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 Articles on the event and it's aftermath

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PostSubject: Articles on the event and it's aftermath   Articles on the event and it's aftermath Icon_minitimeSun Mar 29, 2015 12:28 am


April 21, 2001 | 4:00am

LITTLETON, Colo. Some relatives of the Columbine HS victims expressed annoyance at yesterday’s brief, low-key memorial marking the second anniversary of the massacre.
There were no prayers. Nobody from the school. None of us were asked to speak; said Lee Jorgensen, grandfather of Cassie Bernall, a 17-year-old gunned down in the school library.
The school officials and the sheriff’s department want to put this behind them. But the families don’t. How can we?
 Board of Education President John de Stefano defended the 15-minute memorial, in which the crowd of 250 observed moments of silence as he read the name of each of the 13 victims.
We decided to keep it short, and we decided this with the families, he said.  Jasmine Jorgensen, Cassie’s grandmother, said townspeople were beginning to forget about the horrible day when students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold stormed the school and scattered gunfire.
All I know is when the first memorial was held [days after the shooting], there were 70,000 people, and everybody was praying,; Jasmine Jorgensen said.
It felt a lot better than this does.
 Before the ceremony, relatives of victims visited cemeteries, then left roses at the site of the shooting in the school.
 Linda Sanders, whose husband, Dave, was the one teacher slain, said of the memorial, I, for one, wanted it short and sweet. I said my prayers at the cemetery this morning.
 Beth Nimmo, whose daughter Rachel Scott was among those killed, said the massacre was not something relatives can easily put behind them.
 The anniversary came a day after the victims’ families agreed to a $2.5 million total settlement of their lawsuits against Harris and Klebold’s parents and the providers of their guns.
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PostSubject: Re: Articles on the event and it's aftermath   Articles on the event and it's aftermath Icon_minitimeSun Mar 29, 2015 1:08 am

Columbine points to a painful road ahead for Newtown
12/20/2012 07:59:30 AM PST

NEWTOWN -- The road ahead for family, loved ones and the growing community that is Newtown will be one of pain, loss and life in place that is a national symbol of unimaginable pain. The exit sign on the interstate will continue to read "Newtown" and "Sandy Hook," but for outsiders driving past, the words will forever be a dagger into a nation's tender heart.

"People always say you have to change. We've already changed," Monsignor Robert Weiss said Wednesday during 7-year-old Daniel Barden's funeral, one of eight he will bless for Sandy Hook children at St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church. "This community is never going to be the same."

"If you haven't gotten angry yet, you will. You need to get angry. We need to get angry."

This rugged journey can, however, be eased with the passage of time, the warmth of good memories, and the grace that is love.

So say those who have gone before to the worst places of the human existence. Colorado knows this path too well. The site of the Aurora theater massacre that took 12 lives and devastated dozens more six months ago, is also home to Columbine High School, where 12 students and one teacher were shot dead and 21 injured in 1999, when the heart and soul of a nation was shocked for its children.

"There is nothing anyone can say to help them," Patricia DePooter, who lost her son Corey at Columbine, said through her tears for Sandy Hook. "It is a lonely, empty and numb place.
Walter Jones, a lay pastor and friend of 27-year-old Sandy Hook teacher Victoria Soto, paced away from her funeral Wednesday morning, immersed in that numbness, looking for answers and offering comfort to a stranger through his own grief.

"I saw that child grow up to be a woman I was proud to know," said the 69-year-old, clearing his throat to speak past his grief and looking to the distance. "I don't think a community can be hurt more than this. I've never hurt for someone as much as I hurt today. I don't know what else to say."

Paul Simon sang "Sounds of Silence" at Soto's service, but Jones hoped "Vicki's song" could be a more joyful noise.

"God knows no greater love than to lay down your life for another," he said. "This wonderful young woman did that. We should all be so lucky as to know that kind of love for others, every day. I hope she inspires the world to love one another. She deserves at least that much and more."

The hearts of the community will break anew with each tragedy that follows; the helicopters overhead, the panicked faces of policemen, the terrified faces of children. The warm blood never washes from a stained community.

"I knew that it was a very unfortunate fact that Columbine wasn't going to be the last, any more than it was going to be the first," said Brad Bernall, whose daughter, Cassie, died in the attack. "But I was just absolutely stunned, like I'd walked into brick wall and smacked my face on it."

Cassie expressed her faith in God in her last seconds of life, and Columbine's youthful victims are immortalized in the memory of their Littleton community, exactly as they were on their last day of life, as teenagers.

Similarly, Sandy Hook's 7-year-old Daniel Barden will never make it to a Christmas where he ever gets his two front teeth back. The memory of the red-headed boy will forever be emblazoned with a gaped smile and exuberantly giving bear hugs.

After the attack, Columbine High students finished their year at a neighboring school, much like those at Sandy Hook will in January.

When students returned to Columbine the next fall, the library, the main killing field, had been demolished, and a beautiful memorial was being planned at the park where survivors ran for refuge, a symbolic patch on the community's fabric.

There already are speculations and suggestions in Newtown about the fate of its elementary school.

"I don't think they'll open it," said resident Paul Weiss. "I think they'll tear it down and build a playground or something like that."

In 2006, in the idyllic mountain community of Bailey, a madman with a rifle stormed Platte Canyon High School and executed 16-year-old Emily Keyes as rescuers burst in.

Love and support, however, must be tempered with patience and space, said John-Michael Keyes, Emily's father, who started the "i love you guys" Foundation, named for the text his daughter sent her family while she being held captive.

"Giving the families space and support, there is a balance there," he said in discussing Sandy Hook. "In the months that follow, their job and the community's job is to figure out how to best move through it."

Besides the emotion, these shootings become a call for more attention and meaningful action, just as Newtown is making opening remarks on guns and mental health.

At Columbine, the issue of bullying quickly became a national discussion that led to changes in the school system and an acute sensitivity to the needs of social outcasts, one of the factors experts thought fueled the teen gunmen's murderous rage. Whenever bullying arises, teachers, counselors and parents are quickly called in.

Littleton Mayor Jim Taylor said Wednesday the council had already sent a letter offering their help, in any way they can, to Newtown's city fathers.

After Columbine, the town set up the Greater Littleton Youth Initiative, with membership from schools, mental health agencies, law enforcement and citizen groups. Thirteen years later, it continues to meet each Friday to discuss their children, mental health and any issues that might help avert another attack, or would-be attackers.

Taylor said he hopes it's a road map for Newtown.

"It's such a very hard process to heal from something like this," Taylor said. "It takes time. It just takes a lot of love and support, from the community and outside the community."

Across Colorado, faculty and school administrators became exponentially more aware of intruders on campus and mentally steeled their resolve against the horrible possibilities. When a gunman opened fire on students loaded buses at Deer Creek Middle School, not far from Columbine, in 2010, teachers David Benke and Norm Hanne acted on instinct and wrestled gunman Bruco Strong Eagle Eastwood to the ground. Two students were wounded, but none were killed. Benke and Hanne became national heroes, much like the brave faculty at Sandy Hook.

At Aurora Public Schools Monday night, students and faculty met for workshop on safety, security and stress. The school district estimates that 150 current and former Aurora students, parents and school staff were at the Century Aurora 16 on the summer night when a gunman opened fire at the midnight showing of "The Dark Knight Rises." In the aftermath, the school district held informational meetings for students' parents and other community groups, including 31 faith-based organizations. School staff helped plan memorials and attended funerals, though the schools were relatively uninvolved, except in their hearts.

"We are not the first responders," Superintendent John Barry said of school officials, "but we are the second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth and you name it."

"Through it all," Barry pledged to those at the workshop, "we will come out stronger in the end."

The school system created a website, [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] to help the community through such tragedies.

At the 10-year anniversary of the Columbine shooting, school alumnus and teacher Lee Andres said she prayed that someday her school's name would not be synonymous with pain.

"It's my hope you look at your school as that - your school - not the most famous high school in the world," she told those at the sunset service. "Perhaps then the world can see Columbine as a symbol for strength, courage and hope."

At the growing memorial along the Sandy Hook bridge, Newtown resident Jeremy Shur said much the same.

"A week ago nobody outside of Connecticut knew who we were," he said, clutching the hand of his toddler. "I wish we could go back in time, but we can't, obviously. We can go forward and make Sandy Hook mean something better than it means now. At least I hope so."

Joey Bunch and Kristen Leigh Painter are Denver Post staff reporters on loan to the New Haven Register and reporting from Newtown this week. Denver Post staff writers Kieran Nicholson, Kevin Simpson and Electa Draper contributed to this story from Denver.

We're all going to die, all of us, what a circus; That alone should make us love each other but it doesn't. We are terrorized and flattened by trivialities, we are eaten up by nothing.-Charles Bukowski
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PostSubject: Re: Articles on the event and it's aftermath   Articles on the event and it's aftermath Icon_minitimeTue Mar 31, 2015 1:10 pm

A Diary of Devastation

Quote :
Kathy passed a boy lying next to a stairway outside. His face was pale, and he was surrounded in blood. He was dead.

"It looked like he was looking right at you,'' she said. "We had to keep going not to throw up.''

There was a dead girl at the top of the staircase. She had a pony tail and still had her backpack on.

"Her eyes were glazed over,'' Kathy said. "You know that last scene in Titanic, where they show all the dead people? It looked so much like that. "We had to keep running.''

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PostSubject: Re: Articles on the event and it's aftermath   Articles on the event and it's aftermath Icon_minitimeWed Apr 01, 2015 1:04 am


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PostSubject: Re: Articles on the event and it's aftermath   Articles on the event and it's aftermath Icon_minitimeMon Apr 13, 2015 8:19 pm

Thank you Juicy and Alpha for adding to the thread. If you wouldn't mind could you please post the full text of the articles instead? The idea and purpose of the thread is to have a place to preserve the articles if these sites ever go down or go pay only.

We're all going to die, all of us, what a circus; That alone should make us love each other but it doesn't. We are terrorized and flattened by trivialities, we are eaten up by nothing.-Charles Bukowski
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PostSubject: Re: Articles on the event and it's aftermath   Articles on the event and it's aftermath Icon_minitimeWed Apr 15, 2015 12:08 am


There were a lot of things Melissa Sowder didn't like about Columbine High School. The bullies, for instance. They were football players, mostly. They shoved her friends in the halls and threw snowballs or bottles at them on the way home. Sometimes they shoved her, too. Who needed it?

"Teachers would see them push someone into a locker, and they'd just ignore it," she says. "I think they were afraid of the students. They didn't stop half the fights in that school."

But Columbine wasn't all bad, Sowder insists. She liked most of her teachers. And there were nice students, too--guys she met in the commons area, drinking coffee or hot chocolate and talking about what was wrong with Columbine. Guys like Eric Harris.

"I used to talk to Eric once in a while," Sowder says. "He was like the sweetest guy I ever knew. He'd do pretty much anything for people he liked. We'd talk mostly about how we got picked on, how the school was not caring what the students did. And how some people could get away with anything."

Sowder was near the bottom of the intricate social hierarchy at Columbine last fall. She was a freshman and a special-education student, struggling to get the services and classes she needed. She liked to dress in black, and most of her friends were kids who thought of themselves as outcasts--punks and goths and skaters.

Eric Harris was a senior and a very confident student. He, too, dressed in black. He had a juvenile conviction for theft and had been reported to the police for making death threats against another student on the Internet. His personal Web page crackled with fantasies of murder and revenge, and he liked to show off his extensive knowledge of guns and explosives.

Before the world that was Columbine blew up last spring, guess which one of the two attracted more scrutiny from school officials?

Right up until April 20, 1999--the day he and his buddy Dylan Klebold stormed the school, tossing pipe bombs and shooting helpless classmates, killing thirteen and injuring 23 before taking their own lives--Eric Harris was just another scowling face in the crowd. One of the most baffling aspects of the worst school massacre the country has ever seen is how Harris and Klebold's deadly plan went undetected by friends, teachers, administrators--and, apparently, their own parents--until the killings began.

The question becomes even more troubling when you consider how school authorities have dealt with Melissa Sowder, who knew Klebold and Harris only slightly. In her first few weeks at Columbine, Sowder ditched class several times, resulting in a parent conference and restrictions imposed on her ability to leave campus during the day. But when she tried to complain to teachers about harassment by jocks, she was told, "Deal with it," she says.

One day last fall, Sowder was called to the dean's office after she was late to one class. "He asked me what I think about all day at school," Sowder says, "so I told him I thought about blowing up the school. The school made me that angry. He told me I was suspended for a day and called my mom."

Diana Sowder says she spoke to her daughter about speaking and acting responsibly. But she also believes that the school "overreacted" to Melissa's remark, which officials described as a threat. Over the next few months, Melissa Sowder's movements were closely monitored by school staffers, who followed her in the halls and quizzed her if she showed up at school early or stayed late.

Sowder was in the cafeteria when Klebold and Harris began their rampage last April. She escaped unharmed, fleeing with a group of students. When classes for Columbine students resumed at Chatfield High two weeks later, she was summoned to the principal's office and informed that she might prefer home-schooling.

"I think they had kind of classified me as a troublemaker," she says. "I told them I felt okay about going back to school."

Columbine officials didn't feel okay about it, though. A counselor in a security officer's uniform followed Sowder from room to room, actually sitting through each class and observing her behavior. On her third day at Chatfield, she made a remark about the shootings to another student. According to Sowder, she'd been greeted warmly for the first time by athletes who'd formerly harassed her, so she said that maybe something positive would come out of the tragedy "because now the jocks will treat us better."

That isn't the way the school's spy system heard it. Relying on a version of the remark passed on by two students to a teacher and then administrators, a school counselor contacted Diana Sowder that day and informed her that her daughter was not to come back to Chatfield. Melissa was being removed from school because she allegedly said that "the kids who died at Columbine deserved it." Melissa denies she said any such thing, and another student who says she was present during the conversation supports her story. Steve and Diana Sowder say that they were given no chance to meet with school officials and that their daughter had no hearing--no opportunity to respond to the accusation or appeal the decision--before she was summarily booted out of school.

Jefferson County School District spokesman Rick Kaufman says he can't comment, for privacy reasons, on disciplinary actions taken against individual students. However, he acknowledges that eighteen students identified as "associates" of Klebold and Harris were offered other options, such as home-schooling, in lieu of completing the semester at Chatfield. Six accepted. After classes resumed, three students were removed from school in separate disciplinary incidents involving "comments" about the shootings.

"We take any such comments, whether they were made in jest or not, very seriously," Kaufman says, "and will do so again this fall. It's no different than someone walking through an airport and saying, 'I'm carrying a bomb.'"

Melissa Sowder says she wants to return to Columbine when classes begin August 16, but she has no idea if she will be allowed to do so. Frustrated with school officials' reluctance to meet with them, Steve and Diana Sowder have hired an attorney and are considering a lawsuit against the district over what they regard as the trampling of their daughter's rights. (Editor's note: In the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted that the Sowders' attorney is related to writer Alan Prendergast, who has no personal or financial interest in their case.) Yet their situation is hardly unique. Melissa says that several of her friends have been encouraged not to return to Columbine this fall, too. "I think it's because they're outcasts," she says.

Kaufman responds that he's unaware of any ongoing disciplinary process against any Columbine students. "We can't just tell anyone not to come to school," he says. "Not without following district policy."

Steve Sowder insists that the district isn't following its own rules, much less the law. "The school talks about tolerance and sensitivity, but here were these kids coming back after the shootings, and they weren't providing services," he says. "Instead, they were watching them. What they're saying and what they're doing are two different things."

But mixed signals and contradictory actions may become standard procedure when Columbine opens this month, as administrators try to come to terms with the bloody legacy of last spring. What makes someone so angry that they want to blow up their school? How do you distinguish a real threat from a cry for help? Would tough measures designed to monitor kids more closely--everything from dress codes and closed campuses to anonymous snitch lines and parental inspection of library records--prevent more violence? Or would they simply lead to more persecution of those who think and behave differently?

With Harris and Klebold dead, public outrage over their crimes has been directed at a number of convenient scapegoats: the killers' parents, the gun industry, a pop culture that celebrates killing and trivializes life. Increasingly, though, the wrath of many parents is turning to the school district itself. They, too, are wondering: What would make someone hate their school so much that they'd try to blow it up and everyone in it?

There are people who think that school officials ignored pervasive, intolerable harassment of many students by a small group of athletes and that the harassment pushed Klebold and Harris to murder. There are also people who think officials were entirely too permissive in letting violent, deviant groups like the killers and the so-called Trenchcoat Mafia take root in the hallways, spewing hate and threats of murder. Either way, they say, the school system should be held accountable.

"As time goes on, the picture becomes clearer," says Brian Rohrbough, whose fifteen-year-old son, Daniel, was among those killed by Harris and Klebold. "The kids were running the school. There was nothing short of murder that would be challenged. And after watching the school board's response, I'm not sure even that is being challenged."

"I hate the Jeffco schools," says Randy Brown, who went to the police about Harris's death threats against his son Brooks more than a year before the shootings. "The school board is made up of accountants. They care about money and budgets and lawsuits, but they don't care about our kids at all. They want to go on like this didn't happen. They're implementing a program to correct it, but they'll never say they had a problem."

Blasted from all sides, the school district is now trying to appease both the no-more-intolerance and the too-much-tolerance factions. They're scrambling to "bullyproof" the schools and provide what Kaufman calls "diversity-type training" for athletes and their coaches and at the same time vowing to purge the schools of disruptive elements. To date, their efforts have failed to impress their critics. "This isn't a question of love and understanding and everyone will get along," says Rohrbough. "This is a question about what are the boundaries and what happens when you cross them."

To find an effective cure, though, one must first have a grasp of the disease. Many of the proposals kicked around by the school board and a community task force formed in response to the shootings seem to derive from popular impressions of "what went wrong" at Columbine, with little effort to separate fact from media myth. Yet much of what we think we know about Columbine, much of what was reported in the frantic first days of coverage and repeated endlessly since, is wrong. It's a product of overreaching and often sloppy reporting, hysterical and sometimes unreliable sources, misinformation from official sources, or just plain tabloid luridness.

* Hours after the onslaught began, an ace investigative reporter at Channel 9/KUSA announced that the Trenchcoat Mafia was a tight-knit "hate group" with national ties.
* The day after the killings, the Washington Times reported that Klebold and Harris "admired the Gothic scene and Satan worship, sometimes donning makeup in the style of one of their heroes, shock rock star Marilyn Manson. Sometimes they wore swastikas."
* Two days later, building on a sketchy report in the Denver Post, the New York Post announced that the killers "rehearsed their rampage in a morbid video they made for school," in which a trenchcoated Harris and Klebold pretended to shoot jocks.
* Just a couple of weeks ago, the Denver Rocky Mountain News reiterated that during the massacre, "Klebold and Harris said they were targeting athletes because they felt they ruled student life and needed to be brought down."

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. And wrong.

Klebold and Harris were not leaders of a close-knit hate group known as the Trenchcoat Mafia. They didn't make videos of themselves roaming the hallways of Columbine, shooting jocks. They didn't openly sport swastikas, and such attire would hardly have been permitted in their homes--Eric's father, Wayne Harris, is an Air Force veteran, and Dylan's mother, Susan, is Jewish. The boys' allegiance was to the German techno-rock band Rammstein, not Marilyn Manson or the goth scene. And while eyewitness accounts do indicate they made remarks about jocks during their killing spree, it's hard to credit the notion that they were targeting anyone in particular on their apocalyptic suicide mission, which investigators believe was supposed to end with a fireball consuming hundreds of lives.

The carnage of April 20 is not a simple parable of humiliation and revenge, nor is it a cautionary tale of a permissive society gone mad. The mass homicide may have more to do with the special culture of Columbine, the world its students inhabited on a daily basis, than school officials will ever acknowledge. The high school that Klebold and Harris sought to destroy was a place of long-simmering resentments and pathology, wrapped in a bright lie of communal achievement and mutual respect. It's a place where teachers and parents were nominally involved but ultimately irrelevant, since adults were easy to fool or ignore. A place where teenagers were encouraged, even badgered, into straitjacketed notions of success, while others plunged into a realm of violent fantasy. A place where, as if by magic, what was considered cool and daring became unspeakably cruel and grotesque.

"People want to find the blame," says parent Victor Good, who knew both killers and their families. "They're not going to find it in any easy place."
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PostSubject: Re: Articles on the event and it's aftermath   Articles on the event and it's aftermath Icon_minitimeWed Apr 15, 2015 12:11 am

DOOM Rules continued:


Like a lot of gawky freshmen, you wonder where you fit in at school. You are a Columbine Rebel, proud and true, but what does that mean?

You lack your brother's bulk and stature. Three years your senior, Kevin is a tight end on the football team, an A student and a varsity man, popular and easygoing. You're nobody. Larger, more confident Rebels shove past you on the way to class, strutting in their letter jackets and white caps, high on hormones and victory. You used to love baseball, but your interest is waning. This is a problem. At Columbine the jocks rule.

You suspect you are smarter than they are. But so what? Every day you still have to wade through that mass of muscle crowding the hallways--plodding, arrogant, contemptuous. So you rant about it on your computer. "YOU KNOW WHAT I HATE? When there is a group of assholes standing in the middle of a hallway or walkway, and they are just STANDING there talking and blocking my fucking way!!!! Get the fuck outa the way or ill bring a friggin sawed-off shotgun to your house and blow your snotty ass head off!!"

The computer is a great comfort. It's another world, one in which you can reinvent yourself, become even more powerful and intimidating than the bully boys you despise. You can hurl your rage into cyberspace, to an audience of faceless strangers, and your own parents will never know--because in this world, adults are clueless. You can do what you want, be what you want.

What you want is blood, and you find it in abundance in the wildly popular computer game Doom. Lots of boys your age vent their frustrations in waste-'em-all games like Doom, but you are more deeply entangled in its mysteries than most. Something about it--the vividness of its 3-D graphics and sound effects, the frantic pace, the demand for quick wits and savagery, the game's stoic, fatalistic attitude and all-encompassing mythology of mayhem--speaks to you. It beckons to you like a lover who can show you your true self.

The game is a gory cartoon version of your own situation. You are a badass space Marine dispatched to a distant moon, where invading demons from hell have overrun your platoon and turned your buddies into zombies bent on killing you. The only leatherneck left to defend mankind against the infernal hordes, you're outgunned from the start. But you are resourceful, and you acquire noisier, more devastating weapons as the game progresses. You wipe out the zombie soldiers and the demons who command them as you move on to higher, more intricate levels of carnage.

You master Doom and its even more violent successor, Doom 2. You engage in "deathmatch" versions of the game involving two or more players, vying on a single computer or over the Internet. It isn't enough.

You spend long hours in your room designing new levels to the game, called wads, and posting them online for other fanatics to play. You alter the noises that the weapons make, the screams of your victims. Eventually you will design fields of combat that resemble your neighborhood--and, it's rumored, your school.

