notebook paper was recovered showing a diagram of the Columbine High School cafeteria with two X's next to the pillars. Alongside the diagram was a timeline of how many people were in the cafeteria just prior to and during the first lunch period.
Just as Klebold had a written itinerary for April 20, Harris had one as well. On a piece of paper from his day planner he recorded the plans for the day. The entry follows:
Investigators will never know exactly when Harris and Klebold verbalized to each other their hate towards others and their desire to kill. However, it is clear from his journal that Klebold had those feelings as early as 1997, and Harris began expressing his thoughts in his journal in April 1998. It is also apparent from their cryptic yearbook messages to each other that they had already begun their plans for the Columbine shootings by April 1998 -- a full year earlier.
There were also many common themes throughout their writings. Harris and Klebold both wrote of not fitting in, not being accepted and their lack of self-esteem. They reflected on natural selection, self-awareness and their feelings of superiority. They plotted against all those persons who they found offensive - jocks, girls that said no, other outcasts or anybody they thought did not accept them. Most of those teens were unaware that they had ever offended Harris or Klebold.
Harris and Klebold left behind videotapes documenting many of their plans, their activities and their philosophies. One of the tapes was almost two hours long and taped on three separate occasions in March 1999. The second tape, about 22 minutes in length, was shot on two separate occasions on April 11 and 12, 1999. The third tape, 40 minutes long, was taped on eight separate occasions from early April 1999 to the morning of April 20, 1999. Harris and Klebold taped a tour of Harris's bedroom and showed off their weapons and bombs. They recorded each other conducting dress rehearsals and they taped the drive in Harris's car to buy supplies needed for their plans.
While talking to the camera, Harris and Klebold laughed at how easy it was to make other people believe what they wanted them to. They talked about how "evolved" they were and how they considered themselves to be "above human." They said they were going to be successful because they were going to die and stressed that they had been planning the Columbine shootings for over eight months, before all the other school shootings had occurred.
Klebold and Harris both talked on camera about the rage and anger that had built up for years and declared they would destroy the world if they could. Harris asserted that, "There is nothing that anyone could have done to prevent this. No one is to blame except me and Vodka." He went on to say that their actions were "a two man war against everyone else."
There were also indications that Harris and Klebold initially planned the shootings to occur on April 19. They specifically mentioned Monday and another time said, "Today is the 11th, eight more days." They never articulated why they chose the day they did and never mentioned that April 19 was the anniversary of Waco, Texas or the Oklahoma City bombing. They never verbalized that they even knew April 20 is Adolph Hitler's birthday.
Harris and Klebold seemed to have lived two lives. Their friends and family described them as normal teenage boys. Others described them as outcasts. But they left behind evidence of a much darker and sinister side. This darker side was an aspect they apparently shared only with each other.
There was also evidence that Harris and Klebold had little concern for the welfare of their friends and the siblings of their friends, many of whom were in the cafeteria and library on April 20. In fact, they mention nonchalantly that some of their friends might die and casually point out that their families would be devastated but justified it by saying, "War is war."
THE JUVENILE DIVERSION PROGRAM
The Juvenile Diversion Program is an alternative to prosecution for first-time offenders in the juvenile justice system. When a case is reviewed by a deputy district attorney, he may make a decision to offer a deferred judgment and sentence through the courts with supervision through Diversion. This offer is made if:
the juvenile accepts responsibility and show remorse for the offense; the offense is non-violent and does not involve the use of a weapon; the juvenile and his parents want to make reparation to the victims and the community; there are no prior adjudications. The term of a deferred adjudication is 12 months. Diversion policy allows for an early termination from diversion on cases that do not involve drugs, burglary, or assault. Cases can be dismissed early if: there have been no new offenses or law enforcement contacts; all contract items have been completed; juveniles have not had any "hot" scans indicating drug or alcohol use; school reports are average or above with no reports of discipline problems.
Prior to any termination the diversion officer gathers information from parents, school and runs a record check. The case is staffed with the full diversion team.
Early termination is unusual because most diversion cases do not meet all of these criteria. An estimated five per cent of cases are terminated before the 12-month period.
Klebold and Harris drove onto the Columbine High School campus April 20, 1999, armed with four guns, several knives and numerous explosive devices.
Klebold was dressed in cargo pants, a black T-shirt that said "Wrath," and a black trench coat. Underneath his coat was an Intratec TEC-DC-9, 9-mm semi-automatic handgun attached to a strap slung over his shoulder. His cargo pants had large pockets that later allowed him to partially conceal a Stevens 12-gauge double-barrel shotgun, particularly since the barrel had been cut down to approximately 23 inches.
Harris, also wearing a black trench coat, wore a white T-shirt underneath that said, "Natural Selection." He had a Hi-Point 9-mm carbine rifle on a strap hidden under his coat. Harris pulled a Savage - Springfield 12-gauge pump shotgun from one of the bags the gunmen carried to the top of the hill. Again, both its stock and barrel were cut off, reducing the measurement of the entire gun to 26 inches.
Only two shots can be fired from a double-barreled shotgun before the shooter must reload by breaking the barrel open, manually inserting two new rounds, and closing the gun. A pump shotgun can be fired as fast as the gunman can pump and shoot. It shoots much faster than the double-barreled type because spent shells are ejected and a live shell manually slides into place. A gunman can shoot five rounds with the pump shotgun before the weapon must be reloaded.