It's still not enough.

You hunger for recognition. You slap a plea on the side of a building in one of the wads, urging players to send comments to your e-mail address. "This one took a damn long time to do," you write in the text file attached to another wad, "so send me some bloody credit man!"

By the middle of your sophomore year, you've completed your most sophisticated wad yet, a tricky, brutal, two-level shootout that's many times the size of your previous efforts. It climaxes in an orgy of killing, the screen flooded with hundreds of demons. The player has only two options: engage in a tedious, mechanical ritual of slaughter, or end things quickly by using a cheat command to go into "God mode," in which the player is invincible. (Later, after you are no longer around to bask in the attention, the wad will be reviewed on several Doom Web sites and ridiculed for its amateurishness, its "insipid gameplay" and "Thing overload." One reviewer will compare the experience to "viewing the clown paintings of serial killer John Wayne Gacy.")

In your America Online profile you call yourself Rebldomakr. You list your hobbies as "professional doom and doom2 creator, meeting beautiful females, being cool." Personal quote: "Shut up and shoot it.--Quit whining, it's just a flesh wound--Kill Em AALLLL!!!!"

There is no question now about who you are. You are no longer Eric Harris, pathetic dweeb. You are the Rebel who makes Doom.

Even before the killings sent reporters careening into hyperbole, Columbine had a reputation as the crown jewel of Jefferson County's high schools. Its mean SAT scores are among the highest in the state. Its motto isn't "Shut up and shoot it" but "Stretch for Excellence." A recent, $13.4 million remodeling job had provided gleaming, ultra-modern facilities to go with what the school's fact sheet unabashedly describes as "our long history of excellence in all areas."

Yet in the wake of the massacre, many parents have come to question administrators' pride in the way Columbine operated. The abysmal failure to provide a safe environment for their kids, they say, demonstrates that the school's priorities were haywire.

"For some reason, the world talks about Columbine like it was something great," says Brian Rohrbough. "We have the evidence to show it's the worst school in the United States. I never thought the school was great, but I never thought my son would be murdered there."

At Columbine, stretching for excellence in certain areas--such as football, basketball, baseball, soccer and track--definitely yielded greater rewards than other endeavors. The school won 32 state sports championships in the 1990s, and the trophies and pictures of star athletes were on display in a glass case in the front hallway. There's no comparable shrine honoring scholars, artists, debaters, or other student achievers.

The trophy case is only the most obvious sign of the pervasive jock culture at Columbine. The school's budget for coaches' salaries alone was more than $138,000 last year, the highest in the district--including a whopping $20,000 for football. For years, critics say, top athletes enjoyed special parking privileges, received special consideration when class schedules or demands conflicted with practice routines, and were only sporadically disciplined for harassing other students.

A hefty amount of the ten-minute daily broadcast of the Rebel News Network, piped into every classroom during second period, was devoted to the exploits of the teams as they marched toward one championship after another. Last spring, one much-aired skit featured the soccer team, their hair dyed white in solidarity, kicking a ball through the halls and into classrooms. Teachers were expected to gamely put up with such disruptions in the name of school spirit and to cut star players slack in other ways.

"When they had assemblies, that was an opportunity to hero-worship the jocks," says Victor Good, whose stepson, Nathan Dykeman, was a friend of Klebold and Harris. "The kids were not permitted to leave. And the assemblies were always for athletes, never for academics. What the hell is school spirit? Worshiping these other kids?"

Good, the chairman of the Colorado Reform Party, would like to see competitive athletics removed from the schools. Other parents aren't as quick to condemn the entire jock culture, but they do claim that a core group of athletes targeted weaker kids for bullying and ridicule.

"The bullying and harassment went on uncontrolled and throughout the school," insists Randy Brown. "This was a group of twenty kids picking on other kids, and at the bottom of the pile were Eric and Dylan. They got spit on and called 'faggots' and pushed around. Nobody did anything about it. What caused this was the school's failure to enforce their zero-tolerance policy toward harassment."

Stung by media reports about the so-called jock elite, including a scathing article in the Washington Post, school officials have denied any favoritism. A few weeks ago, Columbine principal Frank DeAngelis, a former baseball coach, even went on national television to explain how he once turned in his own son for off-field mischief. Many parents and students involved in the athletics programs also dispute the stories of marauding gangs of jocks assaulting other students at will. There were tensions between jocks and other cliques, they say, as in any school, but the situation had improved since the graduation of a few trouble-prone wrestlers and football players in 1998. (One of the leaders of the tribe, former state wrestling champ Rocky Hoffschneider, had a penchant for expensive cars that would receive special mention in Harris's online list of pet peeves: "LIARS!!! OH GAWWWWWD I HATE LIARS ...Why the fuck must people lie so damn much! Like...My brand new hummer just broke down on the highway when I was going 250 mph.")

"I realize there aren't too many high schools in the country where you have a student who has a Viper and a Humvee," says Darryl Strahl, who's had two sons and two daughters graduate from Columbine over the past nine years. "But that had nothing to do with Columbine. I don't agree that that [bullying] attitude sprouted from or was nourished by Columbine faculty."

In her experience, Strahl says, the coaches at Columbine were also excellent teachers, including DeAngelis--"He taught my sons so much more than baseball," she says. And safety wasn't an issue, not until April 20. "In 1995 there were some kids from another school who came into the parking lot," she recalls. "Before they ever got out of the car, Jeffco [sheriff's officers] was in the parking lot, too. I personally don't have any complaints."

Yet even if actual assaults on students weren't that common, the primacy of the jocks created an atmosphere of intimidation that could be stifling at times. "There is a lot of resentment toward the jocks--and the cheerleaders, if you're a girl," says Sarah Bay, a Columbine student active in debate and theater. "The jocks get help in class, help with their homework. They want that next state championship. I know this happens, and it's not just at Columbine."

Employees of the school district say that the preferential treatment begins at administration headquarters, where rules are sometimes bent to accommodate principals eager to recruit top coaches and keep them happy. Every employee of the district is supposed to undergo fingerprinting and a background check to be hired; that requirement was waived, one source says, in the case of a former NFL player and talk-radio host who's now coaching high school football in Jefferson County. One internal 1997 memo to an employee who questioned the high salary of a particular coach instructs her that if she encounters a situation that she believes to be "in conflict with state law...or district rules, you should continue to question athletic directors about the details. However, when a principal makes a decision on any matter, implement his/her directives immediately."

At Columbine, the message that jocks rule seeped into student life in many ways. Randy Brown says that his own son, Brooks, encountered his share of harassment and that teachers stood by while a few athletes continually cut in line in the cafeteria--a show of superiority that also earned comment on Harris's Web site. ("YOU KNOW WHAT I HATE!!!? ASSHOLES THAT CUT!!!!! Why the fuck cant you wait like every other human on earth does. Every fucking line i get into i end up having to wait a fucking hour when there WAS only me and 1 other person in line! Then the queer sucking asshole lets all his\her so called friends cut in behind em! If that happens one more time i will have to start referring to the Anarchists cookbook (bomb section)."

Students who feel bullied are supposed to take their complaints to the staff, particularly the school counselors. Columbine had six of them. But many teenagers are reluctant to take their complaints to adults out of fear of retaliation or of being branded a snitch. In any case, counseling programs throughout the district's high schools had shifted direction in recent years, partly as a matter of survival. During budget cutbacks in the early 1990s, counselors lost their lone full-time representative at administration headquarters, and the position was never restored. At the time of the shooting last April, the district was considering further cuts in the number of counselors at the middle-school level.

"Sometimes we get used as clerical workers or administrative assistants rather than doing the work we're supposed to do," says Clark Bencomo, a counselor at Green Mountain High School and president of the Jefferson County Counselors Association. "In this district, the affective needs of these kids aren't given much priority at all. That's what the community wanted."

In recent years, Bencomo says, the district's counselors were spending more time trying to provide career counseling to the whole student body rather than working with troubled kids. "We focused on getting into the classroom and downplayed some of the social-personal issues," he says. "This tragedy is going to make us re-examine that."

The district has pledged to add more counselors now. Bencomo, of course, thinks it's a smart move. "I've had kids come in who will complain about the jocks mistreating them, particularly the kids with the black fingernail polish, the goth people," he says.

"They say, 'They call us dirts.' These may not all be horrible things, but they add up, and you become disenfranchised."

In the absence of an appeal to adult authority, students figured out their own way of dealing with the oppressive aspects of Columbine. One response was the Trenchcoat Mafia, a haphazard group of nonconformists who took to wearing the jocks' sneering nickname for them as a badge of honor, along with their black dusters. They were geeks and goths, oddballs and losers; only one or two exuded even a faint aura of menace. And they were far more likely to be targeted for ridicule than most students.

Principal DeAngelis has said that he never heard of the Trenchcoat Mafia before April 20--despite the ad they took out in the 1998 yearbook begging others to notice them ("Insanity's healthy!"), despite the fact that several members of the group were suspended, expelled or flunked out that same year. The statement has prompted much eye-rolling among DeAngelis's critics; to them, it's part of an official campaign to deny that anything was less than perfect at Columbine--right up there with the principal's boast that, when investigators searched every locker in the school following the shooting, they failed to turn up any drugs or weapons. ("That he would even say that is pretty amazing to us," says Rohrbough. "Nobody's talking about how many drugs were found in the cars.") Recently DeAngelis told a Denver Rocky Mountain News reporter that he was aware of "some kids wearing black dusters" but not of the harassment claims; yet even his supporters don't understand how an administrator as ubiquitous as DeAngelis, always roaming the halls and dropping in on classes, could fail to take note of such an exhibitionistic crew and ponder what it might mean.

"I can't imagine he wouldn't have noticed eight or nine kids wearing trenchcoats in May," says Strahl.

But the group's seeming invisibility may explain why few people paid any attention to the increasingly bizarre behavior of Klebold and Harris. If school officials weren't particularly interested in the problems of a few purple-haired types--some of whom were chronically ditching school, obsessing on madness and suicide and all but wearing signs around their necks screaming "TROUBLED YOUTH"--then it's unlikely that they would take much notice of other black-coated students.

Klebold and Harris didn't dye their hair or wear makeup; by most accounts, they didn't even adopt the fashion statement of black dusters until last fall, after most of the Trenchcoat crowd had left Columbine. They were not leaders of the group and had only a tenuous relationship to it, through their friendship with one key member. They certainly didn't share the group's desire to revel in their outcast status.

Several students who knew Klebold and Harris as classmates or even as friends have trouble with the notion that they were really outcasts at all. Most of the Columbine population comes from a single middle school, a situation that would seem to encourage long-term friendships and rivalries, yet the school's cliques were actually more fluid than most media reports indicate. Harris kept mostly to himself, but Klebold had a wide range of friends, from skaters and stoners to preps and even jocks.

The two participated in school-spirit skits on the Rebel News Network. Klebold volunteered to do the sound for school plays and one time scrambled to correct a technical problem in order to save a performance by Rachel Scott, who would later become one of the first casualties of April 20. Harris made good grades and got along well with most of his teachers; he presented his composition teacher with a Christmas present last year. Both teenagers may have complained bitterly about the jocks on occasion, but it's possible to conclude that the two actually liked school--or, at least, certain aspects of it. (From Harris's list: "YOU KNOW WHAT I LOVE!!!? SCHOOL! YOU KNOW WHAT I HATE!!!? SCHOOLWORK!")

"I never saw them being hostile or dissing on other people," says Jeni LaPlante, Darry Strahl's youngest daughter.

LaPlante had several classes with Harris her junior and senior years, as well as a bowling class with Harris and Klebold. Her two closest friends worked with them at Blackjack Pizza, and she frequently went with them to Rock 'n Bowl at Belleview Lanes on weekends. She considered the pair to be "out of the ordinary"--but then, there were a lot of people who were a little unusual at Columbine. She didn't see anything terribly disturbing about them. She continued to think that up until the morning of April 20; she was outside the school when terrified students began pouring out and running for cover.

"I never saw this coming," she says. "It hit me hard, because I didn't ever see a problem at Columbine. It was the all-American school. It had different cliques, but that was also diversity."

Eric Harris, in particular, remains an enigma to LaPlante. He was so...involved in class, always had his hand up. Wouldn't put in his two cents unless nobody else spoke up, but he knew every single answer. Grammar, Shakespeare, class discussion on whatever--he always had an opinion, always was polite about it.

LaPlante asked him why he was putting himself through the grief of college-prep classes when he was planning to enlist in the Marines, and he told her, "I probably won't go." But if he was planning to blow up the school for a year, like people say, why was he working so hard in school? Why was he struggling over a research paper that wasn't due until after April 20? Why was he talking about what he was going to write in his college application essay?

"The only way I can explain it is that he was just two perfectly different people," she says. "What he showed to the rest of the world and what he kept to his garage or his computer were so different."

A few months before his death, Harris had changed his AOL screen name to Reb Domine--no longer just a Rebel Doommaker, but the Lord of the Rebels. Hobbies: "making fun of you people." Occupation: "senior at CHS and the rest is still unpublished." Personal quote: "its fun being schizophrenic."

That Harris and Klebold were leading a double life is a familiar theme among those who thought they knew them well. "The most horrifying thing is that these kids didn't have the signs they want to point to," says Victor Good, who frequently saw the pair when they visited his stepson. "Eric was always the perfect little gentleman. He seemed more mature than other kids."

Yet there were signs, from the essays they wrote in class to the T-shirts they wore, the random comments about bombs and killing, the pictures with their hands cocked as if cradling a weapon and preparing to shoot the photographer. That these expressions of malevolence seem sinister only in hindsight says a great deal about what passed for normal--or even "out of the ordinary" but readily accepted--at Columbine.

They were hiding in plain sight, perfectly camouflaged in the undercurrent of trash and violence swimming in your average 2,000-student suburban high school. Resentment of jocks? Nobody had a corner on that concession. Videos featuring car crashes and explosions? Finding ways to emulate the special effects of big-budget action thrillers was part of the challenge of video production classes. (In one video for a marketing class, the pair offered to provide a protection service and simulated shooting someone.) Klebold's interest in Charles Manson? Wild-eyed Charlie has become a popular research topic in high schools nationwide; the shock value alone is worth at least a grade point or two.

Weird T-shirts and an affection for gloom-and-doom rock lyrics? Nothing new here, even though the duo's embrace of one German band's ludicrous paeans to mass murder ("You in the schoolyard/I'm ready to kill and nobody here knows of my loneliness...We announce Doomsday/There will be no mercy/Run, run for your lives...You believe killing might be hard/But where are all the dead coming from") was so intense that other kids referred to them as the Rammstein Boyz.

Bragging about coming across bomb instructions on the Internet and coming up with new ways to kill people? Lots of kids talk about stuff like that.

Reportedly, at least one English teacher did find a Klebold short story about a killing so disturbing that she contacted his parents. Harris's parents were notified about a similar story. But these were only stories, the boys insisted. Fantasies. As long as the violence exists only in the mind, who cares? Why not stories about multiple homicides? Stretch for excellence.

In a school full of kids desperate to stand out, two killers in training did not seem remarkable at all.

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PostSubject: Re: Articles on the event and it's aftermath   Articles on the event and it's aftermath Icon_minitimeWed Apr 15, 2015 12:14 am

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Sarah Bay: "From the start, I saw Dylan as a follower. If he got an idea from someone that he thought was cool, he'd go along with it, as long as that other person was doing it, too."

Jeni LaPlante: "He did have a lot of anger, but he hid it most of the time. One time in bowling class, he got so pissed he slammed his fist down on the ball return. It freaked me out."

Sarah Bay: "In a way, Dylan's mind was still back in junior high, where girls were yucky and video games were cool and you sort of had this fantasy land you could go to."

Everyone sees you as a follower. True, when it comes to the usual adolescent rites of passage--smoking, drinking, seeking out music obnoxious enough to annoy your parents--you aren't exactly a trendsetter. But when you find something that really fires your brain, you embrace it with enthusiasm. Hence your nickname, borrowed from the magic elixir that produces so many weepy late-night phone conversations with friends: VoDkA.

People remember that shy, vulnerable, teen-angst side of you, so they make excuses for you. You must have been drawn into Eric's orbit, brainwashed somehow, they say. You did not have that kind of hate in you. Hell, you were still making trades in the fantasy baseball league with Tim Kastle the night before the massacre; hours later, you were waving a TEC-9 at him in a ceiling crawlspace, trying to make up your mind whether to shoot. You must have had some kind of psychotic break to switch from good old Dylan to a head case like that in a matter of hours.

They want it to be simple--little Eric the evil mastermind, and you trailing after him, towering over him, a six-three zombie in a black coat, shades and a turned-around Boston Red Sox cap--Dr. Rammstein and his monster. They don't understand the bonds between VoDkA and Reb. They don't understand that he needed you as much as you needed him, maybe more so. Like prisoners manacled together, you reinforced each other in your misery. Together you could accomplish things you wouldn't dream of attempting alone.

The relationship begins the way a lot of adolescent friendships do, as a buffer against loneliness and the grim demands of growing up. You play Doom and Quake, cruise the malls, take a lot of the same classes. You cultivate a mutual interest in death-rock and Tarantino movies, ape the casual attitude toward racism and violence that you see on the screen. None of this is terribly unusual, but at some point you recognize something in each other that most of your friends don't share: a boiling rage against your enemies.

The more time you spend in each other's company, the more enemies you seem to have. Other kids call you faggots. They misunderstand. What you are is a two-man terror squad.

"Ok people, im gonna let you in on the big secret of our clan," Reb writes on his Web page. "We aint no god damn stupid ass quake clan! We are more of a gang. We plan out and execute missions. Anyone pisses us off, we do a little deed to their house. Eggs, teepee, superglue, busyboxes, large amounts of fireworks, you name it and we will probly or already have done it. We have many enimies in our school, therefor we make many missions."

In your junior year of high school you embark on several nighttime raids. Both you and Reb have curfews, but your parents are busy people and it's easy to sneak out. You drive to Wyoming to load up on fireworks, extract the gunpowder and make pipe bombs. You set them off in the fields and ravines surrounding your parents' stunning house in Deer Creek Canyon. The secret is exciting, in part because you share it. It's one more wedge separating the "gang" from everyone else.

In January 1998, the two of you are caught in a field with stolen electronic equipment. This is your first encounter with the legal system, the world of adult laws and adult consequences, and it's a joke. You enter a diversion program, write a letter of apology, pick up trash for no pay, pee in a cup. You are polite to the judge and feed your folks some corn syrup about how much you're learning from all this. Your probation officer sees you as a dreamy slacker who just needs to get cracking: "Dylan is a bright young man...if he is able to tap his potential and become self motivated he should do well in life."

By senior year, the amount of time you spend with Eric Harris would be scary, if it didn't seem so right. You share four classes, work together at Blackjack Pizza, make videos, go bowling and spend long hours on the computer together. Your attachment to him creates inevitable conflicts with your other friends, many of whom you've known much longer than Harris, a relative latecomer to the south Jeffco scene. When you must choose between them, you choose Eric.

Many of your friends are getting into dating now, getting serious with girls. It's one place you can't follow. This social stuntedness is another quality that the two of you share, that isolates you from the rest--but at least Reb had a girlfriend once, before the gang of two was formed, a girl named Tiffany. (When Tiffany broke up with him, Harris staged a fake-suicide scene for her benefit.) You can't score a date to save your life.

A platonic friend, an honors student who likes you so much that she bought guns for you, pleads with you to take her to the prom. Your parents offer you $250 to go. You agree. For a few hours you're in the social whirl, and Eric Harris is nowhere to be seen. He shows up later, at the after-prom party, with no date.

There is no escape from each other. With all that you know about each other now, all that you share, how can you go your separate ways? People want to say that Eric Harris is the problem. They don't get it.

Graduation is the problem.

Shaking his head, Randy Brown flips through the paperwork connected to a complaint he filed with the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department against Eric Harris more than a year before the shootings at Columbine. He points to an Internet address the deputy wrote down incorrectly and to a street address for Eric Harris that's also wrong.

"This shows how little they investigated this," he says. "We thought this was serious. We changed the exterior lighting on our house because of this. The detective didn't do his job. How big a red flag does a professional need?"

Brown's story, which he has repeated patiently to reporters from around the country, poses an uncomfortable challenge to school and law-enforcement officials. How could they fail to recognize that Eric Harris was dangerous, Brown wonders, when he brought a bundle of red flags to authorities months before the massacre?

Brown's complaint went nowhere. His criticism of the sheriff's office and school administrators has been largely ignored. After the massacre, his oldest son, Brooks, was treated as a possible suspect because he told reporters that Harris warned him away from the school moments before the shooting started. The Browns paid for a private polygraph exam to establish that Brooks had no prior knowledge of the attack. Brooks passed. Sheriff John Stone told reporters he was still "suspicious" of Brooks Brown.

Randy Brown has no doubts about his son's innocence. But plenty of people had cause to be suspicious of Eric Harris, he says. They just did nothing about it.

Brooks Brown and Dylan Klebold grew up together. The arrival of Eric Harris, though, gradually began to strain the friendship. Late in 1997 the Browns learned that Harris was attempting to blame the vandalism of a neighbor's house--the same kind of midnight mission that VoDkA and Reb were conducting regularly at that point--on Brooks. But Brooks had an ironclad alibi that night, Randy says; he was grounded.

The Browns told the neighbor of their suspicions about Eric's involvement in the vandalism. Furious, Harris threw a piece of ice at Brooks's car and cracked the windshield. The Browns called the police, and Brooks decided to have a word with Wayne and Kathy Harris.

"Brooks got mad and told his parents everything Eric was doing," Brown says. "Eric's drinking. His sneaking out at night."

Brown recalls that Kathy Harris was "all upset" about her son's behavior--at first. "She called back the next day and said, 'My husband said it's not that serious'--that he basically trusted his son."

Wayne Harris drove Eric to the Brown house and waited in the car while his son offered a begrudging apology. Eric left angrily after Randy's wife, Judy, questioned his sincerity. "He didn't fool my wife, but he fooled me and everybody else," Randy says.

Not long after the windshield fracas, Dylan urged Brooks to check out Eric's Web page. Under the heading "Philosophy" was an unmistakable message.

"I am the law, if you don't like it, you die...Dead people cant do many things, like argue, whine, bitch, complain, narc, rat out, criticize, or even fucking talk. So that's the only way to solve arguments with all you fuckheads out there, I just kill! God I cant wait till I can kill you people...I don't care if I live or die in the shootout, all I want to do is kill and injure as many of you pricks as I can, especially a few people. Like Brooks Brown."

There was more: "You all better fucking hide in your houses because im comin for EVERYONE soon, and i WILL be armed to the fuckin teeth and i WILL shoot to kill and i WILL fucking KILL EVERYTHING! No i am not crazy, crazy is just a word...if you got a problem with my thoughts, come tell me and ill kill you."

Also on the site was a description of pipe bomb missions and one of Eric's Doom wads, the layout designed to resemble the Browns' neighborhood.

The Browns downloaded the materials and contacted the sheriff's office. "We didn't take it to the dad, and I have second-guessed that decision since this happened," Randy says. "We said, 'Look, every time we report this kid, it escalates.' We told them, 'You can't go to Eric directly.' If you go to the school, the stupid counselors bring them into a room and say, 'Eric and Brooks, we see you're having a problem.' That doesn't work with Eric. We were afraid of him, okay? We told them they didn't need to say where they got this information--it's on the Web. They said, 'We don't even know if this is a crime.'"

Much to Brown's dismay, the sheriff's department never interviewed the Harris family about the threat. An investigator couldn't locate Harris's Web site, either because Harris took the material offline or because the address was copied wrong. Several phone calls the Browns made to the investigator went unreturned. Although a copy of the "suspicious incident" report was forwarded to the deputy assigned to Columbine High, no official action was taken as a result.

After the massacre, as news of Brown's report began to make headlines, sheriff's department officials vigorously defended its handling of the case. A computer check had failed to turn up Harris's previous juvenile theft conviction, they said, and Brown's request that investigators not contact various individuals involved in the case, including Brooks and Harris himself, had tied their hands: "Without the ability to speak to a victim or positively identify a suspect, elements of a crime could not be established."

Randy Brown says he made no such blanket request. "We didn't want to be contacted? That's absurd," he snaps. "We wanted them to go to Eric's parents. Why would we take it to the police if we didn't want them to do anything?"

Brown also insists that the investigator assigned to the case, John Hicks, told him he already had a file on a juvenile named Eric Harris. Even if the threats and accounts of setting off explosives and vandalizing houses weren't enough to file charges, Brown says, they should have been brought to the attention of school administrators and the people supervising Harris's probation. Such action could have resulted in a search warrant, revocation of probation--or, at the very least, a reassessment of Harris's progress in the anger-management classes required by his juvenile diversion program. ("Eric did a very nice job on Diversion," his supervisor reported. "He impressed me as being very articulate and intelligent.")

Frustrated by official inaction, Brown lived several weeks in anticipation of bad news. "You get used to checking your house for pipe bombs," he says.

Gradually, the sense of danger receded. Brooks was still friends with Dylan Klebold--"There were a lot of kids my kids knew that we worried about, and Dylan wasn't one of them," Brown says--and everyone thought that Dylan might have a "calming effect" on Harris. Two weeks before the shootings, Brooks informed his parents that he'd made a separate peace with Eric, too, that his former nemesis was acting more grown-up these days.

He was also acting more cautious. In the spring of 1998 Harris removed some of the more explicitly violent writings from his Web site--tipped off by Dylan, perhaps, that the Brown family was reading them. He still talked about wanting to blow up the school, but he was careful of his audience. Unlike Melissa Sowder, he didn't make the mistake of saying such things to the dean.

Around the same time, he began to keep a handwritten journal of his plans for an attack on Columbine High. Investigators have released few details about the journal, but it appears to be an evolving manual of possible weapons and tactics, with lists of hated athletes thrown in for good measure--a crash course in applied Doom. As the months wore on, the imagined carnage became more and more extreme, an exit strategy Reb and VoDkA could embellish upon whenever they'd had a bellyful of bullshit.

One element that appears to be missing from the journal is any clear rationale or motive for the plan. "A lot of it, it's hard to discern fantasy from reality," says Steve Davis, spokesman for the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department. "For example, the part about taking the plane and crashing it into New York City--who knows? We may never know how much of it was an actual plan and how much of it was just talking. I don't think there's any real explanation that we're getting from that diary."

Yet the date chosen for the attack--April 20, Adolf Hitler's birthday--is one kind of explanation. Harris's fascination with Hitler is debatable; he and Klebold may have offered 'Heil Hitler' salutes after bowling strikes, but not often enough to attract much comment. Yet Harris did embrace a kind of social Darwinism any Nazi could appreciate: "YOU KNOW WHAT I LOVE!!!? Natural SELECTION!!!!!!!! God damn its the best thing that ever happened to the Earth. Getting rid of all the stupid and weak orginisms...but its all natural!! YES!"

Harris had a T-shirt that read "Natural Selection." According to some students, he was wearing it the day he died. The fantasy of wiping out the inferior "dumbasses" who got in his way was at the heart of his megalomania. In his inscription of Nathan Dykeman's 1998 yearbook--a seriously deranged note, peppered with lyrics from Rammstien ("God damn not an angel when I die"), references to Doom ("kick some, take some, and get some"), and German phrases proclaiming "No pity" and "I am God"--he offers this piece of advice: "Hey don't follow your dreams or goals or any of that shit. Follow your fucking animal instincts. If it moves, kill it. If it doesn't, burn it."

As the fantasy grew, reality receded. At some point the plan was no longer about revenge against jocks but about taking down the whole school--and themselves with it. There would be no God mode once they started shooting, Harris realized. In what appear to be later writings about the attack, he refers to the event as "NBK"--possibly a reference to Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers, a movie about people born to kill--and expresses a fatalistic detachment about what is to come.

One document, consisting of three pages about building and storing pipe bombs, was obtained by several Web surfers from Harris's site within hours of the attack, before America Online took down the account. Investigators won't confirm its authenticity, but several internal clues suggest it is Harris's own writing. In discussing ways to add shrapnel to the bombs, the author writes, "I am not sure that method works. I did try it on the Delta batch, and since they won't be used until NBK it'll be kind of hard to report the results. You might try asking the survivors if they got a good look at the bomb before it went off and then the remains!"

Several people who knew Klebold and Harris have suggested that something must have happened in the last few weeks of their lives--Harris's rejection by the Marines or being turned down by three girls he asked to the prom, perhaps--that prompted them to carry out their fantasy of doom. Yet the tangible preparations for NBK, including buying guns and training with them, building bombs and figuring out ways to conceal them in their dusters, had been going on for months. And the rumblings Harris was posting on his Web page and scratching in people's yearbooks a year ahead of time can't be dismissed as mere posturing; these are the works of someone already losing his way back to a world where other people might matter.

He may not have been the only member of the Harris household fighting a losing battle with reality. According to Nathan Dykeman, who sold his story to the National Enquirer and then claimed that the tabloid distorted many details, Wayne Harris found a pipe bomb in Eric's room last year, possibly as a result of his conversation with Brooks Brown. Whatever punishment Harris may have meted out to his son--who was already on probation, taking anti-depressants and seeing a psychiatrist--it didn't include calling the police.

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PostSubject: Re: Articles on the event and it's aftermath   Articles on the event and it's aftermath Icon_minitimeWed Apr 15, 2015 12:16 am

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April 20, 1999

They shot one young man in the back as he tried to run away, shot another in the face as he lay writhing on the ground, crying for help. They shot young women in the head as they crouched meekly under library tables. They giggled like little boys setting off firecrackers and snarled like hit men. And when it came to deciding who to kill and who to spare, they were as capricious as gods.

Despite the endless blow-by-blow accounts of the massacre, heartbreaking questions remain about what actually happened on April 20. Until the authorities see fit to release the autopsy reports, for example, it's impossible to know if teacher Dave Sanders and several critically wounded students might have been saved by more aggressive action by the SWAT teams or if the painfully cautious response was justified, as officials have maintained.

This much is clear: Whatever plans Klebold and Harris might have had to settle a score with jocks, whatever they might have said in the library ("All jocks stand up!"), the attack itself was vicious, cowardly and utterly random. Several of the injured and dead had scarcely been at Columbine long enough to make friends, let alone enemies, and had never even met the killers.

Whoever came into their line of fire was fair game. They killed Isaiah Shoels because he was black. They reportedly said something to Kyle Velasquez about being "pathetic" and killed him, too. They had become executioners on behalf of the caste system they despised. Anyone they didn't like, anyone who looked them, these weren't people, but targets in the ultimate death match.

If they'd succeeded in setting off the propane bomb they planted in the school kitchen, they would have killed many more, including dozens of classmates who'd thought of them as their friends. Instead, they retreated to the library and took their own lives before the reality of what they'd done could sink in. They would leave that for the injured and their families and the families of the dead.

It was an obscene day in Colorado. For many survivors, the terrible violence they endured was followed by one more shock--the shock of recognition. Nobody had dreamed that such a thing could happen here. But when students were given the descriptions of the shooters, dozens of them nodded their heads in understanding.

Oh yeah, they said. Those guys.

A dozen members of the Columbine community gather in Steve Schweitzberger's kitchen on the Fourth of July. Some are wearing "Flush Howard Stern" T-shirts. An elderly woman passes around an antique print bearing the Ten Commandments, which she would like to see prominently displayed in schools. A man in a baseball cap sings along to a tape of "Columbine, Friend of Mine," the song written by two students in remembrance of the shooting victims, playing on a boombox.

Ron Aigner, the man who's proposed building a fifteen-story memorial to the victims in the shape of a cross on land he owns within Roxborough State Park, complains to a Westword reporter about a recent illustration on the cover of the newspaper depicting a tennis player with horns. "You represent the devil," he says.

Schweitzberger has his own plans for a memorial at the school's back door. A former Denver mayoral candidate, Littleton real-estate investor and a Columbine parent--his sixteen-year-old daughter, Sara, escaped unharmed on April 20--he's vowed to devote the next year of his life to raising funds to help the victims' families and to erect a permanent shrine on Rebel Hill, the mound in Clement Park across from the school where thousands paid their respects in the weeks after the massacre. His plans call for a single cross and a visitors' center in the shape of a Columbine ribbon. So far, though, his efforts to purchase the hill from the county have met with a less than enthusiastic response from local officials.

"I moved out of Denver because I was tired of the city council," he says, "and now it's the same thing--people with attitudes who won't even give me a call."

Like a lot of conservatives stirred to action by the massacre, Schweitzberger sees the violence of April 20 as symptomatic of a larger breakdown in social values rather than a reflection of the bully-boy jock culture at Columbine. "The two killers had a perfectly good coach available, Coach Sanders," he says. "They chose Coach Hitler. We've been preaching tolerance. Why should we have to tolerate something like that?

"From what I know, the school was doing its job. But you take a little poison from Howard Stern and a little violence from Jerry Springer and this stuff on the Internet--I'm not for censorship, but how much of this are we supposed to take? Sure, there ought to be some local heroes who aren't capable of throwing the ball sixty yards. But how do you pick Adolf Hitler as a role model?"

The killings, he believes, are a watershed event that will prompt parents and students nationwide to become more involved in shaping the values of their schools. "We are no longer Generation X or Y," Schweitzberger declares. "We are the Columbine Generation, people of all ages who will not apologize for our faith, who will pay more attention to what's going on in the schools. Whenever a Columbine student has something to say for the next three years, the class that my daughter is in, the world will tune in."

Yet there seems to be little consensus within the community about how to stem the plague of school violence. Some grassroots groups are pushing gun legislation; others want increased security, a battery of checkpoints to protect students from enemies foreign and domestic; still others promote hug-a-thons and diversity clubs as ways to defuse hatred before it explodes. The school district has moved cautiously, tightening security policies--for example, allowing staffers to "interrogate" students without a parental presence if parents can't be reached--while denying that the moves have anything to do with the massacre.

A community task force has devised a bolder set of recommendations for Jeffco schools, but several of the more sweeping proposals, including a strict dress code ("underwear may not camouflage") and closed campuses, have been greeted with skepticism by many of the group's own members. (At one recent meeting of the task force, Principal DeAngelis pointed out that Columbine couldn't close its campus and still feed all of its 1,900 students without extending the school day substantially.)

"I'm hearing from the schools [an emphasis on] 'tolerance and inclusiveness,' and I'm hearing from the parents 'character and respect,'" says Don Lee, the state legislator who organized the task force. "There seems to be a philosophical difference there."

Some parents believe that the Jefferson County school district, the largest in the state and one of the largest in the country, is simply too unwieldy and bureaucratic to be responsive to their concerns. Randy Brown, who recently called on the school board to resign, would like to see the district dissolved into several smaller, more locally accountable agencies.

"The bureaucracy doesn't bend, and apathetic parents like me let them get away with it," he says. "You want to stop the public anger over this, so you break into eighty committees and have them do nothing until things quiet down."

Brian Rohrbough supports some of the measures that have been discussed, such as an anonymous tip line for students. "The kids need to have some kind of board of independent parents that they can contact when they see things going on that shouldn't happen," he says. "There has to be some way for accountability to take place."

Yet Rohrbough, too, believes that the district has been expending more energy on ducking criticism than on making positive changes in response to the shootings. He points to the emotional issue of whether to reopen the Columbine library, where ten victims died. The district had drawn up plans for some minor changes in the site and was preparing to show them to the public when victims' families protested; the question of what to do with the library remains on hold.

"The decision of what to do with that location should be left up to the parents whose kids were murdered or wounded there," Rohrbough says. "But this was like everything else they've done. They've left the parents out of the process."

Columbine students are feeling left out, too. Security at Chatfield during the final weeks of classes was so airtight that some students scribbled "Chatfield Prison" on their IDs and grumbled about being treated like cattle. Students have only minimal representation on Lee's task force, and that's alarming to those who see the proposed crackdown as a threat to their privacy and their rights of free expression. Some fear that Columbine could become a more hostile environment than it ever was before.

"We hardly have a voice on this task force, and we're going to have to endure this, not them," says Sarah Bay. "This is mostly for the parents to feel safe, not for us. I know people who are afraid of going back to school because of the way they're going to be treated."

More than any survey or research study, the tragedy at Columbine has exposed the uneasy gulf between parents and their children in middle America. Anonymous tip lines, monitoring of reading materials and other traditional tools of the thought police are being pressed into service as parents seek to find a way into a secret world of adolescence they no longer recognize.

"They ought to be focusing on kids who are violent, not just different," says one goth sophomore, who asked that her name not be used. "I may go to school in my black lipstick, and the people in the halls part like the Red Sea. But I've never physically threatened anyone in that school. Why should I be singled out?"


Today you are the poster boys of Satan, leading examples of gun craziness, symbols of the virus racing through our blood-soaked culture. You made the cover of Time as "The Monsters Next Door."

But your moment of infamy is passing. Tomorrow it will be someone else. A racist in Illinois. A handyman in California. A day trader in Georgia.

Your legacy is fear and grief and nightmares. Parents in mourning. A brave teacher slain as he sought to save kids. Young lives cut short. Others scarred and savaged by the attack, some trapped in bodies that no longer work right.

It is all so horrific that some people would like to erase all trace of you, dreading that you will attain cult status--especially in cyberspace, where there is something for everyone. Yet it seems best to remember your cruelty as proof of what raw-boned boys can do when they put their damaged minds to it. People may loathe you or forgive you, attempt to explain you or dismiss you, but the cruelty is a revelation to us all.

How to honor the people you murdered and injured has become a matter of paramount importance. It has sparked an outpouring of compassion and financial help and a ring of Web sites pledged to "Remember Forever." Some of the tributes are tacky. Some celebrate the dead as heroes and martyrs. These are easy labels that those who knew them best have resisted--not just because, like all of us, they led imperfect lives, but because they deserve to be remembered for who they were, not simply as victims.

Something to remember: They were at school that day because that was where they went to learn and work and grow. Until the moment you arrived, they relied on the kind of unwritten contract that makes civilization possible. They thought that their school was safe, that adults knew how to deal with injustice and violence in their midst.

They were under the impression that, whatever accommodations they had to make to get along at Columbine, the rules didn't include mass murder.

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Back to School

By Alan Prendergast

Thursday, October 25, 2001

The Fire Last Time

They dreamed of fire.

It would be a cleansing fire, fueled by propane, gasoline, gunpowder, homemade napalm -- and their own savage hatred. Explosion after explosion, building to a conflagration that would settle all arguments and consume hundreds, perhaps thousands of lives.

At first, when the fire was just a revenge fantasy flickering in the fevered brains of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, they thought about ways they could escape retribution for the killing. There had to be some island where they could find sanctuary, a tribe somewhere that would embrace their kind. But as the plan hardened, practical considerations dictated a suicide mission. They did not want to be taken alive.

If, by some strange luck, they survived the annihilation of Columbine High School, they would take the campaign to the streets. Harris was full of notions about how to boost the body count, which he scribbled in his journal. One idea was to hijack a plane and fly to New York City.

And then crash the plane into a skyscraper.

Days after the Columbine massacre of April 20, 1999, investigators dismissed the hijacking scheme as just one more example of how unhinged the two killers were. Everybody knew that two teenagers didn't have the sophistication or the resources to engineer such an unimaginable catastrophe. No, something like that, if it was even remotely possible, would require professional terrorists, specially trained for the job.

But Harris and Klebold were terrorists. Amateurs, certainly, with an imperfect understanding of explosives and timers -- if the bombs they planted in the school cafeteria had worked, they could have killed more people than the Oklahoma City bombing -- but terrorists just the same. The differences between what they did and the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon are dramatic, but they're chiefly matters of scale and ideology. In both cases, the object was to commit not just a crime, but an act of war, a kamikaze strike that would end in the fiery deaths of the attack force and as many civilians as they could take with them.

Although it was the worst school shooting in American history, the attack on Columbine was essentially a failure. The toll was "only" fifteen dead, including the gunmen, and two dozen wounded. (Small comfort for the injured -- some of whom face a lifetime of surgeries and rehabilitation -- and the families of the dead.) Yet there is much we can learn from the failures of Harris and Klebold, just as we are beginning to learn from the hideous success of the September 11 attacks.

In recent weeks, the talking heads have saturated the airwaves with their musings on "the new face of terror." But we have seen this face before, in different guises. We've seen it in a yearbook photo taken in the suburbs, graced with an awkward, I've-got-a-secret half-smile. We've seen it in grainy surveillance video of an adolescent commando strutting through the wreckage of his high school, trying to act out the Tarantino-style shootout playing in his head. But nobody recognized that face for what it was until it was too late.

Do we recognize it now?

Pieces of Hate

The truth about Columbine has emerged slowly over the past thirty months. Much of it has been pried loose, piece by painful piece, from reluctant school and police officials, who have refused to discuss the stickier details about what their agencies knew about Harris and Klebold before the massacre or how they responded once the attack began.

The battle over information dates back to the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, when parents waited for hours -- and, in some cases, days -- for confirmation that their children had been murdered. It took Jefferson County Sheriff John Stone's office more than a year to release its official report on the shootings -- a tidy, self-serving CD-ROM package that didn't begin to address the most troubling questions about the attack ("The Lost Command," July 13, 2000).

By the second anniversary, thanks to a lawsuit filed by families of the dead and wounded, the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office had been forced to release 11,000 pages of police reports and witness interviews, as well as recordings of 911 calls and school surveillance videos -- raw evidence that was considerably at odds with the official version of events presented in the sheriff's report. Last spring, 60 Minutes II aired proof that even though the sheriff's office had more prior knowledge about Harris's bomb-making activities than the department had admitted, it had mysteriously dropped its investigation ("Lights, Camera...No Comment," April 12).

The broadcast caused a furor in local media circles and put pressure on the department to release other Columbine documents. Over the past six months, as a result of ongoing open-records requests filed on behalf of the families, CBS News and Westword, nearly 5,000 additional pages have been made public, including formerly "misplaced" witness interviews and some of the ballistics data that Columbine parents have been seeking for more than two years.

The most recently released documents don't answer all the questions about Columbine. Some pieces of the puzzle are still missing, lost, or locked away in the county's evidence vault. They may never become public -- except, perhaps, through the lawsuits filed against the sheriff's office and the school district by the victims' families. Those cases have been in limbo for months, awaiting a ruling by U.S. District Judge Lewis Babcock on the government's motions to dismiss.

Still, the documents reveal a great deal. We now have glimpses of the extensive planning involved in the attack and of the wide range of people who knew something about the plan -- most of whom, unfortunately, didn't believe it would ever be carried out. We also have a more disturbing picture of the massive five-hour rescue effort that drew hundreds of cops and emergency workers to the high school. Although the law-enforcement agencies involved still aren't talking, the police actions taken that day now appear to have been even more chaotic and ineffective -- and, in some instances, more reckless -- than has previously been reported.

Harris and Klebold attracted little attention as they planned their apocalypse. Family, friends, even enemies chalked up their increasingly odd behavior as so much teenage nonsense -- a phase, a pose. Some students saw them as "living in their own world," one populated by video games and violent fantasies. Blowing up the school, crashing a plane into a building...ridiculous, no?

But it was the people around them who were dreaming. One April morning, the alarms started shrieking, and there was a sad and terrible awakening.

The No Sports

Excerpt from police interview of Columbine graduate Greg Hydle, May 4, 1999: "Greg stated that he was the student body president so he was around the school a lot...he had been on both the golf and baseball teams, and he knew what went on with other kids in school.

"I asked Greg what that meant, and he stated that all the sports type kids referred to the Trench Coats as the 'no sports.' Greg knew that these kids got picked on all the time, and that most of it was done by the football team. He believed it was just because they were different.

"Greg then stated that he knew about Eric and Dylan talking about blowing up the school, because it was the big rumor for two years. I asked Greg if school officials knew about the threats, and he stated that he had heard that they did, but no one took it seriously."

Twelve days before the attack, custodian Jay Gallentine arrived at Columbine shortly before five in the morning, only to find that the locks of every door leading into the high school had been glued shut. Gallentine heard voices and footsteps on the roof, then silence. He called the police and set about getting the locks replaced.

An inspection of the roof revealed that someone had spelled out the word "seniors" in duct tape across a large glass skylight. Later that same day, Jeffco sheriff's deputy Neil Gardner, the resource officer assigned to Columbine, reviewed video taken that morning by security cameras outside the school. The tape showed two male suspects in dark clothing, including gloves and masks or hoods of some kind.

The case was never solved, but odds are pretty good that the rooftop ninjas were Klebold and Harris. On his Web site, Harris boasted of how the pair executed various nocturnal "missions" around their neighborhood, vandalizing houses and detonating pipe bombs in ditches, even pouring epoxy into locks on occasion: "Anyone pisses us off, we do a little deed to their house. Eggs, teepee, superglue, busyboxes, large amounts of fireworks, you name it and we will probly or already have done it....Its sort of a night time tradition for us."

Was the roof-prowling a senior prank? A way of testing the school's security? A dry run for what was to come? It may have been all three. Klebold and Harris had been stretching their limits and refining their plan -- building bombs, acquiring guns and ammo, studying the school layout, making other preparations that often passed for more innocuous activities -- for months before the attack.

The conventional wisdom about Columbine is that the attack came out of nowhere, and thus there was no way to prevent it, no way to prepare for it. Yet at the time the planning began, nearly a year earlier, Klebold and Harris were already in a juvenile diversion program for burglarizing a van. Randy and Judy Brown had reported Harris to the police for threatening to kill their son Brooks and had provided the cops with pages of Harris's Internet rantings. A Jeff-co sheriff's bomb investigator had linked a pipe bomb found in a field with the kinds of bombs Harris described in his writings and had drafted a request for a search warrant.