Harris fired 25 times with his shotgun, 21 in the library, four inside the school, and none outside. Klebold fired his shotgun 12 times, six in the library, four inside the school, and two outside.
In the videotape that shows the gunmen practice shooting at Rampart Range, both are shooting their sawed-off shotguns. It seems clear that they're still getting used to them. Their hands are bleeding because they've sawed off so much of the gun. The recoil from the weapons is substantial - and quite painful for a gunman to shoot repeatedly.
Harris shot his 9-mm carbine rifle 96 times, 13 in the library, 36 inside the rest of the school and 47 outside. His weapon of choice in the library was his shotgun.
Klebold shot his TEC-9 55 times, 21 inside the library (that was his weapon of choice), 31 inside the rest of the school, and three times outside.
Both gunmen also carried numerous knives, but they did not use them on April 20. They both had match strikers taped to their forearms, presumably to be used to easily light their bombs.
Klebold wore a black glove on his left hand; Harris wore the matching glove on his right hand.
Both wore utility belts which held pouches filled with shotgun shells. Their cargo pants contained CO2 bombs and clips of 9 mm bullets for their guns. They also carried a backpack and a duffel bag filled with bombs.
pgs. 25,656 - 25,889
Eric Harris was Jewish too.....http://www.overthrow.com/leadstory052799.html
"Christians, especially, seemed to be hated by the two killers, and they made a number of obscene and derogatory comments about those of their fellow students who were Christians whom they intended to kill. Is this something Klebold learned from his Jewish mother? We don't really know, and we certainly won't find out from Tom Brokaw. One thing which is clear from their video, however, is the almost total sense of alienation felt by the young killers. They really hated the world." http://www2.mo-net.com/~mlindste/adv12259.html
"Kill mankind. No one
The writings of Eric Harris reveal an equal-opportunity hater who rails against minorities and racists and can't stand the WB.
- - - - - - - - - - - -
By Dave Cullen
Sept. 23, 1999 |
LITTLETON, Colo. --
Eric Harris set the tone for his so-called diary with his opening words: "I hate the fucking world." Only later does he reveal what he intends to do with his hate. "If you recall your history," a later entry reads, "the Nazis came up with a 'final solution' to the Jewish problem: kill them all. Well in case you haven't figured it out yet, I say 'Kill mankind.' No one should survive."
Eventually he lowered his sights a bit. He fantasized about destroying his metro area on his Web site: "I live in Denver, and dammit, I would love to kill almost all of its residents." Finally he settled on Columbine High, and hatched a plan to take out the entire school.
Harris' infamous "diary" was actually more of an occasional journal. He didn't confide in it every day. Sometimes a month or two would pass before he returned to scribble more tortured rants. Sometimes just a few lines, others up to a page or two. Often the cursive scrawl grows almost illegible. There were only about a dozen entries over the course of a year. In between he pounded out diatribes on his computer, leaving behind a huge trail of notes, essays, printouts, computer files and a Web site.
Very little has been divulged about the Harris texts, particularly the diary. "That diary has been seen by so few people," said lead investigator Kate Battan. "So few people. There's been one copy made of it. The original is in the evidence vault, and the one copy is in my briefcase."
Sources close to the investigation shared material from a variety of Harris' written sources. In most cases, they read them aloud, so that punctuation and superficial transcription errors may have occurred. The texts are filled with vitriol. "After I mow down a whole area full of you snotty ass rich mother-fucker high strung God-like-attitude-having worthless pieces of shit whores, I don't care if I live or die," read one entry.
Harris railed against just about every conceivable minority, right alongside their majority counterparts: "We hate niggers, spicks ... and let's not forget you white P.O.S. [pieces of shit] also. We hate you."
"They didn't like rich white people; they didn't like poor white people," said division chief John Kiekbusch, the ranking officer overseeing the case. "What you have is an almost nondiscriminating hate," another source said. Harris "goes out of his way to indicate it's all-inclusive. What he writes about hating is everybody."
Racists, in fact, rank high in the Harris hate pantheon: "You know what I hate? Racism. Anyone who hates Asians, Mexicans, or people of any race because they're different."
Many of Harris' passages get downright comical, railing against "all you fitness fuckheads," people who think they're martial arts experts, and people who try to impress others by bragging about their cars.
"You know what I hate? Star Wars fans: get a friggin life, you boring geeks. You know what I hate? People who mispronounce words, like 'acrost,' and 'pacific' for 'specific,' and 'expresso' instead of 'espresso.' You know what I hate? People who drive slow in the fast lane, God these people do not know how to drive. You know what I hate? The WB network!!!! Oh Jesus, Mary Mother of God Almighty, I hate that channel with all my heart and soul."
"I think a lot of 14-, 15-year-olds, 16-year-olds talk about stuff like that," a key investigator said. "That part is typical teenage. This kid took it a step further, a giant step further, and actually acted on this indiscriminate hate. It was a suicide mission. They just wanted to achieve notoriety and hurt as many people as they could -- and show how terribly they thought they had been treated."
"The thing that really strikes me about Harris and Klebold," Battan said, "is
that sometimes, in the different evidence that we've found, they're so childlike
and immature -- which is a teenager -- and other times they're almost
adult-like, which is also a teenager. Sometimes they want to be adult-like and
say, 'It's because we're above all you people,' and other times it's 'You
shouldn't have picked on me.' Those are the writings and talkings of kids that
are trying to become adults. And they're not being very successful at it."
"Kill mankind. No one should survive" | page 1, 2
That passage was among the evidence investigators shared with Columbine faculty and administrators last month. Attendees divulged that Kiekbusch and FBI supervisory Special Agent Dwayne Fuselier delivered a secret presentation at the school Aug. 12, four days before students "took back the school." Families of the victims have also been briefed, and key administrators attended an FBI summit in Virginia on the series of school shootings this summer. School board members, who recently approved new security measures, will be briefed in the near future.
Teachers and administrators found the revelations difficult to hear, even while finding some relief, said school district spokesman Rick Kaufman. "It did dispel quite a few myths or embellishments of certain stories that have taken on a life of their own in the community."
But it was unsettling for faculty to learn the brutal details of the plan hatched by two high-achieving students, and to see the extent of the façade Harris and Klebold foisted upon them. "These are people that knew the two killers as well as those who were killed," Kaufman said. "It's a sense that you know in some way how they were killed, and perhaps the tragic circumstances that went behind their deaths."
The texts offer extensive details about the assault plan, tremendous insight into Harris' torturous state of mind and no clear indication as to why they converted their fantasy into reality. They do offer some clues, but Kiekbusch says his team will avoid drawing any conclusions from them.
"We deal with facts; we present facts," Kiekbusch said. The final report will likely run a few hundred pages and contain "a fair amount" of Harris' texts, but few if any theories, he said. "We'll make a diligent effort not to include a bunch of conclusions. Here are the facts: You read it and make your own conclusions."
Jewish Bond Between Klebold And Harris
But individual investigators are drawing conclusions, and not all of them agree. Some sources focused on the killers' belief in their own superiority, as though they constituted a two-man master race. Some point to the fact that as the killing began, Harris tore off his trench coat to expose a white T-shirt reading "Natural Selection." Their writings stress their bond, including statements like "We're the only two who have self-awareness," "Nobody else is like us" and "We're the only two people who seem to understand the meaning of life."
"They do consider the human race beneath them," one investigator said. Harris "talks a lot about natural selection and that kind of leads into his admiration of Hitler and Nazism and their 'final solution' -- that we, the human race have interrupted or disrupted natural selection by inventing vaccines and stuff like that. In one of his writings, he talks about that: 'It would be great if there were no vaccines, because people who should have died would have died, and we wouldn't be perpetuating this kind of stuff.'"
Following the tragedy, students widely reported Harris' fascination with Hitler and Nazism. But sources said that Harris adopted Hitler's concept of a master race in a general sense, without his particular distaste for Jews or blacks. To Harris, the master race seems to have consisted only of himself and Klebold, though they set out to kill themselves in the attack as well. He stated explicitly that while Hitler's "final solution" was to kill the Jews, his was to kill all mankind.
Kiekbusch would not comment on any superiority or master-race theories, but said the writings showed "they put themselves above everyone else." And while Battan acknowledges that superiority themes appeared in Harris' writings, she does not consider those ideas central to his motive for the killings. "A lot of it is just ramblings," she said. "It's just ranting of kids. And they contradict themselves. So what is real? What do they really feel? Who knows."
One thread running consistently through the texts is the desire for glory, the expectation of fame. "Like many of the school shooters, they seem to be expecting some sort of notoriety, in addition to wanting the vengeance," one source said. "Because they felt they have been mistreated by a number of people, they're going to strike back at the human race.
"But they also kind of expect notoriety." Harris' writings contain statements like "When you [the media] write about this ... When you read about this ... We were planning this before the kids in Jonesboro, and we're going to die in there," the source said.
Battan actually believes fame was the single biggest reason Harris and Klebold ultimately went through with the plan. "That's my personal opinion," she said. "And all the rest of the justifications are just smoke." Other key investigators backed that assessment.
The texts were littered with comments about their expected glory, Battan said. "They certainly wanted the media to write stories about them every day. And they wanted cult followings. They're going to become superstars by getting rid of bad people. And you know, it worked. They're famous."
And investigators say that's a troubling lesson the Columbine killers left for other disturbed teens. "Right now, somebody in some little town or big city is planning to outdo Harris and Klebold," Battan said. The thousands of annual teen suicides represent a potential powder keg. "When we were kids, if you're that unhappy with your life, you kill yourself," she said. "Well, that's become a bit passé. So now you take out as many people as you can with you."