The official explanation of why the Brown complaint wasn't pursued keeps changing. The sheriff's office has suggested that the detective assigned to the case was overwhelmed with more pressing matters, including a serial ax murderer, but an official log of his investigations for that time period shows an unremarkable workload, including several fraud-by-check cases. The sheriff's office has told reporters that its computer experts couldn't access Harris's Web site, even though it was still up and running months later. (In the hours after the massacre, it was available to any curious twelve-year-old with a mouse.) The sheriff's office has also said that its investigator never met with the Browns and couldn't link the complaint to any bomb cases in the county. Both assertions are contradicted in the search-warrant affidavit -- which the agency failed to disclose until a judge ordered its release, two years after the attack ("Chronology of a Big Fat Lie," April 19).

Whatever the real reasons, the case was not a priority for Jefferson County. Back in 1998, bounced checks trumped bombs. It isn't clear to what extent the sheriff's office even recognized -- or bothered to share with Deputy Gardner or officials at Columbine High -- the subtler nuances of the Harris writings ("you all better fucking hide in your houses because im comin for EVERYONE soon, and i WILL be armed to the fuckin teeth and i WILL shoot to kill and i WILL fucking KILL EVERYTHING!"). This inability to share basic information about death threats became an intelligence failure of staggering proportions.

The refusal to investigate becomes even more galling when you realize that, besides being on probation, Harris and Klebold also had an extensive disciplinary record at school. The full extent of that record has never been made public, but you catch glimpses of it in the reams of interviews police conducted after the massacre. The two were suspended, along with another student, for hacking into the school's computer system to obtain locker combinations (which were used to place a threatening note in an enemy's locker). According to their pal Nate Dykeman, they'd also been helping themselves to school computer parts from a locked room, and Klebold's father made him return one stolen laptop.

They got into fights with classmates; Klebold was known to swear at teachers, struck a female supervisor at work and may have threatened one developmentally disabled student. A dean of students who'd had them in his office several times told police "that he was not totally shocked that Dylan and Eric did this because in his dealings with them he saw the potential for an 'evil side'...that there was a violent, angry streak in these kids and they tried to make a statement and to bring down [Columbine] because they wanted the rules their way."

Read a few dozen of these interviews, and you get the impression that everyone was holding their breath, waiting for these potential evils to graduate. But in the larger scheme of things, the pair's transgressions weren't that notable. Columbine was no blackboard jungle, yet it was hardly the peaches-and-cream suburban refuge it's been made out to be in countless articles about the massacre. Like any large high school, it had bigger crime problems than locker-number thieves. During the year leading up to the massacre, the place drew dozens of police calls, for everything from burglary and underage drinking to narcotics and sexual assault. Ninjas on the roof may have seemed like the least of their worries.

Still. If folks in the sheriff's office or the school had bothered to track down the correct Web address for the Harris site, then poked around the site itself, they might have come across a document titled "The Book." First disclosed in Westword two years ago, its authenticity since verified through the release of other documents, the three-page account vividly describes Harris's experiments with different types of bombs, shrapnel and napalm. It also makes references to the "pre-war era" and the impending apocalypse, also known as "NBK" -- short for Natural Born Killers, a movie that Harris and Klebold had practically memorized.

The authorities might have read the treatise and wondered what war the writer was preparing for. They might have taken the masked pranksters on the roof more seriously. But it didn't happen that way, of course.

Klebold and Harris wore masks on many occasions. They revealed themselves only when it no longer mattered.

When the shooting started, many students thought they were witnessing a senior prank. Some even described the gunmen as masked. Those accounts were later discounted because of the many other descriptions of two bare-faced killers.

But those witnesses didn't imagine things. Found outside the school's west entrance, next to Eric Harris's trenchcoat, which he shed as he started shooting students: a green knit ski mask and gloves.

Why So Blunt?

Handwritten statement provided to police by Columbine student Eric Veik, April 22, 1999: "I met Eric & Dillon 1st semester of my junior year (August 98). Eric was a part of my video productions class...

"Dillon & Eric needed a business video for another class. They created this idea and asked me to film it. It was 'Hitmen for Hire.' Dillon & Eric were the hitmen, I was the victim & [another student] was the jock harassing me. They used replicas of guns & spoke of killing in the video. I never heard if this video was successful...

"I was learning about videos fast and was able to help them on one last video...Filming got started, and I noticed they put more on this video than I thought they would. They were swearing, smoking, and more serious about it. I played along. When I asked 'Why so blunt,' they said, 'Who cares, [the video class teacher is] the only person that is going to see it and he won't care...'

"We were a small group of people going from town to town stopping radioactive clothing from taking over the world. They were very serious about this. Eric was using military strategy in parts of this...The movie ends with a very large explosion from a house that was put in using editing technology. No explosives or live ammunition were used."

Hiding in Plain Sight

Sometimes they wore masks. But they were also advertising their intentions by every means possible: Internet, school assignments and videos, yearbook inscriptions, good old word of mouth.

Lots of people knew, for example, that Harris and Klebold had a passion for explosives. They blew up fireworks behind the pizza parlor where they worked, and Harris once brought one of his pipe bombs to show other employees. To his closest friends, such as Nate Dykeman, he confided that his parents had found one of his bombs and taken it away from him.

Several students had also heard of the enemy lists Harris and Klebold were compiling. In the fall of 1998, Harris wrote notes to a girl in his German class, informing her that her boyfriend was near the top of his "hit list": "I just don't want the little fuck going to [administrators] or the cops and start whining that we are threatening him or intimidating him, because if I get in ANY more trouble with the cops I will fucking lose it."

At the end of his junior year, Harris wrote a long, Nietzschean epistle in the same girl's yearbook: "Anyone who shows more thoughts or emotion than the norm is said to be so weird or crazy, wrong! They are just more in touch with their humanity...People are funny, they want to be accepted. Don't be afraid to judge people."

At the bottom, next to a drawing of a machine-gun-toting commando, he added a portentous postscript: "If anything ever happens to me, publish this page!!"

Klebold wrote an admiring essay about Charles Manson for one class, comparing him to the Woody Harrelson character in Natural Born Killers. ("The question of whether or not he is insane is a question of opinion, which cannot have a 'true' right answer.") A few weeks before the attack, he wrote another school paper about a trenchcoated avenger who guns, knifes and blows up a group of mocking "preps": "The man smiled, and in that instant...I understood his actions."

His teacher was so appalled at the cruelty of the story that she spoke to his parents about it. "They did not seem worried, and made a comment about trying to understand kids today," she reported to the police after the shootings.

For the same creative-writing class, Harris wrote an essay from the point of view of a bullet fired from a gun. In psychology class, invited to submit dreams for analysis, he told classmates that he dreamed about shooting people.

School officials have maintained that all of these "warning signs" seem sinister only with the advantage of hindsight, that there was no way to put together the random clues Klebold and Harris were doling out to various teachers and friends. After all, plenty of adolescents write gory stories. Some think it's hilarious to pose as if aiming a gun at the camera, as Klebold and Harris encouraged several of their pals to do for a yearbook class photo. But the record they left behind -- filled with "a lot of foreshadowing and dramatic irony," Harris noted in one videotape -- was more extensive and less ambiguous than authorities have acknowledged.

The videos they edited in the school lab, in full view of other students and possibly the instructor, included not only the "Hitmen for Hire" commercial, but several others involving simulated explosions and weapons. One was a home movie of the two teens in the mountains, blasting away with their sawed-off shotguns. According to a police report, computers seized from the school after the shootings contained "several graphics files that appear to be bomb-making plans," as well as "several dozen student video projects, many of which appeared to depict violence or guns."

Friends bought their guns for them. Mark Manes, who sold Klebold a TEC-9 semiautomatic pistol and went with the pair to the mountains for target practice, couldn't help but notice that their shotguns were "way, way too short." Honor student Robyn Anderson fronted for them on the shotgun purchases and later boasted to a male friend of landing Klebold as a prom date: "I convinced my friend Dylan, who hates dances, jocks and has never had a date let alone a girlfriend to go with me! I am either really cute or just really persuasive!"

Posters around the school announcing the prom consisted of a cryptic message, designed to intrigue: "It's coming! 4/17/99." On several posters someone crossed out the number 17 and replaced it with a 20.

In videos Harris and Klebold made and intended to be discovered after their deaths, the so-called basement tapes, they show off their arsenal and discuss their plans. They make farewell speeches and thank their friends, as if they're attending an awards ceremony. They lash out at their parents, the cop who arrested them in the van break-in and various "bitches" who didn't return their phone calls, as if Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold are the real victims of the atrocity they are about to commit. Harris manages to squeeze out a few tears. (The role of self-pity in acts of mass murder has, perhaps, been grossly overlooked.)

Leaked to Time and then screened for local media on only one occasion, the basement tapes are only part of the goodbye-cruel-world messages the gunmen left for the cops. Harris's journal and other writings and recordings -- including an audiotape found at Harris's house featuring the voices of the killers talking about the "day that will be remembered forever" -- have never been released.

The day before the shootings, three students from the video production class were filming in a hallway at Columbine. They came across Harris, who was sitting outside the west doors -- the same spot where the killing would begin 26 hours later. He was writing or drawing something on white sheets of paper. They asked him what he was doing.

"Planning for tomorrow," he said.

One of the video crew laughed. "Well," he said, "if the school blows up, we'll know who did it."

Eric Harris? Never Heard of Him

Excerpt from Critical Incident Team interview of Deputy Neil Gardner, school resource officer, by Arvada police detective Russ Boat-right, April 20, 1999, 5:35 p.m.:

RB: Okay. The suspect that you saw that you exchanged gunfire with, was he Dylan?

NG: I believed him to be Dylan...He was more in stature of Dylan 'cause Dylan's a lot taller than Eric Harris.

RB: But you wouldn't know Eric Harris, correct?

NG: I didn't know till I saw a picture of him.

RB: Okay. Did you recognize him from the photo, then?

NG: No.

RB: Okay, so you really don't know this kid at all.

NG: I had never dealt with Eric Harris.

Oh, Wait. That Eric Harris...

Excerpt from a press release issued by the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, April 30, 1999, regarding actions taken by the agency in response to the 1998 report of Eric Harris's death threats and bomb-making activities:

"School Resource Officer Deputy Neil Gardner was briefed as to the information [in the Brown complaint] by Investigator Mike Guerra. Deputy Gardner with this knowledge occasionally engaged Harris and Klebold, along with several of their friends and associates, in light conversation. Deputy Gardner made no observations of inappropriate behavior and has stated that both Harris and Klebold treated him with appropriate respect."


In the aftermath of the attack, investigators promised to assemble a "minute-by-minute" account of the massacre and the police response. They reviewed 911 and dispatch tapes, fire alarm data, the cafeteria surveillance video and other electronic sources and compared them with the recollections of hundreds of witnesses.

The official timeline, presented in the sheriff's report a year later, has been disputed by several Columbine families. They charge that the timeline leaves out important events, including the arrival of three Denver SWAT officers on the west side of the school in time to engage one of the shooters in a brief gun battle. They also point out that the timeline is contradicted by material in the dispatch tapes, accounts of responding officers and other evidence, such as a computerized log of purchases recorded by the cafeteria cash register. (According to the register's receipts, adjusted ten minutes by investigators to reflect the "real" time, student Rachel Scott bought her lunch three minutes after the timeline says she was shot and killed by the gunmen outside. Jefferson County officials say the cash register readout was never properly synchronized with the dispatch time.)

Even if you accept the official timeline as gospel, the picture that emerges of law enforcement in action that day is a dismal one. Match up the timeline with the reports of officers arriving on scene, and the picture grows ever blacker:

11:19 a.m. Attack on Columbine begins. Reports of shooting outside the school and an explosion in a field nearby. Two students are killed in the first few minutes of the attack and seven others wounded. Number of police officers on scene: 0.

11:26 a.m. Deputy Gardner pulls into the south parking lot and reports shooting in the building. Number of officers on scene: 1.

11:29 a.m. After exchanging shots with Gardner outside, Harris retreats into the building. He and Klebold head for the library, where teacher Patty Nielson, wounded at the west doors, is already on the phone with a 911 dispatcher. Number of officers on scene: 7.

11:37 a.m. Klebold and Harris exit the library, leaving behind ten dead and twelve wounded, and start shooting up the halls. Number of officers on scene: 20.

11:45 a.m. A fire breaks out in the cafeteria as the gunmen attempt to set off their propane bombs. Hundreds of students and teachers are still trapped in the building. The number of officers on scene is now at least 50.

12:01 p.m. From the windows of the library, the gunmen fire on police and rescue workers outside. Police return fire. There are now more than 75 officers on scene.

12:08 p.m. Harris and Klebold kill themselves in the library, moments after the first SWAT team enters the opposite side of the school. Police will not discover the killers' bodies for more than three hours.

1:09 p.m. A second SWAT team enters on the west side of the school.

2:38 p.m. Wounded student Patrick Ireland crawls out a library window and is caught by SWAT officers on top of an armored car.

2:41 p.m. Responding to phone calls for medical aid that began three hours earlier, the second SWAT team finally locates wounded teacher Dave Sanders and numerous students and teachers in an upstairs science room. Sanders dies before a paramedic can be brought to the room.

3:22 p.m. SWAT officers enter the library, the last room to be reached. There are now more than 350 police officers on scene.

Asked by reporters why the first responding officers didn't pursue the shooters into the school, why they waited for a SWAT operation that took hours to stage, Sheriff Stone explained that the situation was just too dangerous.

"We were way outgunned," he said.

The Bullet in the Backpack

Police officers didn't enter the school for nearly an hour after the attack started. But their bullets did.

According to the sheriff's report, twelve officers fired a total of 141 times at Columbine that day. Three Denver SWAT veterans fired 105 of those rounds. Most of the police gunfire was in response to shooting by the gunmen from the west doors or the library windows. None of the shots hit Klebold or Harris.

Whether one of those bullets might have found another target is the central question behind the lawsuit filed by the parents of Daniel Rohrbough, who was killed outside in the early stages of the attack. Brian Rohrbough, Danny's father, contends that his son, already wounded by Klebold and Harris, was fleeing the gunmen when the fatal bullet was fired from the front by a police officer. Stone's office has denied the allegation, insisting that no police were even on the scene at the time Danny was slain.

The bullet was never recovered, and the question may ultimately be settled in a courtroom, where a jury will have to sort through testimony from dueling ballistics experts and the conflicting memories of eyewitnesses. Recently released documents show that the Colorado Bureau of Investigation was unable to establish through forensic tests that Klebold shot Rohrbough at close range, as the sheriff's report claims. The records also contradict the sheriff's office claim that numerous bullet fragments were found in the vicinity of Rohrbough's body; only one fragment, consistent with Harris's carbine, was collected by the evidence team.

But the Rohrbough case isn't the only murky ballistics puzzle to emerge from the Columbine investigation. The evidence teams collected a nine-millimeter shell casing from the east side of Columbine that doesn't match up with any police or suspect firearms in the case. Dismissing the discovery as irrelevant, a sheriff's office press release flatly declares, "There are no witnesses to anyone shooting on the east side of the school."

Actually, at least five students interviewed by police told similar stories of fleeing out the east doors, running to the park across the street and then seeing a figure in dark clothing emerge from the doors and fire in their direction. The shell casing may have nothing to do with the attack, but in defending its position, the sheriff's office has once again distorted the record compiled by its own investigators.

A more disturbing ballistics trail was assembled by the evidence-collection teams assigned to the battle-scarred school library. In addition to the carnage wreaked by Harris and Klebold, the area was riddled with dozens of police bullets. Several were found in the ceiling or the west window frames, indicative of officers outside firing from below at the gunmen in the windows. But at least fifteen bullets came from SWAT officers laying down cover fire outside the library as they checked on two students at the upper west doors -- one wounded, one dead.

That rescue operation took place forty minutes after Harris and Klebold committed suicide. The cops weren't firing at anything or anyone in particular -- although Terry Manwaring, the Jefferson County SWAT commander, thought he'd seen "a bad guy," or at least a reflection of some kind, before squeezing off three rounds. Police bullets went whizzing through an emergency exit at the school's northwest corner and into the library and adjacent rooms, not far from where several survivors of the massacre were still hiding or lying wounded, awaiting rescue.

There is no evidence that the police cover fire struck anyone. However, months after the shootings, investigators found a new piece of evidence in Corey DePooter's backpack, and their handling of that evidence is far from reassuring.

DePooter was the last victim killed in the library. According to police records, he was shot once by Klebold, two or three times by Harris. Only two bullets were recovered, both from Harris's gun. Despite noting a bullet hole in Corey's backpack, investigators apparently didn't inspect the pack closely until August 1999, when they found a bullet lodged in a notebook inside. They didn't inform his parents, Neal and Patty DePooter, of the find until months later, when the DePooters asked if Corey's backpack could be returned to them.

Circumstance would suggest that the bullet was one of the through-and-through rounds fired by Harris or Klebold, and that was the impression the police gave the DePooters. But there's no record that the bullet was ever tested against the gunmen's weapons for positive identification. Instead, investigators asked the CBI to compare the bullet to test-fired bullets from four police weapons of various calibers. The bullet did not match any of the four weapons.

Why was the bullet never tested against the Harris and Klebold firearms? Was there something about it that told investigators that it came from a police weapon? If so, why were only four cop guns tested? Why not the six other non-shotgun firearms discharged by police that day -- including several weapons used by officers firing into the library area?

The sheriff's office and the Jefferson County attorney declined to answer questions about the bullet in the backpack. The DePooters are not parties to any of the nine lawsuits filed by Columbine families against the sheriff's office, but they say they're frustrated with the lack of information they've received from the county.

"I gave up on getting a straight story from them," Patty DePooter says. "It changed every time we talked to them."

Brian Rohrbough knows the feeling. "I have said over and over that we would drop the lawsuit," he says, "if they would show me evidence that proves no police officer shot Dan. They don't have it. It looks like going to court is the only way we're going to find out what happened."

The Fire Next Time

So it begins again. The funerals. The grief counselors. The ribbons. The fundraisers. The signs and the vows. Never forget. Never again.

But we do forget. Tragedies mount. Compassion fatigue sets in. The world changes, and yesterday's horror can't compete.

Two years ago we were told to beware the terror next door: the overlooked teenage malcontent, armed to the teeth, who dreams of going out in a blaze of glory. Now it's the terror from across the world, global yet intimate, invading our skies, our offices, our homes.

The families who are still grieving over Columbine, still battling in a courtroom to find out what happened, are told to "get over it." But there are compelling reasons to remember the attack and to continue to ask questions about it. Just as the attacks of September 11 have changed the world of air travel, Columbine changed the world of high school -- in some ways, for the better.

The shootings sparked a wave of outreach efforts and "bullyproofing" programs designed to make school more tolerable for the most disaffected students. Both the FBI and the Secret Service published extensive studies of school shooting incidents in a quest to build safer schools. From Florida to California, several copycat plots have been foiled -- and lives saved -- by alert teachers, by students who have learned not to keep silent about troubled classmates, and by quick police work.

The Columbine investigative files themselves offer countless examples of the heightened vigilance about school violence. Police spent hundreds of hours running down possible threats that surfaced in the wake of the shootings, scrutinizing anonymous Internet chatter and tracking offhand rumors that somebody knew somebody whose girlfriend's ex-boyfriend used to hang out with the Trenchcoat Mafia. One ex-girlfriend of Harris's, who at one point was investigated for making threats in a chat room, had a seeming fleet of FBI agents at her disposal when she reported a threat against her life. If a fraction of the resources devoted to her complaint had been used to investigate the Browns' 1998 report on Eric Harris's cyberspace spewings, the entire tragedy might well have been averted.

Everything has changed. Across the country, police agencies are training patrol officers in rapid-deployment techniques so that they can respond quickly to "active shooter" situations like Columbine rather than wait for the SWAT team. More schools are implementing the kind of threat-assessment policies that the Jefferson County School District was supposed to have in place in 1999 but which the administration at Columbine all but ignored, according to former school district security officials interviewed on 60 Minutes II.

Everything has changed. But the change may be less noticeable in Colorado than elsewhere. To admit change is to admit the old ways failed, and lawyers might take that as an admission of liability. So while the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office quietly trains in rapid deployment methods, preparing for the next unthinkable event, the shift in priorities isn't reflected in the office's operating manual, which still instructs patrol officers to set up a perimeter and wait for SWAT. The rules for stopping a shooting rampage inside a large, suburban high school have been rewritten everywhere but in Sheriff Stone's book.

Over at the Jefferson County School District, administrators continue to wrestle with the threat-assessment question. Bomb threats are rarely reported in the media or even to oblivious parents and students, since to do so might encourage copycats. The district is, however, spending $10,000 to make an instructional video encouraging parents to stay away from school the next time a real crisis hits, in order to avoid getting in the way of rescue efforts.

The idea of such a video incenses Randy Brown. He says the most bitter lesson he's learned from Columbine -- from the day he contacted the sheriff's office about Eric Harris to the bungled police operation during the attack a year later -- is that parents shouldn't naively rely on law enforcement, school officials and other professionals to protect their children.

"They don't want parents involved in threat assessment, and that's a big mistake," Brown says. "Parents are the only ones who care about their children. These other people are paid to do a job, and what they care about is their jobs. They're still lying to us about what happened and withholding information."

Brown no longer has any children at Columbine. (This year's senior class will be the last to have any firsthand memories of the attack.) But he continues to press county officials to release more information about the case. He's convinced that true domestic security begins at home -- and at school.

Two weeks ago, as a result of Brown's persistent inquiries, the Arvada Police Department released 660 pages of records related to the Columbine investigation. Arvada officials say they turned over these records to Jefferson County investigators years ago. But among the materials are dozens of pages of interviews and police reports that Jefferson County had failed to release to the public, despite several court orders and open-records requests. The new releases include the first police interview with shooting victim Mark Taylor and a report by a police officer who found a bullet on Pierce Street, east of the school -- where, according to the official version of events from the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, no shooting occurred.

Another newly discovered document is a report by an Arvada detective assigned to interview neighbors of one of the gunmen's trenchcoat-wearing associates. The neighbors had generally good things to say about the teen; one woman even told the officer how the boy put plastic bunny ornaments on her tree every Easter, to the delight of her young daughter, and retrieved her cat whenever it strayed.

After the killings, police questioned the associate closely. Because of his physical resemblance to Dylan Klebold, several witnesses claimed that he was one of the gunmen. But he had a solid alibi, and there was no evidence to link him to the crime in any way. Two of his friends conspired to bring about one of the darkest days this state has ever seen, but he was innocent.

Yet even innocent people may know more about terror than they realize. According to another student who met up with the associate in the pandemonium following the attack, he was "quite angry" that day and said to her: "This has got to be Eric Harris's doing."