By AMANDA LEHMERT and JESSICA MAJERUS The Tattoo In a town of 25,000 people, no one suspects the kid she sits next to in class may someday be a mass murderer. At least Abi Tenebaum and Jessica Sapel never thought Eric Harris -- now one of the infamous Columbine High shooters -- would cause such terror and devastation. Harris, who with his friend Dylan Klebold gunned down a dozen fellow students and a teacher before killing themselves in an April 20 attack at their high school in Littleton, Colo., was a former middle school classmate of Tenebaum and Sapel's in Plattsburgh, N.Y. Tenebaum, now a 17-year-old senior at Mayo High School in Rochester, Minn. and Sapel, an 18-year-old senior in Plattsburgh, each knew Harris when his family lived on the local Air Force base. Plattsburgh, on the western shore of Lake Champlain in the northernmost part of New York, is less than 25 miles from the Canadian border. Tenebaum said Harris was a "normal sixth grader," and "not one of the outcasts." Sapel called Harris a "good kid" and "sweet." He "never struck me as someone who would do this," said Sapel. Although there have been reports that Harris and Klebold chose the date because it was Hitler's birthday and singled out a black student and athletes as victims for their savage attack, both teenagers said when Harris lived in Plattsburgh he never showed signs of any hatred toward those groups. According to Tenebaum, Harris dated a Jewish girl, Sarah Davis. Davis and Harris apparently remained friends after Harris left town, exchanging messages via e-mail. Contacted recently in Plattsburgh, Davis didn't want to talk about Harris. "It's been difficult," she said. Sapel said she didn't believe the news that Harris had targeted a black student. She said Harris' two best friends in Plattsburgh were an Asian student and a black student. Harris was also an active athlete who played Little League in the town. Tenebaum said that Harris associated with "preps," but said he wasn't "an annoying prick." Sapel can't imagine how this gentle middle schooler turned into a trench coat toting criminal, but she thinks Harris began having problems after his family moved from New York to Colorado, during their seventh grade year. "It didn't happen to him here (in Plattsburgh)," Sapel said. "None of us can imagine what happened." In Plattsburgh, Harris was a "nice, normal kid" who wore "jeans, t-shirts, and sweat shirts," Sapel said. If any group of students in the country have stopped to think twice about the massacre in Columbine, it's the students of Plattsburgh. When she heard from a local newspaper reporter about Harris' role in the killings, Sapel said, her mouth just dropped. She said she was amazed that "something like this could happen to someone I know." At first, Sapel said, getting attention from the national media who came to the town to talk about the incident, "was kinda exciting." But the attention soon became too much. Sapel said she felt like telling the media to "go away." "We don't want to talk about this. It isn't a news story, it's a tragedy," she said. Now Sapel said teenagers in her town are wondering what might have happened "if [Harris] had stayed here" instead of moving to Colorado just five years ago. "We're glad it didn't happen to us," said Sapel. "It could have been us."
Every Friday night, I spend a couple of hours teaching, coaching, cheerleading, bribing -- essentially doing whatever it takes to inspire young men in detention to write something for the newsletter, which circulates to other juvenile halls in the area. We -- I and the other workshop leaders -- assure the writers: Spelling doesn't count. Poetry doesn't have to have "thou" or "'tis" to be real poetry. Use your own voice. Write your hopes, your dreams, your fears, your memories, your hates, your truths. Write what's on your mind.
Over time, I have gotten used to their contradictions. They have the remarkable ability to hold fast to two opposing realities with equal passion. The Latino kids write proudly of their commitment to brown pride. They make serious political points about how difficult it is to be a person of color in white America. Then, they end their idealistic pleas for solidarity with vows to "kill every Norteño." When I point out that the last time I checked, Norteños also had brown skin, they look at me as if I am nuts. But maybe, just maybe, it makes a dent.
I remember one boy, blue-eyed and quick with the one-liners. On occasion, he wrote a line or two about white power, which made me squirm with discomfort. Still, I couldn't help but enjoy being around him each week. He was so smart and crackled with energy. One night, I saw him looking at me, carefully studying my frizzy brown hair and the map of the shtetl on my face. "You Jewish?" he asked. I took a chance -- You have to choose your "teaching moments" carefully around here -- and told him. "Yes, full-blooded as far back as anyone can remember." I prepared myself for the reaction: taunts, jeers, a cold silence?
I wasn't prepared for a cheer. "My mother is Jewish!" he announced proudly to the entire group. Then he raised a fist into the air: "Dreydl power!"
I figured he was putting me on. He wasn't putting me on. The following week when I brought him a dreydl, he taught his Latino buddies to play "this cool Jewish gambling game."
And just when I think I've heard every possible, convoluted prejudice, someone like Jeremy, a 17-year-old who has been in and out of the hall for years, gets creative. Jeremy is one of the really fine, write-from-the-gut poets in the group. When things are slow and no one else is writing, I can always count on him to whip up a rhyming couplet or two. Last week, he handed me his latest epic:
I want to express how I feel about people changing the English language. People who say "Wolfin???" [slang for lying] and other stupid words like that really piss me off. It's the stupidest word I ever heard. People that can't talk right really piss me off.
Harris, too, seemed to have a thing against people who misused English, like those who said "pacific" for "specific." It's almost bizarre how intolerance falls into predictable, and mundane, categories.
"So what do you think of my article?" Jeremy asked.
Next page | The
Sheriff won't release tapes
The Associated Press
DENVER - The Colorado Supreme Court said Tuesday a sheriff's office can refuse to release videotapes and writings made by the Columbine gunmen before their massacre.
The Jefferson County sheriff's office seized the material from the homes of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold shortly after the two killed 12 students and a teacher in April 1999. The Denver Post filed suit seeking the material after the sheriff's office refused to make it public.
The Supreme Court said the materials are public records, but because they were seized as part of a criminal investigation, state law allows the sheriff's office to determine whether releasing them is in the public interest.
The material includes the "basement tapes," videos on which the teens show off their arsenal and talk about their plan to attack the school. Also included is a journal by Harris' father, Wayne Harris, according to court documents.
By Dave Cullen
December 14, 1999 | Five videos Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold shot shortly before massacring their peers atColumbine High School confirm and graphically illustrate the picture investigators have painted of two angry teens seeking fame and indiscriminate revenge. They also add a few fresh twists.
It turns out the killers actually revealed some remorse in anticipation of the killings -- but only toward select loved ones. And the lasting fallout from the tapes is likely to be the mixed messages they send concerning the culpability of the killers' parents, particularly the Harrises.
Passages from the three-plus hours of videotapes were first made public last month, whenlead investigator Kate Battan read excerpts at the hearing where Mark Manes was sentenced for selling Klebold a TEC-9 handgun used in the massacre. Later, Timothy Roche of Time magazine was allowed to watch the videos, and he revealed their contents in the magazine's current cover story, made public Sunday.
Officials then decided to go public with the videos and conducted media showings Sunday and Monday. While the videos generally just confirm what investigators have been saying for months, they offer dramatic testimony to drive home certain points that had been hard to believe. Battan, for instance,revealed months ago that the killers were primarily motivated by fame, and that she did not believe their parents were to blame.
"I'm going to kill you all," he says. "You've been giving us shit for years ... You're fucking going to pay for all the shit ... We don't give a shit because we're going to die doing it." Harris complains of constant petty abuse -- "my face, my hair, my shirts."
And once again, the killers made clear that their hate is not directed at any one group, such as the jocks, Christians and African-Americans cited in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy. As with theHarris writings leaked to Salon News last September, the videos present a smorgasbord of hate: "niggers, spics, Jews, gays, fucking whites."
"I hope we kill 250 of you," Klebold says.
The one area on which the videos shed significant new light is the killers' relationships with their parents. Investigators have closely guarded the scattered but frequent moments of affection and remorse they display toward their families on the videos.
"My parents are the best fucking parents I have ever known," Harris says. "My dad is great. I wish I was a fucking sociopath so I didn't have any remorse, but I do ... This is going to tear them apart ... I really am sorry about all this." He recalls thoughtful moments of tenderness from his mother, bringing him candy and slim jims. "It fucking sucks to do this to them," he says.
"I just wanted to apologize to you guys for any crap," Harris says. "To everyone I love, I'm really sorry about all this."
Klebold calls his mother and father "great parents," adding "They gave me my fucking life." He excuses them for possible mistakes they weren't aware of, and thanks them for teaching him self-awareness and self-reliance. "I appreciate that."
Next page:Hiding weapons in plain sight
On April 20th, at around 11:30 in the morning, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold walked into Columbine High School in suburban Littleton, Colorado, armed with pipe bombs and at least seven guns. After killing a student on the lawn and another in the hallway, they moved to the library, where they murdered ten more of their classmates and a teacher before killing themselves.
Several students were shot simply because they were popular. Two were killed because they were athletes, and Isaiah Shoels was singled out because he was black. The seventeen–year–old Rachel Scott the boys killed apparently simply because she had a Bible, shooting her in the leg and taunting her to "Go be with Him now" before killing her. They mocked the eighteen–year–old Valeen Schnurr for believing in Christ, and when she tried to tell them that they would be able to stop killing if they too believed, they left her with permanent nerve damage from nine wounds. The seventeen–year–old Kacey Ruegsegger survived after being shot in the face and shoulder for being a believer.
And then at last they reached a bright–eyed seventeen–year–old named Cassie Bernall. Either Harris or Klebold (none of the cowering students could see which it was) put a gun to her head and asked, "Do you believe in God?" She paused for a second, according to her classmates. And then she answered, "Yes." "She was scared, but she sounded strong," said her Bible–study friend Joshua Lapp, a sophomore who was hiding nearby, "like she knew what she was going to answer." Staring at her, the gunman asked, "Why?" Before she could reply, he pulled the trigger and shot her through the temple, killing her instantly.
In the weeks immediately following the killings in Littleton, newspaper columnists and magazine pundits—conservative and liberal alike—spent page after page trying to decide whether Harris and Klebold were somehow representative of America’s teenagers, whether their actions symbolized a murderous insanity present in all of American society. Rumors about the boys surged in the first days after the killings: that they were angry homosexuals striking back at the homophobic culture of Colorado, that they’d chosen Hitler’s birthday because they were Nazis, that they were racists, that their "Trenchcoat Mafia" school club was a front for Satanists.
The truth seems both simpler and more inexplicable. Children of fairly successful, middle–class suburban families (one father was a retired military officer), the two boys worked in the local pizza restaurant and used their home computers to walk through the World Wide Web collecting depravity—confirming themselves in an incoherent mishmash of anything that seemed shocking, dangerous, vile, or pornographic.
They liked guns because they’d been warned against them. They admired Hitler because they’d been told he was ultimate evil, embodying the absolute opposite of everything in their clean, gentle suburban lives. They toyed with a racism they neither had much occasion to use nor actually felt, merely because they’d been lectured repeatedly on how bad it was—and then Harris posted on his website a screed against racists. He posted diatribes as well against his neighbors, against the sort of athletes Hitler in fact praised, and even against people who used bad grammar. A sort of mocking, giggling indulgence of hatred seemed to be the only lens through which Eric Harris looked out at the world, and anyone who caught his attention, for any reason, deserved to die, because it was so much fun to imagine that they deserved to die: "If I say something, it goes. I am the law. . . . Feel no remorse, no sense of shame."