She told police that the associate went on to explain "that Eric Harris had told him that he was planning on doing something like this...he told her that he wished he had killed Eric before he did something like this."

Perhaps, like so many others, the associate didn't see how such a monstrous plan could ever be more than mere talk. "Evil is unspectacular and always human," W.H. Auden wrote, "and shares our bed and eats at our own table."

All it asks is that we pay it no mind.

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PostSubject: Re: Articles on the event and it's aftermath   Articles on the event and it's aftermath Icon_minitimeWed Apr 15, 2015 12:25 am

Deeper Into Columbine

By Alan Prendergast

Thursday, October 31, 2002

Memo To:
Jefferson County Sheriff John P. Stone


I know that you're a busy man. You've got a lot on your mind and only a few weeks to go before you clean out your desk. So I'll try to keep this short.

I realize, too, that you're tired of hearing about Columbine. Many people are. Folks in my business have the attention span of a hyperactive gnat, and most of them would rather move on to other horrors: the Beltway sniper, chronic wasting disease, the new fall sitcoms.

But it's different for you. On April 20, 1999, the worst high school shooting in American history happened on your watch, when seniors Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed thirteen people, injured two dozen more and then turned their guns on themselves. Your name and your department's reputation will be forever linked to this tragedy.

Frankly, one reason so many questions remain about Columbine, more than three years after the event, is that your people tried to thwart public scrutiny through a strategy of stonewall and spin control. Issuing an official report riddled with inaccuracies and glaring omissions, ducking the governor's review commission on the advice of the county attorney, lobbying state lawmakers to squash a legislative probe, cranking out self-serving press releases to fade the heat rising after each embarrassing revelation -- the basement tapes, the search warrant, the Harris diary, the confusion over who killed Daniel Rohrbough, to name a few -- all of this has done little to put the matter to rest.

Perhaps you believe that the recent settlements between the county and various families of the dead and injured, including the $1.5 million coughed up to settle the lawsuit filed by the family of slain teacher Dave Sanders, closes the book on the shootings. It may surprise you to learn that there are still lawsuits pending (although none against your office) and that there are still people searching for the truth about Columbine, some of whom discuss their concerns in the following pages.

Sheriff, have you ever managed to wade through the 16,000 pages of documents released by your office over the past two years? (Released reluctantly, I might add, trickling out over months and years in response to court orders.) I wish I knew what you think about that material; our correspondence has languished, unfortunately, ever since my last letter to you was shanghaied by the county attorney's office, which issued a predictably obfuscatory response ("More Whoppers From Jeffco," October 25, 2001). At the very least, what the ballistics records reveal about the use of police firepower that day should trouble you (see "Going Ballistic").

There are so many haunting loose ends. Take the case of Sarah Cudworth, an eighteen-year-old interviewed by an Arapahoe County investigator less than two weeks after the shootings. Cudworth told the deputy that she'd been introduced to Eric Harris in 1997 by her friend Robert Craig, a Columbine honor student who killed his stepfather and himself later that year. Like Harris, Craig was a bright, moody young man who hung out with a disaffected crowd but was not a member of the Trenchcoat Mafia. His stepfather happened to be a former sheriff's deputy.

"Sarah told me they were all drawn together by their intelligence and boredom with school," the investigator wrote in his report. "Harris had a lot of hate, but he never told her about any plans to hurt anyone. Harris did talk about how he was harassed."

Eric Harris and Robert Craig. You'd think such a startling nexus of anger and despair would require some followup, but there is no trace of any subsequent interviews with Cudworth or anyone else on that point.

Or take a more current example, if you like. Recently, gun-rights activist Duncan Philp settled a lawsuit against two of your officers for $20,000 -- an amazing sum for what seems, at first glance, to be a case of a faulty traffic ticket. Philp was pulled over by a Jeffco deputy last December on his way to a protest rally at the home of Columbine parent Tom Mauser, who has become an outspoken advocate for tougher gun laws since his son Daniel was killed in the school library by Harris and Dylan Klebold.

This was no random stop. Your deputies had Philp under surveillance that night and had compiled an intelligence file on him, not unlike the Denver Police Department's notorious "spy files." Philp beat the traffic ticket -- apparently, your deputies didn't know that a motorist doesn't have to signal a turn when pulling out of a private parking lot -- and then sued for alleged constitutional violations.

In a deposition, Don Estep, a member of Jeffco's intelligence unit and the FBI's multi-agency terrorism task force for Colorado, made several damaging admissions. He acknowledged that his unit had videotaped events the night of the protest but never logged that tape into evidence; that Philp had been cited for not having a valid Colorado driver's license when there was no proof that he was even a Colorado resident; and that a Jeffco sergeant had obtained information about Philp from the state motor vehicle database by telling a DMV official that Philp was under investigation for felony fraud, when there was no such investigation.

In another deposition in the case, investigator Kirk Beaulieu admitted that it's still policy in Jefferson County for individual SWAT members to report to headquarters, then proceed to the scene of trouble to stage a response -- a time-consuming procedure that hasn't changed since the Columbine shootings, even though other agencies' SWAT teams are trained to head directly to the scene. Beaulieu, you may recall, was one of the first SWAT guys to reach the classroom where Sanders lay dying, more than three hours after students and other teachers began trying to summon help for him.

Although the county admitted no wrongdoing in the Philp case, you can see why it was smart to settle the matter: Who needs all this dubious police work coming out in court? Small wonder, then, that Columbine families continue to doubt if your office has produced all the records it's been ordered to produce concerning the tragedy, if your people have come clean about what they know about Harris and Klebold -- and if the "lessons" for law enforcement have truly been learned.

Sheriff Stone, your work is almost done. Perhaps in the months ahead you will have the leisure to read Brooks Brown's book and find out how your campaign to discredit him devastated him and his family. Perhaps not. But take notice: The investigation of Columbine is far from over.

The Negotiator

In the aftermath of the Columbine shootings, the hunt for culprits began well before the funerals ended. By the next morning, everyone knew that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold had committed the carnage, but had they acted alone? Who supplied their weapons? What did their parents know? What role did police and school officials play in the tragedy? And what about violent video games, drugs, Marilyn Manson and other presumably pernicious influences?

There were almost as many theories of liability as there were lawyers involved in the case. And that number quickly swelled to alarming proportions.

Going to meeting after meeting of plaintiffs' attorneys, who gathered around large conference tables at law firms across the city, Steve Wahlberg began to have the uneasy feeling that he was sinking into a quagmire. The meetings featured long discussions about what claims might be filed, which court to file them in, which defendants to name and what deadlines they were up against.

Wahlberg had been brought in as co-counsel by famed bulldog Walter Gerash to help represent students Sean Graves and Lance Kirklin, both of whom had been shot and critically wounded outside the school in the early stages of the attack. It didn't take many meetings for Wahlberg to realize that his clients were facing the prospect of extremely complex, protracted litigation -- and that avoiding that process might prove even trickier.

He decided to advance what would turn out to be a controversial proposal. "I know that litigation is the hammer we will have to bring down," he announced at one meeting, "but I've got a kid in a wheelchair, Sean Graves. I was talking to him at his house last night, and he could use some kind of long-term medical trust. And I don't know if there's enough money here. If we spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on litigation -- well, I want to go on record early that I support a settlement."

Wahlberg credits Graves with keeping him focused on a fundamental truth about Columbine. No amount of punitive litigation was going to bring back the dead or help the injured recover, and most of those who had suffered the worst injuries -- including Graves (who has since regained some mobility), Kirklin, Richard Castaldo, Anne Marie Hochhalter and Mark Taylor -- would require extensive medical care. So why not find out what resources were available among the potential pool of defendants and make the best possible deal for all concerned?

"This was an idea out of the mouth of an eleventh-grader," Wahlberg says now. "Do we really need World War III? How much money do they have, and will they give it to us?"

Over the next two years, Wahlberg emerged as the point man in what he describes as a "team effort" by the lawyers of victims' families to settle Columbine. The effort was only partly successful; but in light of the differing, often opposing goals of the families involved in lawsuits, it worked remarkably well. Wahlberg's pivotal role owed a great deal to his well-established and wide-ranging contacts within Denver's legal circles, as well as his reputation for evenhandedness.

"I try to bring a level of professionalism to what I do," he says. "It's more than being diplomatic. I think it's at the core of being able to get things done. All these petty fights my colleagues get in -- I'm critical of that, because they're screwing around and wasting time."

From previous cases, Wahlberg already had working relationships with several attorneys representing potential defendants, including the parents of Harris and Klebold. He soon learned that the Harrises had a maximum of $300,000 in homeowners' insurance coverage and the Klebolds $1.3 million; that the carrier for Mark Manes, who sold Klebold his TEC-9 semi-automatic handgun, could kick in another $720,000; that Philip Duran, who introduced Klebold and Harris to Manes, could provide $250,000; and that Robyn Anderson, the honor student who fronted for the gunmen in a straw purchase of their other guns at the Tanner Gun Show, had coverage amounting to $300,000. In other words, if all the claims were settled at the insurers' policy limits, the total pool of cash available from that group would be close to $3,000,000, with a small percentage set aside to address any future claims.

Yet the logistics of any negotiation were daunting from the start. Some of the defendants were eager to settle but wanted a "global" deal with every possible litigant. Several families of the injured and dead had no attorneys and no interest in litigation, and Wahlberg was in no position to negotiate on their behalf. ("Some of the parents were separated, and some of them weren't even speaking to each other," he recalls.) And what about so-called "zone of danger" claims that might arise from people who suffered no physical injury but witnessed the attack and might assert claims of emotional distress?

The plaintiffs decided to bring in the Judicial Arbiter Group, a well-respected private mediation service made up of prominent attorneys and former judges. It would be up to JAG to contact unrepresented Columbine families, to assess the potential value of various injury claims, and to decide how to divide up the settlement funds among dozens of plaintiffs. The amount of individual awards would be confidential, so that no one family would know what the others received. The arrangement had its advantages -- particularly since JAG refused to charge even an administrative fee for its services -- but it also created a dramatic rift between the families of the injured and those who'd lost a loved one at Columbine.

Under Colorado law, damages for wrongful-death claims have a statutory cap of $366,000. Injury claims, depending on the circumstances, can be worth much more. The mediation process treated every death claim as being of equal value -- but how much is a dead child worth compared to a lifetime with a spinal cord or brain injury? The families of the severely injured had a legitimate argument that their financial needs were greater, but some of the families of the dead weren't eager to settle at any price: They wanted to go to court -- or at least to the discovery stage -- to find out what happened and why. Their attorneys hinted that an arrangement that allowed the killers' parents to fork over insurance money without digging into personal assets wouldn't satisfy all of the parties involved.

"The people with death claims had great resistance to these settlements," Wahlberg acknowledges. "They wanted a guaranteed percentage, but it was whatever the arbiter rules. I would have done a disservice to my client to treat all the claims equally. I'm sure some families didn't get very much money, in the final analysis."

But the alternative, Wahlberg insists, was much worse. "What if a jury found that Eric and Dylan are 99 percent at fault for what happened and everybody else is only 1 percent responsible?" he asks. "There's a scenario under which a jury could refuse to hold the parents or the gun suppliers responsible, and we would have lost the case. The overwhelming majority of the injured were behind the settlement."

Ultimately, the job of playing Solomon fell to JAG's Jim Carrigan, a retired Colorado Supreme Court justice and former federal judge. After months of reviewing medical records and other data, Carrigan worked out his own plan for awarding the $2.85 million put up by the various insurance companies. He lamented that an adequate settlement would require millions more. "JAG spent enormous amounts of time trying to be fair," Wahlberg says. "How can you say that this injury is worse than that one, when they're all horrible? Carrigan really wrestled with this."

By the time the details were finalized, the alliance among the plaintiffs had fractured badly. The families of five slain students agreed to settle with the gun suppliers but are still pursuing their lawsuit against the killers' parents. The family of a sixth, Isaiah Shoels, also refused to sign off on the Harris-Klebold offer and is pursuing its case against the parents, although the Klebolds' attorney recently filed a motion seeking to compel the Shoels family to accept the settlement with his clients.

Subsequent settlements followed. After U.S. District Judge Lewis Babcock threw out most of the families' claims against the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office and the school district, those defendants decided to head off future appeals by offering the litigants a modest award: $15,000 from each agency to each family. The one case against the sheriff's office that Babcock didn't dismiss, the Sanders case, was settled in August for $1.5 million. ("I always thought that was a real good claim," Wahlberg says. "They let that man bleed to death. I don't fault the family for settling, but part of me would have loved to see that one go forward.")

Several cases are still pending, including claims against one of the gun vendors at the Tanner show and Mark Taylor's lawsuit against the manufacturer of Luvox, the anti-depressant prescribed for Eric Harris. Taylor's case has been ardently contested by the drug's maker, Solvay Pharmaceuticals, but it could lead to an airing of the killers' homemade videos at trial -- the first public glimpse of the "basement tapes" since December 1999, when they were leaked to Time magazine.

For the most part, though, the lawsuits have not shed much light on what happened at Columbine. The plaintiffs won a minor victory in their settlement with Robyn Anderson, which required her to give a videotaped deposition about the gun purchases she made for the killers. "It showed how cavalier the Tanner Gun Show dealers are about the law," Wahlberg says of the tape. "Let's say I'm 21 and you're eighteen, and we walk into a liquor store together. Can we have you pick out the bottle, show them my ID, and then hand you the booze and walk out? That's how it went down with Anderson."

The plaintiffs extracted money from the killers' parents but no fresh information about the events leading up the massacre. The negotiations with the sheriff's office were just as tight-lipped.

"It's a problem," Wahlberg admits. "Trying to get information was so frustrating. I couldn't believe the way the sheriff's office treated us. But they're concerned about liability, and so are the parents of Harris and Klebold. How do you even express remorse for these other families that lost children without sounding like you're at fault? Eliminating the specter of litigation would go a long way toward letting this community heal."

Early in the Columbine litigation, Wahlberg and other interested parties went to Governor Bill Owens to see if there was a way to establish a state funding mechanism that would compensate victims and allow public officials to divulge what they knew about the tragedy without fear of lawsuits. Owens declined to intervene, and Wahlberg moved on to other concerns.

He is now serving as a consultant, without charge, to families of victims of the September 11 attacks.

The Dissenter

Most days, Brian Rohrbough can be found working in his auto-sound shop in Sheridan, a place his son Dan used to visit after school. Nothing much has changed in the past three years except that Dan is no longer there.

The shop is bright, busy and cluttered with projects. Other than the piles of court filings and other paperwork stacked in one office, there is little to indicate the waking nightmare Rohrbough has been living since April 20, 1999, the day his fifteen-year-old son was shot down on the steps of Columbine.

Suspicious of the official version of the attack from the start, Rohrbough soon emerged as the most visible spokesman for several Columbine families who've fought relentlessly to learn the true circumstances of the shootings and the police response that followed. It's been a long, bruising battle, one that has put Rohrbough at odds with Jefferson County officials, state lawmakers and others seeking a tidy "closure" to the messy tragedy. And it's far from over.

Three months ago, Rohrbough, his ex-wife, Sue Petrone, and the parents of four other slain students -- Lauren Townsend, Kelly Fleming, Kyle Velasquez and Matt Kechter -- agreed to settle their lawsuit against the sheriff's office. Because of the formidable immunity that protects government agencies from being sued for their actions, the plaintiffs believed they had little choice but to settle; the alternative was a costly appeal of Judge Babcock's dismissal of their claims and the prospect that Jefferson County would go after them for the county's own legal fees.

But even in settlement, Rohrbough's group won a key concession. The settlement states that the county won't oppose the plaintiffs if they seek access to certain sensitive Columbine materials, such as the killers' homemade videos, in connection with other litigation.

"I was encouraging my people not to settle, but no one had the stomach for it," Rohrbough says now. "No one wanted the risk of the fees. The real incentive was that we got them to open the door to us under court restrictions. We'll have the right to see the evidence under protective orders."

Rohrbough believes that a review of those portions of the investigation that haven't been disclosed to the public could help answer a range of questions about the killers' actions, what school employees and police officials knew about them before the attack, and what the police did after the attack was under way. "We want to know a lot of things," he says. "Who gave the orders not to go in? What was the real chain of command? Why did they lie to me about what happened to Dan?"

The changing stories about his son's death have been particularly galling to Rohrbough. The sheriff's investigators initially told him that Dan was wounded by Klebold, fell to the steps, then was killed by him at close range minutes later. The scenario didn't match up with the available ballistics evidence, and Rohrbough resisted it from the start. "Dan wouldn't have just laid there," he insists. "He would have struggled, because he wasn't Klebold and Harris. He wanted to live. There was no bullet, no shell casings to support their claims. But it wouldn't have occurred to me that it might have been a police officer without Jim Taylor."

Hours after the shootings, Arapahoe County deputy Jim Taylor told Sue Petrone that he'd seen Dan killed. Taylor and his wife had been friends of Petrone's for years, and his story -- later recounted on tape -- included several persuasive details, even though it clashed with the official version, which stated that Dan was shot before any police officers arrived on the scene. Taylor's account, along with other unreconcilable details in the physical evidence, prompted Rohrbough and Petrone to accuse a Denver SWAT officer of mistakenly shooting their son during the chaotic effort to rescue students.

The allegation angered law-enforcement officials and brought a wave of hate mail to Rohrbough's door. Cited as an eyewitness in court filings, Taylor at first denied that he'd ever told Dan's parents such a tale. Confronted with the tape of the conversation, which Petrone had secretly recorded, he told an internal-affairs investigator that he'd been "trying to console the family" and "help with the grieving" by placing himself at the scene of Dan's death ("There Ought to Be a Law," March 7). Arapahoe County Sheriff Pat Sullivan fired him two days later.

As it turned out, both Taylor and the Jeffco investigators were wrong. Last spring, an independent probe conducted by the El Paso County Sheriff's Office concluded that Harris, not Klebold, had killed Dan in the early stages of the attack ("In Search of Lost Time," May 2). Less than a day after Rohrbough's settlement with the sheriff's office was finalized, he and Petrone filed suit against Taylor for defamation and outrageous conduct.

Rohrbough says the suit is necessary to untangle fact from fiction in Taylor's account. "We've waited for him to come and tell us why he lied to us, and he hasn't," he says. "He's caused us a tremendous amount of injury and expense. He implicated police officers in the death of my son by his statements. He implied that the timeline was a complete lie -- and he had credible information. The lawsuit has to do with accountability and an explanation for his actions.

"All the people lying to me about Columbine are police and school officials. It's like everybody had their own agenda, and I don't know what it is. If it was just sloppy police work, then they owe my family an apology."

Rohrbough expects to be thumped in the court of public opinion for filing yet another Columbine-related lawsuit; Sheriff Stone and other previous targets have claimed that the parents are simply "greedy" or looking for someone to blame. But for the families of the dead, the lawsuits have never been about money; if that were the case, they would have joined in the settlement Wahlberg negotiated with the killers' parents. Rohrbough's group refused to sign without being given an opportunity to question the parents concerning what they knew about their sons' activities. Discussions with the attorneys for the Klebold and Harris families are now at an impasse, Rohrbough says, and he expects the case to proceed to trial.

"I believe they had warning signs," he says. "I believe they rolled the dice, thinking it was close to the end of the school year and they could get their children through it, with total disregard for the other people in that school. They've chosen to lie about what they know, through third parties, and to pretend they didn't know anything."

Recently, the Klebolds went to court to oppose the release of Dylan's juvenile probation records, stemming from the teens' arrest for breaking into a van in early 1998. Harris's file has already been leaked to the Rocky Mountain News, and his parents have stated that they won't oppose public release of the records. But both couples have fought to keep their sons' writings and homemade videotapes under wraps, citing a concern that the tapes may inspire copycat killers, and they have repeatedly declined requests for media interviews or private meetings with the victims' families. Their long silence may be a result of the ongoing litigation, as Wahlberg suggests, but Rohrbough says it's also a primary reason the lawsuits continue to drag on.

"They've never had the decency to talk to the parents," he says. "The insult to injury is the premise that they're somehow in the same category as the families of the victims in terms of their right to keep things private, and they're not. They raised a murderer; none of us did. Yet we've lived our lives under a microscope, and no one even knows who they are."

The Survivor

When Brooks Brown graduated from Columbine in the terrible spring of 1999, he still owed the school ninety hours of community service for smoking on school grounds. He figures he's paid off at least part of the debt by writing a book about the massacre and its aftermath, No Easy Answers: The Truth Behind Death at Columbine, which just arrived in bookstores.

Over dinner at a Littleton sports bar, Brown is expansive, confident, somber -- a 22-year-old author who's already had more experience in the public eye than most writers will experience in a lifetime. "The worst things that happen to you build the most character," Brown says. "I slowly learned that over the past three years and wanted to put that in book form."

Brown's own struggle with the mysteries of Columbine revolves around two life-altering events. In 1998, he discovered that his classmate Eric Harris had posted violent writings on his Web site, boasting of building pipe bombs and threatening to kill people -- including Brooks Brown. Brown's parents, Randy and Judy Brown, took the Web pages to the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office. It was the only serious attempt by anyone to alert authorities that Harris was dangerous.

The second event came thirteen months later. Minutes before the attack began, Brown ran into Harris in the school parking lot. Harris was pulling duffel bags out of his car. "Brooks, I like you now," Harris told him. "Go home."

Brown says he suspected that a school prank was in progress. He headed down Pierce Street, debating whether to skip his next class. Then he heard gunshots, and nothing was ever the same.

In the orgy of scapegoating that followed, his bizarre encounter with Harris became a source of endless speculation and suspicion. Classmates shunned him. School administrators tried to discourage him from finishing the year with the rest of his class. Investigators grilled him and attempted to persuade his parents that he was a threat to their safety. Sheriff Stone branded him a "potential suspect" on national television.

Brooks and his parents embarked on a tortuous journey to clear his name and find out what happened to the complaints they'd filed about Harris months before, a journey that continues to this day.

Co-authored with Rob Merritt, an Iowa journalist Brown met on the Internet, No Easy Answers is largely Brown's own story, a work of recollection and meditation rather than reportage -- the story of a rebellious, Ayn Rand-reading adolescent who became an outcast in a school where jocks rule, narrowly avoided the killing spree, then was left to cope with his own guilt-by-association notoriety. It's also a soul-searching inquiry into what could possibly lead two fellow outcasts, kids he thought he knew well, to commit mass murder.

"I know plenty of kids who drew pictures of the school blowing up," Brown says now. "It was a joke. It became commonplace. A lot of kids share the situation Eric and Dylan were in, but they won't do what these two did. The fact is, Eric was beyond rage about things, all kinds of things. How he got that way is something people need to think about."