There are hundreds of thousands of American teenagers playing at this cool, fun hatred. The dark comic books that celebrate it make millionaires out of their authors, and ironic, animated television shows like the deliberately crudely drawn South Park (set in a mythical Colorado resort town not far from Littleton) are advertising goldmines. The "goth" shock–rocker Marilyn Manson—whose albums Harris and Klebold collected—receives gold–record awards for promoting the frisson of hateful mockery. While his roadies hawk T–shirts reading "Kill Your Parents," Manson slashes himself with bits of glass, wears iris–warping contact lenses, declares himself the Antichrist, and parades with naked women on dog leashes. His autobiography, The Long Hard Road Out of Hell, which reached number sixteen on the New York Times best–seller list last year, includes—in the midst of its long anti–Christian tirades—an account of a champagne brunch he threw to celebrate his girlfriend’s abortion and a laughing description of an infamous incident in which he’d buried, in several pounds of sliced luncheon meat snatched from a buffet table, a naked deaf girl who’d snuck backstage to service the band members.
This is what the hip nihilism of the French philosophy professors looks like after twenty years of commercialization have sanded it down to something vulgar enough to fit in the minds of middling teenagers—and, unsurprisingly, there eventually came along a pair of boys sufficiently detached from reality that they were willing not just to pose at it for a couple years before they went off to college, but to act on it, once and for all.
But there’s a far more important question than whether or not Harris and Klebold symbolize what our children have become, and it’s whether or not Cassie Bernall symbolizes what our children will become—for this murdered high school coed was not a typical American girl, and that’s what may make all the difference. If the fourth Great Awakening that people have been predicting since the 1970s actually occurs, it will have begun on April 20, 1999, and Cassie Bernall will be its martyr, its catalyst, and its patron saint.
Out in Colorado, the mood of the crowds that gathered around the padlocked Columbine High School in the weeks after the killings was like that of a citywide, outdoor revival meeting: a little quieted by the funeral processions of the murdered victims, a little muted by the police barricades and yellow tape, but an amazingly public and unselfconscious display of Christian piety. On a park hill overlooking the school, a local carpenter, Greg Zanis, set up fifteen crosses, for the thirteen victims and the two murderers. Matt Labash, a writer for the Weekly Standard reporting from Littleton, tells of watching as the choir members singing "Amazing Grace" on the hilltop gently removed the pen from the hand of a woman who had scrawled "evil bastard" on one of the murderers’ impromptu memorials and wiped clean the cross.
Afterwards, the carpenter took down all the crosses to keep those of the murderers from being a temptation to those too hurt and angry to forgive—then put back up the thirteen victims’ crosses, only to have them removed by the city’s park service in response to a complaint by the local Freedom from Religion Foundation against the "monstrous Christian–oriented memorial" on public land.
The praying crowds seemed to have no special desire to hear politicians come to town and demand gun control, or television commentators denounce pornography on the Internet and violence in popular music and the failure of the public schools, or Hillary Clinton call from the White House for increased government spending on counselors and therapists to help children solve their problems "with words instead of weapons." Though President Clinton assigned $1.5 million federal CARE funds for counseling the survivors, and private donations have reached $5 million, no one seems sure what to do with the money.
The mourners wanted instead to hear the story of teenage girls with guns to their heads being asked to deny the Lord. Rachel Scott is a "Christian American martyr," her pastor declared at her funeral, and the thousands who’d lined up for her memorial service sang hymns of joy. "Now she’s in heaven. She’s so much better off than any of us," one of Cassie Bernall’s friends told a reporter. "I just thank God she died that way," said another. "She’s in the martyrs’ hall of fame," her pastor at the West Bowles Evangelical Presbyterian Church declared at her funeral. "I am just so happy that Cassie is smiling down on us right now," added one of the parishioners who knew her. "She’s in a good place." Strangers flew in from Florida, New York, and California to be at her funeral. Young Life, the evangelical ministry that had been working in her Columbine High School, held an impromptu prayer service for her in Denver in the week after her death, and 1,500 students showed up. A previously scheduled evangelical Teen Mania rally in Michigan on April 24 turned into a Cassie Bernall festival, with 73,000 teenagers in Pontiac’s Silverdome weeping along with sermon after sermon about her death.
It is distinctly American for our social options to seem limited to either anarchy or Christian revival, with the ordinary civil society of liberal democracy merely the long arc between the extremes. But even the violence specialists, the child psychologists, and the grief counselors—the experts of the therapeutic culture who filled the television talk shows and the newspaper op–ed pages in the days after the Littleton deaths—ought to recognize this popular canonization of Cassie Bernall as healthier than their endless admonitions to "talk through with your children" the murderous impulses of Harris and Klebold. Which question is better put to an average sixteen–year–old: Can you imagine taking a gun and killing everyone who’s ever made you mad? or, Can you imagine refusing to deny God at the cost of your life? To be a teenager is to fit every profile, to imagine oneself capable of anything. For such children, Harris and Klebold must be literally maddening, and Cassie Bernall literally inspiring.
Fearing that her death will help right–wing preachers whip up the "absurd" belief that Christians are a threatened minority in America when "the real martyrs today are in China and Sudan," one prominent Protestant commentator denied in the second week after the murder that Cassie Bernall had suffered anything that could properly be called martyrdom. She wasn’t killed by any agency of a government aiming to suppress her religion, but merely by insane criminals aiming at thrills; her mocking assassins would almost certainly have shot her regardless of her answer; and she fell in the midst of other victims slaughtered for other reasons—or for no reason at all.
The fact remains, however, that Cassie Bernall died a death so archetypal, it is almost an adolescent’s fantasy of martyrdom. She had no time to calculate the probabilities; she simply had a gun put to her head and the question of her faith posed in a context of life and death. It’s like a fourteen–year–old boy’s daydream of being martyred: a sudden rolling of life to a single point and an instantaneous fulfillment of Christ’s promise in Matthew 10:32: "Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father." This is an image to move a child to enormous heroism and sacrifice, while Harris and Klebold form an image to engender insanity.