As his title suggests, Brown offers no definitive answers to explain away the tragedy. But the book does provide glimpses of the childhood of Dylan Klebold, a lonely, introverted youth Brown first met in grade school, and a more shadowy portrait of Eric Harris. It also paints a grimmer picture of the bullying situation at Columbine than school officials will ever concede. One memorable passage recounts how a group of seniors would "go bowling" with freshmen, squirting baby oil in the halls and then sending victims sliding into other students or crashing into lockers.

Brown insists that he witnessed such activities himself. "I was tall, so I blended in," he says. "It didn't happen to me, but it happened to people I knew. This one girl broke her leg."

But bullying has never been an adequate explanation for what happened at Columbine. You might as well blame video games or rock music, two bogus "causes" that Brown soundly rejects. He also is critical of what he regards as the exploitation of the tragedy by Christian groups, including a stream of books that have characterized the victims of the rampage as martyrs of their faith.

"There are no heroes or martyrs of Columbine, period," Brown says. "Cassie Bernall wasn't a martyr; she was a kid. Dave Sanders died a horrible death. Everybody did what they could. If there were heroes, it would be the janitors, who were getting kids out despite the gunfire."

Two years after the shootings, the Browns finally learned that a sheriff's investigator had drafted a search-warrant request for Harris's house in 1998 in response to their complaints. The document, hidden until CBS News went to court to pry it loose, contradicted several statements Stone's people had made about their dealings with the Browns and raised even larger questions about why the sheriff's office failed to investigate further ("Chronology of a Big Fat Lie," May 3, 2001). It's one of many questions Brown still has about Columbine, questions beyond the scope of his book.

"I want to know what Eric's and Dylan's parents knew," he says. "I want to know if any of their friends knew this was going to happen. I want to know what happened with the search warrant. And I want to know why the people in Jefferson County don't give a damn that the cops won't protect you when something like this happens."

Brown's book ends with a call for a wider dialogue about the roots of violence, one that would include more young people and those who, as he puts it, "think outside the norm." Toward that end, he's set up his own Web site for discussion of nonviolent protest ([You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] He's also acquired an interest in filmmaking after assisting Michael Moore in the making of his documentary, Bowling for Columbine. (He's visible but not identified in the movie's Kmart sequence, in which Moore and former Columbine students shame the chain into discontinuing sales of handgun ammo.) Recently, director Gus Van Sant (Drugstore Cowboy, To Die For) contacted him about possibly serving as a consultant on a feature film dealing with school shootings, one of several Hollywood projects in various stages of development that could keep the issues of Columbine before the public for years to come.

Poised to set out on a book tour, Brown isn't finished talking about Columbine; if anything, he's just starting. "If this book does well, I might do another one," he says. "There's so much about this that people don't understand."

The Contender

Unless he's really, really busy, Russ Cook answers his own phone. It's a habit that has earned the Golden police chief high marks from reporters over the years -- and left some of them wondering what he's trying to pull. Who ever heard of a cop who actually welcomes calls from the press?

Cook insists it's no act. He figures if he's forthright and candid, then the media will give him a fair hearing. "I won't engage in spin control," he says. "Obviously, if we did something, we're going to try to explain our side of it and put our best front forward -- but not to the degree to hide something. You don't want it to look like some goofball game. We serve the public. The truth should come out, and we should learn from what comes out."

As the GOP candidate for sheriff in Jefferson County, Cook is the likely successor to John Stone after next week's election. He's facing two write-in candidates, but his three decades of law-enforcement experience has made him the heavy favorite in the race since last spring, when Stone decided not to seek a second term. One of his opponents, Columbine parent Steve Schweitzberger, even declared that should he win the race, his first official act would be to designate Cook as his undersheriff; Cook says he appreciates the offer but would rather have the top job, thank you.

The prospect of Cook taking the helm has raised hopes among the Columbine families of a new era of detente with the sheriff's office, an end to the bunker mentality that has gripped the agency since the massacre. "I think Russ Cook could be a real key to what we could learn," says Brian Rohrbough. "I can't see a better way for him to establish credibility than to find out what happened at Columbine and tell the families involved."

Cook responds cautiously to such a challenge. He says he realizes that the firestorm of criticism the office has received over its handling of the attack and the subsequent investigation has demoralized the troops and eroded public trust. But he's not in a position - not yet -- to promise that still-secret files will suddenly become public.

"I still don't know what the truth is with Columbine," he says. "I'm not privy to the information the sheriff's office has. I presume that most of what can be released has been released. I certainly don't want to traumatize people further."

At the same time, he adds, "At some point, I'm going to need to talk to the families. I want them to be comfortable with the sheriff's office."

Cook has long ties with many of the top commanders in Jeffco; some of them, including John Stone, worked with him on the Lakewood police force back in the 1970s. Although he's avoided attacking Stone directly, it's no secret that Cook has had his disagreements with the current sheriff. He backed Stone's opponent four years ago and has differing ideas about crisis management -- for example, to what degree an elected official should refuse to talk, "on the advice of the county attorney," when faced with demands for information about a litigious matter such as Columbine.

"The county attorney gives advice to policy-makers," he notes. "It's advice, not policy. Someone else has to decide if it's good advice or not. When you tell the public you're not releasing something for their own good, they become suspicious. And if you're trying to avoid litigation, that might be the wrong reason.

"You cannot hide behind lawyers. I've probably been guilty of the same thing, but ultimately, you're responsible. You're an elected official."

Cook doesn't expect to be making any sudden, sweeping changes in the sheriff's office. "I'm going to be very slow to make any calculated moves at all," he says. "The people who work there are longtime county employees who I've known for a long time, and I will take my time evaluating their performance."

One of the most frustrating consequences of the Columbine litigation, he suggests, is that dedicated police officers have been unable to respond directly to the questions that have been raised, unable to tell their own stories about April 20 and its aftermath. Cook would like to remove that muzzle.

"The whole department has been living under a cloud," he says. "I would like to see that cloud lifted."

The Filmmaker

Shambling on stage like a fuzzy orca, Michael Moore arrives 45 minutes late for a Denver International Film Festival panel on gun violence and cinema. Blame it on America's current climate of fear: Moore missed his flight out of Newark because of terrorist-screening overload, then got trapped on an underground train at Denver International Airport for half an hour because of a security breach.

It's a wonderful bit of irony for a guy who's just made a movie about this country's obsession with guns and the fears engendered by that obsession, and Moore can't resist chewing on it. Before the panel discussion ends, he'll sing a song about items banned from airplanes, to the tune of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" (" swords and sabers, six sticks of dynamite, five cat-tle prrrrods...").

The tone of the panel, which also features Columbine parent Tom Mauser and earnest film critics and up-and-coming directors, shifts abruptly after Moore shows up, from somber dialogue to stand-up diatribe. Soon Moore is off and running on his favorite topics: stupid white men, the stupid occupant of the White House, the stupidity of capitalism, of males in general -- an orgy of self-loathing, really, couched as a denunciation of evil Amerika.

"I think Mother Nature is going to get rid of [men] because we're becoming a menace to the planet," he says. "What good are we? Nature is just going to weed us out...That's the other defect, we're Americans... Our ethic is everyone for himself, pull yourself up by your bootstraps, beat up on the poor, me-me-me-me-me-me. As individuals, we're very generous, but when we put ourselves together as a society, it's 'Fuck you.' Folks, the fish rots from the head down. When you've got a man in the Oval Office who thinks it's okay to launch a pre-emptive strike and kill first --" [Wild applause from slavishly adoring audience].

Those familiar with Moore's previous work -- his scathing appraisal of corporate greed in his breakthrough 1989 film Roger & Me, the cheap laughs exacted from bullying petty bureaucrats in his television shows TV Nation and The Awful Truth, the rambling screeds attacking callous conservatives in his best-selling books -- will find much familiar ground in his latest documentary, Bowling for Columbine. The film is Moore's most ambitious work to date, a sprawling attempt to explore the undercurrents of violence in American society, the nation's historic attachment to firearms, the racial bias of crime coverage in the media, possible links between economic and foreign policy and school shootings, and much more.

It's also, like its creator, a huge, unsightly mess.

As Moore readily admits, his movie has little to do with Columbine. But not only is the title a come-on, it's also flat-out wrong. It's based on the premise that, since Harris and Klebold went bowling on the morning of April 20 before shooting up their school, one could just as easily blame their rampage on bowling as, say, rock music. Actually, the evidence is clear that the gunmen skipped their bowling class that morning -- a detail Moore's researchers surely uncovered, just as surely as he chose to ignore it. Facts never matter to Moore when he has a good motif to milk. (In failing to throw Brooks Brown's "freshman bowling" claim into the mix, he missed an opportunity to give the motif some actual punch.)

Some sequences work well. Interviews about Columbine with "celebrity experts" Marilyn Manson and Matt Stone, co-creator of South Park (South Park, Littleton -- what's the difference, really?), prove unexpectedly insightful. The trip to Kmart headquarters with Columbine survivors to protest sales of handgun ammo is a classic piece of Moore mau-mauing, showing the power of the media to alter corporate behavior. Much of the film, though, is preoccupied with oddball linkages that may be coherent only to Moore, such as his attempts to insinuate that the Columbine massacre owes something to the fact that Eric Harris's dad "flew planes during the Gulf War" or to the strong presence of the defense industry in Colorado.

"I'm not saying that because Lockheed Martin is the number-one private employer in Littleton, there's a direct A-to-B correlation to the mass murder at Columbine," Moore explained during a brief press conference between film festival appearances. "What I am asking is that Americans take a look at all the little pieces of the threads of violence that permeate our society. I could plop my camera down in any area, not just Denver, and show the things I showed here."

But Moore did plop his camera down here -- and came away with surprisingly little for his trouble. Perhaps he found himself in over his head with the subject of Columbine (though a triple murder in a Littleton bowling alley months later helped to keep his motif alive). In any case, as the film lurches on, Moore's off to Canada and his familiar stomping grounds in Michigan, pursuing correlations that aren't A-to-B but A-to-Z, with steps B-to-Y missing. Moore's tortured cause-and-effect logic has him chasing down poor Dick Clark, of all people, to try to scold him about his policy of hiring welfare moms for his restaurants as part of a welfare-to-work program. If Clark wasn't doing such a disgraceful thing, Moore reasons, then he wouldn't have hired one Flint mother...who could no longer properly supervise her six-year-old son...who took an uncle's handgun to school and killed a classmate. Clark, to his credit, flees the scene before Moore can work up a proper froth of indignation.

Bowling for Columbine adds a new layer of ambiguity to the blame game that Americans play over its eruptions of violence. The usual suspects targeted after the Columbine shootings -- video games, death rock, violent movies -- have changed little in the past three years, and Moore suggests that their influence is far less insidious than the nation's casual attitude toward guns and its unblinking embrace of the military-industrial complex. But Moore's own list of culprits is so broad, his rap about "collective responsibility" so glib, that it verges on gibberish. When everything is everybody's fault, it's nobody's.

The most revealing moment in Moore's documentary comes when he's jerking around a Littleton home-security expert. The man mentions Columbine -- and suddenly chokes up. For several seconds, he can hardly speak, let alone continue with his sales pitch. "There's something overwhelming about that kind of viciousness, that kind of indiscriminate killing," the man says.

Yes, there is. Some events defy easy explanation, but that doesn't mean we should stop trying to understand them. Sadly, the word "Columbine" has become a buzzword for something dark and inexplicable, while much of what happened at Columbine, and why, has yet to be told.

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PostSubject: Re: Articles on the event and it's aftermath   Articles on the event and it's aftermath Icon_minitimeWed Apr 15, 2015 12:28 am

Hiding in Plain Sight

By Alan Prendergast

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Cradling a sawed-off shotgun in his lap, Eric Harris glares into the video camera. He takes a pull from a bottle of Jack Daniel's and winces. Then he talks smack about the pathetic losers involved in school shootings in Oregon and Kentucky.

"Do not think we're trying to copy anyone," he tells some future, unseen audience. "We had the idea before the first one ever happened. Our plan is better, not like those fucks in Kentucky with camouflage and .22s. Those kids were only trying to be accepted by others."

With his parents asleep upstairs and Dylan Klebold manning the camera, Harris takes his viewers on a tour of his bedroom arsenal. On the floor, he's laid out numerous pipe bombs, a shotgun and carbine with spare clips, boxes of bullets and homemade grenades. He models his cargo pants and the slings he's devised to hold weapons. He brandishes a knife and points out a swastika carved in its sheath. He shows off a fifty-foot coil of bomb fuse hanging on the wall.

"Directors will be fighting over this story," Klebold says. "I know we're gonna have followers because we're so fucking godlike. We're not exactly human. We have human bodies, but we've evolved one step above you fucking human shit. We actually have fucking self-awareness."

Welcome, once more, to the basement tapes -- nearly four hours of posing, boasting and bitching by the obnoxious gods of self-awareness, two teenage killers-to-be named Harris and Klebold. The footage was shot in the last weeks of their short lives, the final segment just a few hours before the rampage at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999, that left fifteen dead and seriously injured two dozen more. Seized by Jefferson County investigators right after the shootings, the tapes have been sitting in an evidence vault for the past seven years, seen by almost no one -- except, of course, a small army of cops, attorneys, reporters, victims' families, expert witnesses and assorted hangers-on.

That could change soon. Following a surprising decision by the Colorado Supreme Court last fall, which held that the tapes are part of the "records" generated by the Columbine investigation, Jefferson County Sheriff Ted Mink has been wrestling with the biggest quandary of his law-enforcement career. Should he refuse to release the basement tapes on the grounds that their dissemination is still (in the words of the state's Criminal Justice Records Act) "contrary to the public interest" -- and thus prolong a five-year court battle with the Denver Post? Or should he make the hate-filled rants, along with other long-suppressed writings and recordings taken from the killers' homes, available to the world at last?

Mink has postponed announcing his decision until after the seventh anniversary of the massacre next week -- out of respect, his office says, for the victims' families, some of whom have pushed for the release of the materials while others have opposed it. But if history is any guide, he will oppose the release, sending the whole controversy back to court. County officials have treated the killers' writings and tapes as an anthrax-like deadly contagion that must not, under any circumstances, be inflicted on an unsuspecting populace.

"The Sheriff's Office is fearful that release of this information would not help the public but could potentially cause another one of these attacks," Assistant County Attorney Lily Oeffler said in a hearing before District Judge Brooke Jackson in 2002. (Oeffler, the county's point person in keeping Columbine's secrets, is now a district judge herself.) The county's position mirrors that of the parents of Harris and Klebold, whose attorneys have maintained that the tapes are private property and that their release would have a disastrous "copycat effect," inspiring more school shootings.

"Mr. and Mrs. Harris do not want the angry and vitriolic rantings of their son to be made public," Harris attorney Michael Montgomery wrote to Mink recently, "but their overriding concern is to avoid the risk that these tapes and writings might influence others to commit similar acts."

Noble sentiments, to be sure. But the lofty case for suppression has been undercut by the actions of Mink's predecessor, John Stone, who didn't seem to have a problem infecting the public with the gunmen's vitriol when it served his own purposes. Like Poe's purloined letter, like the bomb fuse Eric Harris kept on his wall and that his parents viewed as an innocent decoration, many of Columbine's remaining secrets aren't all that hidden. They have trickled out over time -- largely through the leaks, blunders and self-serving half-truths produced by the Columbine investigation itself.

Copycats and Natural Born Killers

In his official report on the massacre, Sheriff Stone used excerpts from the writings of Harris and Klebold to suggest that no one but the gunmen could be blamed for the shootings -- no one at the sheriff's office, anyway, which had failed to investigate several previous complaints about Harris. This kind of selective editing was anticipated by the killers; in one of their videos, they discuss how the cops will censor their work and "just show the public what they want."

Stone also gave a Time reporter full access to the basement tapes. Claiming to have been bushwhacked by the resulting cover story, the sheriff was then compelled to let local media types and victims' families view the tapes before locking them up for good ("Stonewalled," April 13, 2000).

Similarly, Stone's office had no qualms about sharing tidbits from Harris's journal -- "the Book of God," as Harris calls it in one video -- in presentations to select gatherings of school and law-enforcement officials. As long as the cops could control the information flow, there was no yammering about the dangers of copycats.

But it was a different story when Westword and then the Rocky Mountain News published more extensive excerpts from Harris's writings. The excerpts showed that Harris had developed detailed plans to attack the school a year in advance, while he was in a juvenile diversion program and supposedly being investigated for building pipe bombs and making death threats ("I'm Full of Hate and I Love It," December 6, 2001). Now officials were outraged that their top-secret investigation had sprung yet another leak.

So was the Denver Post. Tired of getting its ass whupped in the leak department, the Post went to court to demand the release of the rest of the materials seized from the killers' homes. Attorneys for the county and the killers' parents responded with a flurry of dire warnings about copycat effects, including one from David Shaffer, a psychiatrist and expert on adolescent suicide. In addition to a 27-page resumé, Shaffer submitted a four-page affidavit asserting the toxic nature of the basement tapes, which he hadn't seen.

Some judges involved in the Columbine litigation have uncritically embraced the copycat argument, saying the disclosure of the materials would have "a potential for harm" or, in fact, would be "immensely harmful" to the public. Judge Jackson, who ultimately may have to decide the matter, has been more skeptical. In one hearing on the basement tapes, he pointed out that there were plenty of Columbine imitators before the existence of the tapes was even disclosed. All the more reason, Oeffler responded, not to release them.

"What evidence do you have today that release of the documents is going to cause some calamity, or are we just speculating?" Jackson demanded.

"Unless you release the evidence and they actually cause the calamity, Your Honor, the question cannot be responded to," Oeffler shot back.

"Does that mean I can't, and no court can ever release them because maybe some additional copycat is going to be inspired?"

"I don't think it is a maybe, Your Honor," Oeffler responded gravely.

Yet Harris's web writings, several pages of his journals and detailed descriptions of the contents of the basement tapes have now circulated on the Internet for years, with no notable surge in copycat incidents. The problem with the copycat defense is that it is speculative and thus largely unanswerable, much like forecasting suicide clusters based on suicide coverage in the media. (It's just as speculative, perhaps, as trying to quantify the number of shooting incidents that might have been prevented by frank discussion of the Columbine tragedy.) Some of the same experts who consider the Klebold and Harris materials too dangerous for public consumption also blame the massacre in part on "the gunmen's previous exposure to violent imagery and their study of notorious criminals and tyrants." Does that mean it's time to pull Mein Kampf from the library shelves or Natural Born Killers from the video store, simply because Harris admired Hitler and Klebold took his style tips from Woody Harrelson?

In several cases, news reports of would-be school shooters note that the suspects had trenchcoats or otherwise sought to imitate Harris and Klebold -- but how many were actually "inspired" by them? It's true that the gunmen wanted their words to find as wide an audience as possible in order to attract followers; but then, they, like the sheriff's office, had an exaggerated notion of their own importance. The county's efforts to suppress the killers' writings and tapes have given them a cachet of consummate evil and menace; being taboo, they've become cool. Yet anyone who's actually seen the tapes or read the journal fragments soon recognizes that these fabled mass murderers are not gods but adolescents. Angry, scared, mocking, disturbed, bitter, pathological, deluded (fucking self-aware, mind you), emotionally stunted and deadly, but adolescents just the same. Behind the blather about being gods and kick-starting a revolution is a bottomless obsession with their own lack of status and sense of injury. Behind the bravado, a snivel.

"I don't like you," Klebold says in one of the videos, addressing two female classmates. "You're stuck-up little bitches. You're fucking little...Christian, godly little whores! What would Jesus do? What the fuck would I do?"

"I would shoot you in the motherfucking head!" Harris chimes in. "Go, Romans! Thank God they crucified that asshole."

"Go, Romans!" Klebold echoes, and the two start chanting like sophomores.

Far from adding to the hype, the leaks have helped to demythologize Harris and Klebold. Showing the tapes in their entirety could have some deterrent value, one victim's parent has suggested, removing whatever lingering mystique the killers still have.

Wayne's World and the Clueless Klebolds

In his letter to Sheriff Mink, Harris attorney Montgomery contends that the single media viewing of the basement tapes six years ago "should be deemed insure public transparency in the investigative and prosecutorial decisions of executive agencies." But what's striking about the drawn-out records battle is how little transparency there's been.

From day one, mortified county officials did their best to conceal the existence of an affidavit for a warrant to search Harris's home that was drafted a year before the shootings but never submitted to a judge ("Anatomy of a Cover-Up," September 30, 2004). They kept it under wraps for two years, until CBS News found out about it and Judge Jackson ordered its release.

Investigators lied to the media about what the sheriff's office knew about Harris and Klebold before the shootings. They gave victims' parents bad information about how their children died. In an effort to make the facts of the police response to the attack fit the official story, timelines were distorted or destroyed and dispatch logs and other key documents spirited away, in defiance of court orders and open-records requests. Small wonder that critics of the sheriff's office believe that, copycat concerns aside, the powers that be have other motives for keeping the remaining materials in the vault.

Some clues to What They Don't Want You to Know can be found in the basement tapes and in the Harris writings first published in Westword in 2001. The lads boast about how easy it is to fool adults in general and their parents in particular. They mock some of their lamer teachers, and Klebold offers a hearty fuck-you to a sheriff's deputy who, it turns out, had more contact with the pair than his department was prepared to admit. Harris exults in how easy it was to buy guns and ammo, how absurdly easy to dupe everyone around him.

"I could convince them that I'm going to climb Mount Everest or I have a twin brother growing out of my back," he says. "I can make you believe anything."

None of this is terribly complimentary to school officials, law enforcement, the supervisors of the diversion program the teens were both in -- or the parenting skills of the Harrises and Klebolds. And it raises disturbing questions about what similar revelations might be contained in other, as-yet-unreleased materials.

Evidence logs indicate that police found much more than the basement tapes and the "Book of God" when they searched the Harris home. Harris left other handwritten notes behind and at least one audio message -- a microcassette labeled "Nixon" that was left conspicuously on the kitchen counter. According to a brief internal police summary of the tape's contents, Harris can be heard explaining "why these things are happening and states it will happen Œless than nine hours [from] now.'"

But the most intriguing, hush-hush item from the Harris home is probably evidence item [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.], a green steno book found in a desk drawer. The book doesn't belong to Eric or God but to Wayne Harris, who used it to write down various matters concerning his son's mental health, errant behavior and interactions with neighbors and authorities. As a result of the confidential settlements reached in lawsuits brought against the Harrises and Klebolds by some victims' families, virtually everyone who's ever seen the steno book can't comment on its contents.

We do know one thing about item [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]: It documents more contacts between the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office and the Harrises over their son's behavior years before the shooting than the sheriff's office has ever acknowledged. In 2004, investigators working for the state attorney general's office used the steno book to track a complaint against Eric that dated back to 1997, a case for which the department paperwork had disappeared. The deputy on the case, Tim Walsh, was the same officer who arrested Harris and Klebold for breaking into a van in 1998; interviewed by investigators after the shootings in 1999, Walsh made no mention of the 1997 case.