But Cassie Bernall’s life and death contain the possibility of something much greater than merely a healthier psychologist’s tool for (as one grief–management therapist put it in a television interview) "helping our young people deal with their feelings about the Littleton tragedy." In early March, in remarks at the end of a press conference announcing the formation of the exploratory committee for his presidential campaign, Texas Governor George W. Bush seemed for a moment to deny that he would work to overturn Roe v. Wade. Free–associating his way into actually praising President Clinton for his 1992 campaign slogan of "safe, legal, and rare," Bush rambled until he ended up appearing to doubt that he could do anything to help stop abortion until the American people had a complete "change of heart." Cassie Bernall’s death could lead to exactly that changed heart: "Now undoubtedly it is, as it was in the days of John the Baptist, the axe is in an extraordinary manner laid at the root of the trees," as Jonathan Edwards declared in his famous 1741 Great Awakening sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God."
It’s hard to tell how many of the stories now circulating about Cassie’s life are completely accurate. She had undergone a conversion experience in Christian summer camp when she was fifteen, and there’s always, in such stories, a temptation to exaggerate her goodness after her conversion. One of her friends relates that she was, in the days before her murder, planning to cut off the long hair that was her favorite feature and give it to an organization that makes wigs for children in chemotherapy. Another explains that she left her Christian school and returned to the Columbine public high school as a sophomore because it offered a greater opportunity for witnessing to nonbelievers. It’s certainly true that her funeral was attended by the gang members, drug addicts, and street people she’d tried to evangelize as part of a Victory Outreach program in the Five Points neighborhood of Denver. But how much effect she’d had on them before her death remains undecidable.
Similarly, there’s always a temptation in such stories to exaggerate her badness prior to her conversion. Back when she was in junior high school, Cassie had begun to dabble in witchcraft, alcohol, and drugs, her parents told ABC’s religion reporter Peggy Wehmeyer. Some friends and family members claim that she was involved in weekend rituals involving cat sacrifices. Her youth minister, Dave McPherson, says now that he thought her beyond help: "There’s some kids you meet that you think there’s a chance, and there’s other kids that you say, ‘She’s gone.’ I never gave Cassie a hope. She was disconnected, she wasn’t going to listen to anything, she was into black magic, the dark stuff."
This much is confirmed by multiple sources: After discovering letters describing violent acts she and her friends imagined doing to their parents, Brad and Misty Bernall acted on McPherson’s advice. They enrolled their daughter in a Christian school, sent her on an intense weekend retreat, and prohibited her from leaving the house except to go to church. "It’s hard," her father explained, "because you know you’re taking a chance of driving your child further away from you." But one day Cassie came home, changed into a believer: "It’s like she was in a dark room and somebody turned the light on, and she saw the beauty that was surrounding her." Her youth–group leader, Jeremiah Quinonez, recalls her telling him, "I went to this church camp and a bunch of people prayed around me. I don’t know what happened, but I was just changed. I felt this huge burden lifted off my heart." (Cassie’s mother has written She Said ‘Yes’: The Unlikely Martyrdom of Cassie Bernall, to be published in September.)
The girlish vocabulary of her letters can hide a little of the spiritual depths the girl seemed to be reaching for. "Isn’t it amazing this plan we’re a part of?" she wrote a friend. "I mean, it’s a pretty big thing to be part of God’s plan!" "Honestly, I want to live completely for God," she wrote another. "It’s hard and scary, but totally worth it."
But there is something undeniable and mature underneath her American teenager’s phrasings, a deeply moving faith almost presciently circling in on the Christian tropes of martyrdom and death. In a poem her brother discovered on her desk the morning after her death, Cassie wrote of her willingness "to suffer and to die" with Christ: Whatever it takes / I will be one who lives in the fresh / Newness of life of those who are / Alive from the dead. On the videotape she made for her youth group the night before she died, she vowed to be "a good example to nonbelievers and also to Christians." Two weeks before she died, she wrote a letter to her friend Amanda Meyer, "It’s so frustrating to be patient and wait for God’s perfect timing. It’s so hard to remember that his timing is not our timing. That he knows best. I need to learn to trust, be faithful and trusting . . . and choose his will."
The mainstream media has been surprisingly good at reporting the details of Cassie’s story. Barbara Bradley related the death on National Public Radio in the first days after the murders. Peggy Wehmeyer reported the story repeatedly on ABC’s evening news. The Washington Post felt compelled to put the word "martyr" in distancing quotation marks, but nonetheless carried the story on consecutive days, as did the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and many other papers. The Chicago Tribune called Cassie "humbling and awe–inspiring" (though warning that "absolutists . . . tend quickly to become absolutely intolerant and intolerable"). The Weekly Standard carried four commentaries on her death in addition to Matt Labash’s cover story about her life and Christian conversion in Littleton.