Wayne and Kathy Harris have never given a formal interview to the police. Their chief contact with Columbine investigators occurred the day of the shootings, when officers arrived to search the house, and particularly Eric's room, despite Kathy's protesting, "I don't want you going down there." But the parents' attorneys have had extensive communication with the county attorney's office since that day, and they've joined forces with the county on numerous occasions to battle release of the steno book and other materials seized from the home. It's a cozy alliance that has troubled Brian Rohrbough, whose son Danny was murdered at Columbine and who has ended up opposing the team in court.

"Jefferson County has used taxpayer money to represent the Klebolds' and Harrises' demand that these items never be released," Rohrbough wrote in his own letter to Mink, urging him to release the materials sought by the Post. "It is long past time for you to serve the public's interest in protecting children above the private interest of two families who raised cold-blooded murderers."

Nothing akin to the green steno book was found at the Klebold home. Tom and Susan Klebold did talk to investigators; five years later, they even gave one media interview, to David Brooks of the New York Times. "They say they had no intimations of Dylan's mental state," Brooks wrote. That assertion is spectacularly at odds with accounts from school employees -- about chronic disciplinary problems, perceived "anger issues" Dylan might have had with his father, and, most of all, a class essay Dylan wrote about a trenchcoated avenger who slaughters a group of "preps," a scene so vicious that his teacher felt compelled to discuss it with his parents -- but Brooks didn't press the issue.

Written only weeks before the massacre, the essay wasn't Klebold's first foray into violent revenge fantasies. He wrote about killing sprees in his own journal, as well as thoughts of suicide, depression and his dream of ascending to a higher state of existence. The sheriff's report provides only brief references to this material, which has been more tightly guarded than the Book of God.

When the sheriff's office finally got around to releasing thousands of pages of Columbine material, a cover sheet for one section was titled "Klebold Writings." But the writings weren't released.

The High Priests

One proposed solution to the question of the killers' tapes and writings, advanced by Ken Salazar before he left the post of Colorado attorney general for the U.S. Senate, was to turn over the materials to a "qualified professional," who would author a study about the causes of Columbine while keeping the primary materials in strict confidence. The proposal soon fell apart, though, after the killers' parents refused to cooperate with Salazar's anointed expert, Del Elliott, director of the University of Colorado's Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence.

It's just as well. The notion that only the high priests of social science are qualified to handle the gunmen's toxic waste, that only the academic elite have the training, the lengthy resumés, the godlike self-awareness to process this information without becoming hopelessly contaminated, is absurdly creepy. It's Kleboldish.

Besides, there's no data to suggest that qualified researchers are any better at keeping a secret than the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office. Lack of access to the basement tapes, the Harris and Klebold journals and the green steno book hasn't discouraged amateurs and experts alike from producing "psychological autopsies" of the killers, but there are two researchers who've had unique access to all those items. The only catch is that they can't talk about it.

In the course of defending one of the Columbine lawsuits, Solvay Pharmaceuticals -- the manufacturer of an anti-depressant prescribed for Harris -- retained the services of two expert witnesses, Park Dietz and John March, who were allowed to examine confidential discovery materials, including the tapes and writings seized from the killers' homes. Dietz and March were subject to the same suffocating non-disclosure agreements imposed on parties to the lawsuits against the Klebolds and Harrises. But after the Solvay case was settled, the pair sought permission to publish their findings in a peer-reviewed journal.

Lewis Babcock, chief judge of Denver's federal district court, denied their request. In a scathing order, he pointed out that March and Dietz had made conflicting arguments about why they should be allowed to go public. On the one hand, much of the material had already leaked out; on the other, the pair claimed to have "important scientific evidence of the motives and reasons" for the massacre that had not yet come to light. If the first assertion were true, Babcock reasoned, then the experts' report would be "of no interest to the public" -- but if it contained new information, it could endanger "potential victims of those who might take encouragement" from what it revealed.

In other words, damned if you do, damned if you don't. Babcock was also unconvinced by the idea that the experts were in a better position to grasp the essence of Columbine's remaining mysteries than a layman would be. "The public is equally adept at comprehending the depravity under which Harris and Klebold labored," he wrote.

But the public's adeptness depends on having access to the facts -- not just bits and pieces of the story, but the whole ugly package. That hasn't happened with Columbine. It's been a sorry tale of lies and coverups, of stonewalling, cover-your-butt officials and oblivious parents and suffering without end. Harris and Klebold relied on just such a climate of denial and deception to allow them to plan their massacre and practically advertise it, without fear that they would ever be seen for who they were.

It's been seven years since the pair walked into Columbine for the last time, guns blazing. The world has other monsters on its mind now. Yet there are people who still contend that the words the killers left behind are so powerful, so evil that the average citizen must never hear them.

The truth hurts. But the lies can be lethal.

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PostSubject: Re: Articles on the event and it's aftermath   Articles on the event and it's aftermath Icon_minitimeWed Apr 15, 2015 12:29 am

Cho's Columbine Martyrs

By Patricia Calhoun

Thursday, April 19, 2007

It's pretty safe to say that Virginia Tech mass murderer Cho Seung-Hui never saw the basement tapes that Columbine gunmen Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold left behind. Oh, he probably read about them. But aside from a brief period of media viewings, the tapes have never been released. Officials were concerned that they might inspire copycats if the public got hold of them.

So Cho didn't see them, but he was enough of a fan of his predecessors' work to leave videos of his own — which are now all over the Internet, starting right here -- and referring to Harris and Klebold as "martyrs" to the cause.

What cause is that? The cause of deranged psychokillers who think they have cancer in their head and rich brats are to blame for their isolation and misery, apparently. Read all about it in Cho's rambling manifesto, which echoes to an uncanny degree Harris's own denunciations of Littleton's fat cats and prosperous, unself-aware popular kids who never invited him to their parties.

Do we blame the media for paying so much attention to the Columbine killers that other vengeful, disturbed young men like Cho see mass murder as their ticket to glory? Or do we try to come to terms with the emerging profile of these school shooters found in their writings and videos, which the authorities want to keep from us?

Six years ago, Westword opted for the second approach, publishing for the first time extensive excerpts (view them here) from the journals of Eric Harris that had been locked away by the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office since the day of the massacre. I still believe it's the right thing to do; taking a hard look at who these people really are and how they came by their consuming hatred helps to deromanticize them, to take away the kind of mystique that leads some to view them as martyrs.

These are issues of pathology and mental illness, ultimately. It's too early to know if something more could have been done to prevent Cho's rampage, but the record left by the Columbine killers teaches us there is plenty to learn about warning signs and escalating criminal behavior before the next "martyr" sits down with his video camera to make his tearful farewells.

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PostSubject: Re: Articles on the event and it's aftermath   Articles on the event and it's aftermath Icon_minitimeWed Apr 15, 2015 12:31 am

Forgiving my Columbine High School friend, Dylan Klebold

By Alan Prendergast

Friday, April 17, 2009

The last time Chad Laughlin saw his buddy Dylan Klebold, the two almost smashed into each other in the parking lot of Columbine High School. Laughlin was driving his Mistubishi Galant, headed off-campus with a friend for lunch. Klebold, wearing his black duster, was barreling into the lot in his Beemer. Laughlin flipped him off, by way of a good-natured greeting, then tore out of there.

It was 11:15 a.m. on April 20, 1999. The shooting and screaming began three minutes later.

Laughlin found out that something was wrong at Columbine when his mother paged him at his friend's house. Like most of the country, he watched the horror unfold on television that afternoon.

With the tenth anniversary of the attack on Columbine looming, former students and teachers, the wounded and the families of the dead, are all bracing for the expected media blitz and an onslaught of traumatic memories. But Laughlin, now 27, may have more mixed emotions about the event than most. As one of a small circle of insiders who considered Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold to be their good friends before April 20, he's thought about that day a great deal in the last few years.

"I was pretty much in denial, emotionally, for six or seven years," he says. "I knew Dylan and Eric better than most people -- particularly Dylan. And that weighs heavily, obviously."

Laughlin and Klebold were close friends in elementary school; they were both in the Challenging High Intellectual Potential Students (CHIPS) program for "gifted" children. "We were just a bunch of intellectual, dorky kids," Laughlin recalls. "We memorized the state capitals and played a lot of chess."

Klebold was a quiet, somewhat awkward kid -- but not nearly as strange as he would become a few years later. Laughlin went to private school for three years; when he became reaquainted with Klebold in their sophomore year at Columbine, he found him much more reserved, with an increasingly darker outlook on life. Although the pair gravitated toward the same social circles -- at one point Laughlin and Eric Harris worked together in a fast-food joint at the mall -- their primary interaction outside of school became the fantasy baseball league Laughlin had set up online.

By junior year, Laughlin could see the bond between Klebold and Harris tightening, to the exclusion of everyone else. The two often sat by themselves in the Columbine lunchroom, known as "the commons." They were by no means outcasts. "They were well-liked by a fair amount of people," Laughlin says. At the same time, he believes the social stratification -- and yes, bullying -- found at Columbine played a real part in their isolation.

"A lot of the tension in the school came from the class above us," Laughlin insists. "There were people fearful of walking by a table where you knew you didn't belong, stuff like that. Certain groups certainly got preferential treatment across the board. I caught the tail end of one really horrible incident, and I know Dylan told his mother that it was the worst day of his life."

That incident, according to Laughlin, involved seniors pelting Klebold with "ketchup-covered tampons" in the commons. (For another version of the incident, which Klebold may have been referencing when he wrote in Harris' yearbook of taking "our revenge in the commons," see my 2000 story, "The Missing Motive.")

Yet Laughlin is wary of the search for simple, overriding causes for the killers' pathology. He's skeptical of self-appointed authorities on Columbine; the way the media appropriated the tragedy and spun its own elaborate myths about the school and its subcultures; and the recent books that claim to explain what really happened. "I'm not a fan of the stuff coming out that's considered definitive when they're not even talking to the people who knew these guys," he says.

Certain speculations in Columbine, Salon writer Dave Cullen's widely praised account, are particularly irksome to Laughlin. He disputes Cullen's portrayal of the killers as not athletic ("Eric was a good soccer player and Dylan was a great pitcher") and scoffs at the notion that Harris was some kind of chick magnet, an assertion based largely on the account of one reputed girlfriend who investigators found to have credibility problems. Laughlin introduced Harris to one girl he dated for a year but never got serious with; he suspects both killers died as virgins.

Laughlin gave few interviews after the massacre. He "numbed himself" with partying in college and tried not to think about his own unwitting role in what happened -- for example, going to Wyoming to buy fireworks for Klebold and Harris when they were grounded for a 1998 arrest, stuff they would later use to make small bombs. He played poker professionally for a while but eventually found himself going back to school (he's now studying Chinese medicine, seeking a doctorate in California) and reading a lot more -- researching, among other things, the how and why of Columbine. He has come to see his friend Klebold as not a mere follower but a much more disturbed, angrier person than he ever suspected.

"They were both equally responsible," he says. "But if there was one who wanted to back out at the end, it was Dylan."

Laughlin says he went through "a grief cycle" about the tragedy, but is emerging with a new perspective. Wounded student Mark Taylor wrote a book about forgiving the killers; that notion was incomprehensible to Laughlin a few years ago, but he now considers it a vital step in his own journey. (For more on Taylor, see my 2007 story, "The Good Part;" for more on other Columbine survivors, see our Columbine Reader.)

"I could talk and talk, and nobody will know exactly how I felt," he says. "Like maybe I could have done something. If I wasn't so obsessed with my own life, with chasing girls around -- all of us who knew them know that we could have done something. But at the same time, we have to forgive ourselves for what we didn't do. And we have to forgive them. That's what I've come to realize in the last year or two."

Laughlin is coming home for the memorial services this weekend. He wants to find ways to help others come to terms with the legacy of Columbine and to heal. And he wants to come to a better understanding, through his own research and writing, of the boy he once thought he knew as well as himself -- but who harbored a secret rage that would spread anguish and grief over decades.

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The Columbine effect: A horrific roster of school shootings since 1999

By Michael Roberts

Monday, April 20, 2009

The most resonant information that's come my way thus far today in relation to the anniversary of the April 20, 1999 shootings at Columbine High School was contained in an e-mail sent to Westword by Vicki Newell, a public-policy director with the Colorado PTA. It's a list of school shootings since 1999, as compiled by The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. The roster gathers 108 incidents since Columbine, synopsized with chilling banality. Many of them received relatively little publicity beyond the immediate vicinity where they took place, and some didn't lead to injuries, let alone deaths. However, the word "Columbine" pops up frequently in blurbs of all types, and the term was likely invoked in the rest at one point or another. The ripples from that deadly day continue to spread, despite efforts by an enormous number of people to calm the waters.


Dearborn, Michigan. April 10, 2009. A man shot and killed a female classmate and then himself at MacKenzie Fine Arts Center on the campus of Henry Ford Community College.

Dove Creek, Colorado. April 9, 2009. Two teens who were arrested in New Mexico for burglary had planned a shooting spree at Dove Creek High School in Colorado. The teens also planned to shoot the school's principal and the superintendent, as well as the County Sheriff and Undersheriff. Police found three guns in the teenagers' possession and seven more guns at the younger boy's home.

Jacksonville, Florida. March 10, 2009. At least one shot was fired during a fight that erupted among several students at Ribault High School before classes began. Nobody was injured, but two guns were recovered.

Detroit, Michigan. February 17, 2009. A former student snuck into Central High School and was shot by another non-student at the end of the school day.

Wake County, North Carolina. February 12, 2009. A boy pulled a pistol out of his backpack and accidentally shot a 14 year old classmate in the leg while the two were on the bus to Zebulon Middle School.

El Monte, California. February 11, 2009. A third grader accidentally fired a gun while showing it to friends on the playground of Baker Elementary School. Nobody was injured, but there were approximately 100 other kids on the playground at the time of the shooting. The boy says he took the gun from his grandmother.

Clayton, North Carolina. January 27, 2009. Two teenagers were arrested for firing a gun in the parking lot of Clayton High School. A bullet struck the outside wall of the gymnasium, where a basketball game was in progress.

Chicago, Illinois. January 9, 2009. A gunman began shooting indiscriminately from a car into a crowd of people that were leaving a basketball game at Paul Laurence Dunbar Vocational Career Academy. Five people were injured.

New Castle, Delaware. January 8, 2009. One person was shot and injured outside of William Penn High School after a basketball game.

North Manheim, Pennsylvania. December 18, 2009. A 17-year old was arrested for plotting to shoot students at Blue Mountain High School. Police found multiple weapons and paramilitary gear at his home.

Montco, Pennsylvania. December 4, 2008. A 15-year old was institutionalized after stealing three guns and hundreds of rounds of ammunition from his father, and plotting to shoot other students and himself at Pottstown High School. Police began investigating when the father reported the guns stolen. The boy later admitted to the shooting plot and pled guilty to attempted first degree murder.

Savannah, Georgia. November 21, 2008. A 19 year old student shot a fellow student twice after the two argued at Savannah State University. All staff and students were notified and buildings on campus were locked down until the shooter was arrested.

St. George, Utah. November 15, 2008. A 15-year old student died from injuries after the gun he was holding discharged at Desert Hills High School. The gun was a prop for the school play and was loaded with blanks.

Fort Lauderdale, Florida. November 12, 2008. A 15 year old female student shot and killed a 15-year-old classmate in a hallway at Dillard High School. The two girls had been friends for years, but had issues recently. The shooter may have gotten the gun from her grandfather, her guardian, who had a concealed carry permit.

Big Bear, California. October 29, 2008. Five teenage boys were arrested for plotting to shoot students, teachers, and staff at Big Bear High School. Other students overheard their plans and alerted authorities.

Conway, Arkansas. October 26, 2008. Several men in a car drove up to a dormitory at the University of Central Arkansas and opened fire, killing two students and injuring a third person. The police believe the victims were targeted.

San Antonio, Texas. October 13, 2008. A librarian shot and killed a fellow librarian at Northeast Lakeview Community College library, where the two men worked.

Willoughby, Ohio. September 2, 2008. A 15 year old student fired two shots in a hallway at Willoughby South High School. It is believed the boy planned to kill himself in front of his girlfriend.

Portland, Oregon. August 29, 2008. An unidentified shooter fired five or six shots into a crowd leaving a football game at Madison High School. Shortly before the shooting, police arrested a 14-year old carrying a gun in a separate incident nearby.

Opelousas, Louisiana. August 26, 2008. Three students were arrested after shots were fired at the T.H. Harris campus of Louisiana Technical College. No one was injured.

Knoxville, Tennessee. August 21, 2008. A 15-year old fatally shot a fellow 15-year old classmate in the cafeteria at Central High School.

Phoenix, Arizona. July 24, 2008. A former student shot three people in a computer lab at South Mountain Community College. The gunman had a longstanding disagreement with one of the victims.

Boca Raton, Florida. April 30, 2008. One person was injured at Florida Atlantic University when a man pulled a gun and fired twice during a fight at a party. The University was locked down until the shooter was arrested.

Washington, DC. April 29, 2008. A student shot two people at Excel Institute, a vocational school, and then stole two cars as fled from the police.

Omaha, Nebraska. April 24, 2008. An eighth grader was shot in the face during a soccer game at King Science and Technology Magnet Middle School.

Hayward, California. March 31, 2008. A 17-year old boy was shot in the leg at Royal Sunset Continuation School. Three other students are believed to have been involved in the shooting.

Chicago, Illinois. March 29, 2008. An 18-year old died after being shot by a 17-year-old and a 19-year-old outside Simeon Career Academy shortly after Saturday classes let out. There had been a several fights leading up to the shooting.

Chicago, Illinois. March 7, 2008. A 15-year old fatally shot an 18-year-old student outside Crane High School.

Mobile, Alabama. March 6, 2008. A student shot and killed himself in front of 150 other students in the gym of Davidson High School.

Miami Gardens, Florida. February 28, 2008. A bullet grazed the ear of a 17-year old student as he was leaving band practice at Miami Norland Senior High School.

Little Rock, Arkansas. February 27, 2008. A student was shot on the campus of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

Jonesboro, Arkansas. February 23, 2008. A student was injured when a bullet ricocheted off a building and hit him in the leg on the campus of Arkansas State University. The shooter has not been identified.

DeKalb, Illinois. February 14, 2008. A man entered a lecture hall at Northern Illinois University and began shooting. He killed five students and wounded 16 before killing himself.

Oxnard, California. February 12, 2008. A 14-year old fatally shot another student in the head while in class at E.O. Green Junior High School. The victim had been bullied at school since declaring that he was gay several weeks earlier.

Memphis, Tennessee. February 11, 2008. A 17-year old shot another student multiple times before handing the gun over to the teacher during gym class at Mitchell High School. The two students had argued over the weekend. There were about 75 students in the room during the shooting.

Baton Rouge, Louisiana. February 8, 2008. A female student killed herself and two others in a classroom at Louisiana Tech.

Memphis, Tennessee. February 4, 2008. A 16-year old student shot another 16-year-old in the leg while in class at Hamilton High School. The injury is not critical.

Washington, DC. January 22, 2008. Four Ballou High School students were shot as they were leaving school at the end of the day. All students are expected to recover.

Las Vegas, Nevada. January 18, 2008. A 16-year old shot at another student outside a basketball game at Cheyenne High School. Nobody was injured in the incident.

Cleveland, Ohio. January 16, 2008. A 16-year old boy pulled a gun from his locker and aimed it into a crowd of students when a fight erupted at South High School.

Charlotte, North Carolina. January 16, 2008. A student at Crossroads Charter High School was shot in the parking lot after an early-scheduled dismissal.

Putnam City, Oklahoma. January 15, 2008. A 17-year old was shot three times in a Putnam City High School parking lot after a basketball game.

Asheville, North Carolina. January 10, 2007. A 16-year old with a handgun shot at a fellow student at Asheville High School. Nobody was injured in the incident.

Gibsonton, Florida. December 17, 2007. Three East Bay High School students shot two other students as they were walking home from their bus stop. The two groups of students had clashed previously.

Las Vegas, Nevada. December 11, 2007. Two assailants using 9-millimeter and .45-caliber guns shot six people as they exited a Mojave High School bus. The attack followed a fight at school earlier in the day.

Oakland, California. December 11, 2007. Three teens were shot after a basketball game at McClymonds High School in a drive-by shooting.

Lagrangeville, New York. November 29, 2007. Three Hudson Valley High School students were arrested for planning a Columbine-type attack and making threats online.

Holland Patent, New York. November 26, 2007. Two Holland Patent High School students shot a gun while on their school bus. Nobody was injured.

Beaufort, South Carolina. November 20, 2007. An 18 year old shot a 17-year old student in the Battery Creek High School parking lot after a basketball scrimmage.

Saginaw, Michigan. October 25, 2007. Two Arthur Hill High School students and two adults were shot by another student as they left a middle school football game.

Portland, Oregon. October 12, 2007. Two teens from Jefferson High School were shot when a gunman fired into a crowd of students that had gathered after the end of their Homecoming Dance.

Cleveland, Ohio. October 10, 2007. A 14-year old student shot two teachers and two students at SuccessTech Academy before killing himself. He had been suspended for fighting earlier in the week and had threatened to harm other students and blow up the school previously.

Norristown, Pennsylvania. October 10, 2007. A 14-year old is arrested for stockpiling weapons and plotting a Columbine-style attack. Police found over 30 weapons in his possession.

Memphis, Tennessee. September 30, 2007. A 21-year old University of Memphis student was shot and killed on campus.

Oroville, California. September 28, 2007. A 17-year old armed with a .22-caliber handgun takes over two dozen students hostage at Las Plumas High School, holding three of them for an hour before police convince him to surrender.

Dover, Delaware. September 21, 2007. A freshman at Delaware State University shot and wounded two other students at a campus dining hall. The shooter, who had earlier been in a fight with one of the victims, has been charged with attempted murder.

Newark, New Jersey. August 4, 2007. Three Delaware State University students were shot and killed execution style by a 28 year old and two 15 year old boys. The three friends were forced to kneel against a wall behind an elementary school and were shot in the head. A fourth student was found about 30 feet away with gunshot and knife wounds to her head.

Dallas, Texas. June 29, 2007. A 17-year old former high school football player shot and injured two other high school students in the school parking lot.

Huntersville, North Carolina. April 18, 2007. A 16-year old male high school student made threatened two high school students with a gun in their school's parking lot and then turned the gun on himself, committing suicide, when police subsequently approached him in a nearby gas station.

Blacksburg, Virginia. April 16, 2007. A student killed 32 students and faculty, and wounded 15 more at Virginia Tech. He was armed with a Glock model 19 handgun and a Walther P22 handgun. It is the worst single act of gun violence in American history.

Gresham, Oregon. April 10, 2007. Ten high school students were injured when gunshots from a rifle shattered a classroom window. A student who attended the school was later arrested and the rifle was found in a nearby field.