Even the reaction to the Littleton murders has received some mainstream reporting. On May 31, Time carried an article called "A Surge of Teen Spirit." The New York Times ran a similar report on June 6, and Newsweek on June 14. But the power of Cassie’s martyrdom remains an essentially underground story, moving along the Christian e–mail distribution lists and fax trees to bubble up in sermons and prayer–group discussions across the country. It’s a growing belief that God is abroad again in America. It’s an expanding notion that Cassie Bernall’s death is not a meaningless tragedy but a call for repentance so profound it prohibits even blaming those as corrupt as Marilyn Manson or his murderous devotees, Harris and Klebold. It’s an ever–widening faith that the whole pornographic, violent, anarchic disaster of popular American culture will soon be swept away. Not because (as the culture wars activists have been demanding for two decades) direct government action has been taken against the social corruption or because the court decisions that allowed it to flourish have been undone. Or at least not exactly. Those things are expected, but the people moved by Cassie Bernall’s martyrdom perceive them to be almost incidental consequences of the national change of heart that is, after Littleton, trembling on the cusp of breaking forth. The Great Awakening began in New England, as Jonathan Edwards relates in A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God, when, at "the latter end of the year 1733, there appeared a very unusual flexibleness, and yielding to advice, in our young people."
Not everyone seems persuaded. Testifying before Congress on May 27, the father of the murdered Rachel Scott argued against gun control on the grounds that "Columbine was not just a tragedy—it was a spiritual event. . . . We need a change of heart and a humble acknowledgment that this nation was founded on the principle of simple trust in God." But Pastor Don Maxhousen denounced such "escapist theology" when he was reached in June by Time magazine for comment on the spiritual reaction to Columbine: "As a Lutheran, I would be helping a family focus on getting through a long dark period in their lives."
But there is, in the response to Littleton, the possibility of an answer to those who’ve offered a counsel of despair about the American soul. Last February, in a much–noticed open letter to his supporters, the longtime conservative activist Paul Weyrich declared that the culture wars were over—and that the Right had lost. "I no longer believe," he wrote, "that there is a moral majority." The only option for serious men and women is now to withdraw from the dominant American society by throwing out their TVs, homeschooling their children, and breaking off into small, lifeboat communities of the saved. In their book, Blinded by Might, issued a few weeks later, the columnist Cal Thomas and the former activist Ed Dobson declared that political work by groups like the Moral Majority and the Christian Coalition—"a bunch of moralizers who want to force a worldview down someone’s throat"—has hurt Christian witness, which should enter the public square only to stand like a sheep among the wolves.
Christian leaders were not as quick as they might have been to see the promise of Cassie Bernall’s death, and in the first weeks after the Littleton murders many on both the left and the right tried to force the story back into known territory. Franklin Graham, son of the evangelist Billy Graham, denounced the public schools. Boston’s Bernard Cardinal Law complained that guns are "too accessible and too acceptable." "What is causing all this turmoil?" asked Susan Swanson of Chicago’s Luther Memorial Church when reached for comment by the Associated Press. "The media? TV? The Internet? Music? Or far–right–wing hate groups?" In his first radio commentary on the April 20th shootings, Chuck Colson decried the corruptions of American culture. Only with his second commentary the next week did he focus on the surprising work of God in the martyrdom of Cassie and leave behind the culture wars rhetoric.
But the people whose job it is to sniff the wind almost immediately began to sense that something might be changing in America. Oprah Winfrey quickly moved to schedule Cassie’s parents on her enormously popular television program. The Republicans began by promising a Clintonesque "national conversation" with the usual violence experts and child psychologists. But within two weeks their presidential candidates were in New Hampshire speaking of the martyred girl’s effect on their hearts.
Curiously, President Clinton never seems to have sensed the change. In June, he was still trying to cast the murders in high–school therapy terms—and offered Columbine as a metaphor for Kosovo: "In both cases, there at least is some evidence that part of the problem was one group of people looking down on another group of people and getting to where they hated them and then getting to where they thought it was legitimate to take them out."
When Vice President Gore called for God’s help in mourning the Littleton students, he was attacked from the left by Richard Cohen in the Washington Post for failing to demand gun control, and from the right by Focus on the Family’s Tom Minnery for daring to mention God "only after it is too late." But he returned from Colorado to campaign in Iowa by staking out the reforming power of Cassie’s martyrdom as the insight that distinguished him from his Democratic presidential rival, Bill Bradley.
"Imaginary evil is romantic and varied, full of charm; imaginary good is tiresome and flat," once wrote the twentieth–century French mystic Simone Weil. "Real evil, however, is dreary, monotonous, barren. Real good is always new, marvelous, intoxicating."
The evil of Harris and Klebold has at least discredited the hip adolescent pose of Marilyn Manson (who was forced by booking agents to cancel the remainder of a tour he’d just begun). It’s discredited the pretend violence of the comic book culture and the supposed harmlessness of the "content neutrality" asserted by Internet providers. It may even have finally discredited the claim of groups like People for the American Way that religious hatred is the root cause of violence. Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State received considerable mocking when he issued a press statement on May 19 declaring that the Christian victims of Harris and Klebold were somehow responsible for the massacre: "Evidence indicates that the two students who killed their peers, and ultimately themselves, at Columbine High felt alienated and ostracized. . . . We know from experience that school–sponsored religious displays and worship invariably make some students feel like second–class citizens."
But the goodness of Cassie Bernall may do something far more than these small victories over a corrupt popular culture bought by fifteen deaths in Littleton, Colorado. It may deliver a victory in the culture wars so massive that all the narrow policy wars are simply forgotten. To picture her standing there trembling in the school library, with a gun to her head, the question "Do you believe in God?" hanging in the air, is to believe that a change of heart is possible, that God may be loose in America again, that the pendulum may have finally begun its long arc back.