Greensboro, North Carolina. March 24, 2007. A freshman was seriously wounded after being shot in the lower back with a .25 automatic pistol while in his dorm room at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. A 19 year old arrested and charged with the shooting.

Midland, Michigan. March 7, 2007. A gunman shot and wounded his teenage ex-girlfriend in a high school parking lot in Midland, Mich., before fatally shooting himself.

Los Angeles, California. January 26, 2007. An 18-year old male was shot in the three times and died while playing basketball in a middle school gym. Police were seeking three suspects who fled after the shooting.

Tacoma, Washington. January 3, 2007. An 18-year old student shot a fellow student in the hallway of Henry Foss High School before 1st period classes began.

Springfield Township, Pennsylvania. December 12, 2006. A 16-year old male high school shot and killed himself with an AK-47 in the hallway of his high school. The student, reportedly despondent over his grades, had the gun concealed in a camouflage duffle bag and fired one round in the ceiling to warn other students to get out of the way before committing suicide.

Clinton, South Carolina. November 9, 2006. A North Carolina man, suspected of assaulting his wife, committed suicide after wounding a police officer on the campus of Presbyterian College.

Joplin, Missouri. October 9, 2006. A 13-year old boy, obsessed with the Columbine school shootings, brought a MAC-90 semiautomatic assault rifle (a replica of an AK-47) to school, pointing it at students and firing it into the ceiling until the gun jammed.

Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania. October 2, 2006. A dairy truck driver walked into a oneroom Amish schoolhouse with a shotgun, a semi-automatic handgun, and 600 rounds of ammunition, selected all the female students, and shot them execution-style, killing five and seriously wounding six. The man then shot himself, apparently having left suicide notes beforehand.

Cazenovia, Wisconsin. September 29, 2006. A student walked into a rural school with a handgun and a shotgun and shot the principal several times, killing him.

Bailey, Colorado. September 27, 2006. A lone gunman enters a high school and holds six female students hostage, sexually assaults them, kills one of them, and then kills himself after a four-hour standoff.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. September 17, 2006. Five Duquesne University basketball players are wounded, one critically, after a shooting on campus following a dance, the first such incident in the 128-year history of the University.71

Green Bay, Wisconsin. September 14, 2006. Two boys, teased at school and obsessed with the mass killings at Columbine, are arrested for amassing an arsenal of guns and bombs and for planning an attack on East High School.

Montreal, Quebec, Canada. September 13, 2006. An individual massacres 14 women at the Ecole Polytechnique of the University of Montreal, "apparently because he felt that women were taking too many seats at the university."

Hillsborough, North Carolina. August 30, 2006. After shooting his father to death, a student opens fire at his high school, injuring two students. Deputies found guns, ammunition, and homemade pipe bombs in the student's car. The student had e-mailed Columbine High's Principal, telling him that it was "time the world remembered" the shootings at Columbine.

Essex, Vermont. August 24, 2006. A gunman shoots five people, killing two of them, in a rampage through two houses and an elementary school, before wounding himself.

Red Lake Indian Reservation, Minnesota. March 21, 2005. At the time, the worst school-related shooting incident since the Columbine shootings in April of 1999. Ten killed and seven injured in rampage by high school student.

Bellflower, California. March 16, 2005. Another Columbine was averted when two juveniles were arrested for plotting to shoot up their high school.

Cumberland City, Tennessee. March 2, 2005. School bus driver shot and killed while driving a school bus carrying 24 students - from kindergarten through 12th grade -- by a 14-year old student who had been reported to administrators by the driver for chewing tobacco on the bus.

Nine Mile Falls, Washington. December 10, 2004. A 16-year old high school junior committed suicide with a .38-caliber handgun at his high school's entryway around 1:20 p.m.

Joyce, Washington. March 17, 2004. A 13-year old student shot and killed himself in a school classroom where about 20 other students were present. The boy reportedly brought a .22-caliber rifle hidden in a guitar case and pulled it out during the 10 a.m. class.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. February 11, 2004: A 10-year old student was shot in the face and died outside a Philadelphia elementary school. A 56 year old female school crossing guard was also shot in the foot as she tried to scurry children across the street as bullets were flying and children were on the playground.

Washington, D.C. February 2, 2004. A 17-year old male high school student died after being shot several times and another student was injured after shots were fired near the school's cafeteria.

Henderson, Nevada. January 21, 2004. Gunman shoots and kills a hostage in his car on school campus. The gunman was allegedly looking for his ex-girlfriend as he searched the school full of children in an after-school program.

Sugar Land, Texas. November 8, 2003. A 17-year old female high school student was shot and killed as a fight broke out at the side of a stadium at a high school football game.

Cold Spring, Minnesota. September 24, 2003. Two students are shot and killed by a 15-year old at Rocori High School.

Hopkinsville, Kentucky. September 16, 2003. A 16-year old girl fatally shot another teen and then killed herself as the two sat in a car parked at a shopping center across from their school.

Fort Worth, Texas. September 10, 2003. A 16-year old boy fatally shot a classmate, then dumped his body in a nearby construction site.

San Diego, California. September 5, 2003. A 14-year old boy jogging with his high school cross-country team is shot and killed in an ambush by his father, who then killed himself after a standoff with police.

Red Lion, Pennsylvania. April 24, 2003. Principal of Red Lion Area Junior High is fatally shot in the chest by a 14-year old student, who then committed suicide, as students gather in the cafeteria for breakfast.

New Orleans, Louisiana. April 14, 2003. One 15-year old was killed and three students wounded at John McDonough High School by gunfire from four teenagers in a gang-related shooting.

Tucson, Arizona, October 29, 2002. A student shot and killed three professors, and then himself, in a rampage at the University of Arizona School of Nursing, where he was a failing. Reportedly, he had told classmates about a year before that he had obtained a CCW permit.

October 7, 2002. Bowie, Maryland. A 13-year old by was shot and critically wounded by the DC-area sniper outside Benjamin Tasker Middle School.

New York, New York. January 15, 2002. Two students at Martin Luther King Junior High School in Manhattan were seriously wounded when an 18 year old opened fire in the school.

Caro, Michigan. November 12, 2001. A 17-year old student took two hostages and the Caro Learning Center with a .22-caliber rifle and a 20-gauge shotgun, before killing himself.

Ennis, Texas. May 15, 2001. A 16-year old sophomore upset over his relationship with a girl, took 17 hostages in English class, and shot and killed himself and the girl.

Gary, Indiana. March 30, 2001. A 17 year old expelled from Lew Wallace High School kills classmate.

Granite Hills, California. March 22, 2001. One teacher and three students wounded by a student at Granite Hills School.

Willamsport, Pennsylvania. March 7, 2001. Classmate wounded by a 14-year old girl, in the cafeteria of Bishop Neuman High School.

Santee, California. March 5, 2001. A 15-year old student killed two fellow students and wounded 13 others, while firing from a bathroom at Santana High School in San Diego County.

Baltimore, Maryland. January 17, 2001. A 17-year old student shot and killed in front of Lake Clifton-Eastern High School.

New Orleans, Louisiana. September 26, 2000. Two students wounded in a gunfight at Woodson Middle School.

Lake Worth, Florida. May 26, 2000. A 13-year old honor student killed his English teacher on the last day of classes after the teacher refused to let him talk to two girls in his classroom.

Prairie Grove, Arkansas. May 11, 2000. Seventh grade student injures police officer in a hay field north of the student's school after leaving campus in an apparent fit of rage.

Savannah, Georgia. March 10, 2000. Two students killed by a 19-year old while leaving a dance sponsored by Beach High School.

Mount Morris Township, Michigan. February 29, 2000. A 6-year old boy shot and killed a 6-year old girl at Buell Elementary School with a .32 caliber handgun.

Fort Gibson, Oklahoma. December 6, 1999. A 13-year old student, armed with a handgun, opened fire outside Fort Gibson Middle school, wounding four classmates.

Deming, New Mexico. November 19, 1999. A 12-year old boy came to school dressed in camouflage and shoots 13-year old girl with a .22 caliber as students were returning from lunch.

Conyers, Georgia. May 20, 1999. A 15-year old sophomore opens fire with a rifle and a handgun on Heritage High School students arriving for classes, injuring six.

Littleton, Colorado. April 20, 1999. Students Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, killed 15 students and a teacher and wounded 23 with two sawed-off shotguns and a TEC-DC9 before killing themselves at Columbine High School.
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Columbine eleven years later: Media mostly moves on

By Michael Roberts

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Last year marked the tenth anniversary of the shootings at Columbine High School -- the sort of round number the media can't resist.

As such, there were a number of notable commemorations, including the release of two books on the tragedy and a special episode of Oprah that was yanked at the last minute, almost certainly due to complaints from Columbine parents and observers.

This year -- number eleven since Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold did their worst -- is a different story. If it weren't for a gun-control push by Tom Mauser, whose son died in the massacre, numerous local news organizations might not have made more than a token note of that terrible day in 1999.

As we previewed yesterday in the blog linked above, Mauser, a board member and spokesman for Colorado Ceasefire, is at the center of full-page letters published in the Denver Post and Boulder Daily Camera urging Senator Mark Udall to support a measure closing the so-called gun-show loophole, which allows individuals who purchase weapons at such events to evade the sort of background checks required at brick-and-mortar stores.

Mauser's efforts generated an Associated Press story in which he's referred to as a "Columbine dad." At this writing, it's linked in not especially prominent fashion on the home pages of Channel 7 and Channel 9. At Channel 31, there's a link to a tiny story noting that classes at Columbine have been canceled for today, while the word "Columbine" doesn't appear on the Channel 4 home page right now.

As for the Denver Post, the paper published a modest remembrance featuring photos of the victims at the bottom of the Denver and the West cover and a larger piece in the sports section focusing on reactions by members of the Colorado Avalanche and the San Jose Sharks, who were slated to match up in a playoff game eleven years ago, echoing their current series.

In addition, the Post editorializes in favor of closing the gun-show loophole, referencing Columbine and Mauser.

Some observers may criticize the press for dealing with Columbine in context rather than rolling out memorial pieces as in years gone by, arguing that the current tack flies in the face of the "Never Forgotten" slogan that arose in the wake of the violence. But eleven years down the line, this approach strikes me as appropriate.

Clearly, Columbine has not been forgotten. Rather, it's become a part of our national consciousness -- a constant influence that doesn't need to be name-checked to have an impact (although it still does, as Mauser's current campaign demonstrates).

For most of us who lived in the Denver area in 1999, memories of Columbine remain fresh and raw, as demonstrated by the reaction to the recent shooting at Deer Creek Middle School. We don't think about it only one day a year. It's always with us, and always will be.

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School shootings: Some Columbine myths resurface

By Alan Prendergast

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

There's no coherent explanation yet for seventeen-year-old T.J. Lane's attack on Chardon High School in Ohio on Monday, which killed three students and injured two others -- and the "why" may prove elusive for some time to come. The shootings have been treated as utterly random, although recent reports suggest one of the victims may have been dating Lane's ex-girlfriend.

Actually, a high number of school shootings involve dating issues, failed romances -- or, in a more general sense, loners who feel rejected by their peers and embark on some form of score-settling or murder-suicide mission. By some counts, more than half the fatalities in school violence over the past three decades can be attributed to shooters, predominantly males, who faced some perceived "challenge" to their sexuality, from female rejection to persecution by school bullies.

That's one of the tenets of The Bully Society: School Shootings and the Crisis of Bullying in America's Schools, a new book by sociologist Jessie Klein that seeks to find a pattern to the violence. The book is receiving some approving notices in light of the Ohio tragedy, in part because of its impressive compilation of data on nearly 200 school shootings stretching back to 1979.

By Klein's figures, the annual pace of the shootings continues to increase, with 43 in the past three years alone.

But there's reason to be wary of Klein's efforts to fit every incident into her bullying model. Her treatment of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the shooters in the 1999 attack on Columbine, for example, is a curious -- and, to a great extent, discredited -- interpretation of one of the most studied and scrutinized school tragedies of all time.

According to Klein's capsule summary, "Eric and Dylan were made fun of for being smart, and wearing Goth clothing; the kids called jocks at school called them the 'Trench Coat Mafia;' Eric was considered the smartest boy in the class.... Eric's father was an Air Force pilot, and Eric might have tried to emulate the violence endemic to his father's position."

Klein also detects a "gay-bashing" undercurrent in the Columbine attack: "Both were enraged by the ridicule they endured by students...who called them homosexual."

Klein seems to be relying on some of the lurid and ludicrously inaccurate rumor-mongering that passed unfiltered into early press coverage of the shooting. She even quotes a note supposedly from Harris's diary, blaming the massacre on teachers and parents: "You have taught these kids to not accept what is different."

As someone all too familiar with the rantings found in Harris's actual journal, let me point out that Klein is quoting from a bogus "suicide note" that showed up on the Internet shortly after the shootings and was soon debunked. (Her footnoted source, weirdly enough, is a Dan Savage column from May 1999.) Harris didn't write any such thing.

And Klein's other assertions? They didn't dress Goth. The so-called Trenchcoat Mafia was a red herring from day one. There's nothing in the official record that suggests anyone regarded Eric Harris as the smartest boy in school -- other than Eric Harris.

As for other myths -- about the two killers being outcasts, persecuted, more gay-bashed than gay-bashing -- they were all exploded years ago, here and here and here, among other places. Although bullying certainly existed at Columbine, just like at other schools, and Harris and Klebold may have been targets long before they became tolerated albeit not widely popular seniors (and quasi-bullies themselves), it's alarmingly simplistic to make the kind of cause-effect argument Klein presents for what happened at Columbine.

Since that terrible day thirteen years ago, considerable money and labor have been poured into the effort to prevent such tragedies. But each school shooting has its own shocking elements, its own brand of senselessness. That's one of the reasons they're so difficult to stop.

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The Columbine shootings continue to "inspire" Hollywood

By Alan Prendergast

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

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The news first surfaced in the Hollywood trade press last month: The Lifetime cable network is developing a miniseries about the 1999 school shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. Based on a best-selling book about the tragedy, the project involves a team of heavyweight producers whose collective film credits include the fact-based dramas Moneyball, The Social Network and Boys Don't Cry.

Sam Granillo heard about the miniseries on Facebook a few days later, as the story got discussed and linked and passed along to people in the flyover states who generally don't pay attention to such things. But this news was different.

A miniseries? On Columbine? Based on actual events, as they say? Really?

"When I read about it — I don't know if furious is the right word, but I was intensely emotional," says Granillo. "I was beyond irritated."

The thirty-year-old Granillo is a cameraman and production assistant who's worked on a slew of commercials and television programs, from MTV Extreme Cribs to American Idol. But his interest in the proposed miniseries goes deeper than professional curiosity. A couple of lifetimes ago, he was a seventeen-year-old junior at Columbine.

On April 20, 1999, he was eating lunch in the school cafeteria, known as the Commons, when seniors Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold began shooting students outside. The pair soon entered the school, firing randomly at cornered teens and tossing pipe bombs. Hundreds of people fled the Commons in various directions. Granillo and seventeen other people ended up trapped in a small room in the kitchen area, listening to shots, screams and explosions. The door had no lock, so Granillo planted his feet against it.

In the course of about fifty minutes, Harris and Klebold killed twelve students and one teacher, injured 21 others, then committed suicide. The ploddingly methodical SWAT rescue teams didn't reach the kitchen for almost three hours. The police led Granillo and the others through a broken window, past pools of blood and lifeless bodies on the ground outside. Some of those bodies had been friends Granillo knew well. He'd also known Klebold since he was ten years old — or thought he'd known him.

Past the scenes of carnage was a battery of police investigators demanding written statements, reporters trolling for eyewitness accounts — and television cameras poised to soak up the shock and grief. For weeks, survivors of the attack were buttonholed, interrogated, stalked. A reporter followed Granillo and some friends into an Old Chicago restaurant, only to be ejected by management. Tabloid journalists offered hard cash for a hot-off-the-presses copy of the school yearbook, racing to be first to publish the killers' senior photos. The headlines went on for months, followed by "anniversary stories," documentaries, books and even feature films loosely based on the shootings.

Even when he thought he was through the mourning process, Granillo found that Columbine wasn't through with him. He had bouts of anxiety, recurrent nightmares about being chased and trapped. "At first the coping mechanism in my brain downplayed a lot of what happened to me, but it stuck with me," he says. "Then I wanted to get counseling, and I kept running into dead ends. I found out a lot of other people were in the same situation. It was available to us once, and now it's not. I've had people come up to me and say, 'Sam, it's been ten years. Aren't you over it yet?' But it's never going away for us, ever."

A few months ago, Granillo began raising funds and conducting preliminary interviews for a documentary about the long-term trauma left by the shootings. He figured this might be a way for him and others to put the tragedy to rest, take the discussion in a new direction.

Then he heard about the miniseries. A true story about the worst day of his life, his friends' lives. A true story. Based on actual events. Told by people he's never met.

"Anyone who wasn't there doesn't understand how we feel about having our lives put on display for everyone to see," he says. "Who would want that? I'm worried for my friends who are going to turn on the television and see themselves portrayed as who knows what. A miniseries? That's like the fucking straw that broke the camel's back."

Another Columbine graduate soon launched an online petition, "Say 'No' to Columbine Movie." "We ask for basic human respect to be shown to a community that does not want to be exploited over a sensitive and persistently prodded event," the petition states. "There is no mention of any proceeds being directed at programs that address school violence. There has been no indication that people were actually consulted from the community. There is no indication that anyone has been contacted for likeness rights."

Within a week, thanks largely to social-media activism among alums and their families, the petition had collected more than 5,000 signatures. Some of the protesters posted comments expressing their displeasure with the project's source material: Columbine, a book by journalist Dave Cullen, who bills himself as "the nation's foremost authority on the Columbine killers." Cullen's book won awards and made several critics' best-reading lists for 2009, but it's had a rougher reception in Littleton, where some prominent members of the Columbine community have taken issue with its accuracy and its slant.

Other signers were troubled that the network backing the miniseries is Lifetime, purveyor of turgid melodramas involving cheating spouses, suave serial killers and Tori Spelling. ("Lifetime should stick to cheesy movies about pregnancy pacts and Dance Moms," one wrote.) But the prevailing sentiment seemed to be that any film project purporting to be the "real story" of Columbine, yet put together by outsiders, would reopen wounds not yet healed and possibly inspire more copycat shootings.

"This is a terrible idea for a movie," wrote Anne Marie Hochhalter. "I was injured at Columbine, and Dave Cullen's book is inaccurate and sensationalized. Please don't let this movie be made; it brings back all the pain I experienced, and is insensitive to all of us in the Columbine community."

Hochhalter figures in several passages in Cullen's book; she was one of the first students shot outside the school and was left paralyzed by her injuries. Her mother's suicide a few months later provides another graphic scene. But Cullen never interviewed Hochhalter; his accounts of her family's ordeal, complete with quotes, come from various news articles.

"It felt kind of violating, to be honest," Hochhalter says of the experience of reading Cullen's book. "He got the part about how I was injured completely wrong. I couldn't bear to read the whole thing. The fact that this movie is in the works, based on what he wrote — I just feel sick over it. I don't want young, impressionable, angry people out there, who idolize Harris and Klebold anyway, to see this on film."

Cullen, who now lives in New York City, says he was surprised by the virulent opposition to a miniseries based on his book. The project has been "in development" for years now, but he cautions that it hasn't been "greenlit," hasn't been cast. There isn't even a finished script yet.

"When the book came out, I braced for possible controversy, and there wasn't much," he says. "People who don't like the book probably aren't going to like the film. But with the film, we don't have anything for them to judge yet. It's frustrating."

Although it's drawn the most ire, the miniseries isn't the only Columbine-themed project in the works. A stage play based on Cullen's book is also planned, and We Need to Talk About Kevin, a new film starring Tilda Swinton as the mother of a Harris-like teen killer, has been making the rounds of the festivals and is scheduled to open in Denver on March 30.

And the news continues to offer its own reminders of the tragedy. Most of the students who attend Columbine today aren't old enough to have any direct memories of the attack. They'd rather see their school's name celebrated for its frequent state athletics championships than used as shorthand for "massacre." But events keep conspiring to keep the school's dark legacy alive. In the past three months alone, locals have had to contend with not one, but three "Columbine-related incidents" that made national news:

•In December, Columbine principal Frank DeAngelis was interviewed by a sixteen-year-old youth from Utah about the attack. The youth was arrested a few weeks later, suspected of plotting with another student to bomb an assembly at his school and escape in a stolen plane.

•In February, a fourteen-year-old girl was arrested after an alleged assault on two other students with a hammer. The girl's mother claimed that she'd been bullied. The case wouldn't have made headlines — except that the school happened to be Columbine.

•Two weeks later, a shooting at Chardon High School in Ohio left three dead and two wounded, the latest in more than a hundred such incidents since Columbine. The suspected shooter, seventeen-year-old T.J. Lane, reportedly told a deputy that he'd fired at random, but other accounts have suggested he was seeking revenge.

If you include college-campus violence in the statistics, then there were deadlier school shootings before Columbine (University of Texas, 1966) and afterward (Virginia Tech, 2007). Harris and Klebold had hoped to kill hundreds more, with bombs planted in the Commons and the parking lot, but their plan failed miserably. Yet Columbine remains the touchstone for this type of event, the standard by which other horrors are measured, the archetype for Harris-and-Klebold wannabes. That the culture is still so fascinated by the shootings thirteen years later may have more to do with the powerful myths woven around the tragedy — by the media, the killers, law enforcement and others — than the "actual events" of what happened that day.

"Directors will be fighting over this story," Klebold declared in one of the so-called "basement tapes," the videos the pair made in the weeks before the attack. It was just about the only prediction that the killers got right.

But whose story is it?

"We all have hundreds of stories about what happened that day and since," says Granillo. "But that's not the story they keep telling."


Klebold and Harris began planning their grandiose suicide mission more than a year before the attack. Amid all the fantasizing and strategizing, it's clear they were aiming for something quite different from the late-1990s rash of school shootings in places like West Paducah, Kentucky, and Jonesboro, Arkansas.

"Do not think we're trying to copy anyone," Harris announced on one of the basement tapes. "We had the idea before the first one ever happened. Our plan is better, not like those fucks in Kentucky with camouflage and .22s. Those kids were only trying to be accepted by others."

The Columbine killers weren't interested in being accepted. In addition to a high body count, they wanted posthumous fame. And followers. They wanted to "kickstart a revolution," as Harris put it.

Their bombs failed to detonate. The revolution never arrived. Their few imitators tended to be mental cases like Virginia Tech's Seung-Hui Cho. But the pair did manage to achieve a degree of infamy that's eluded other school shooters.

One reason for the persistent fascination with Columbine has to do with local law enforcement's inept response to the attack. While the first Jefferson County Sheriff's Office deputies on the scene exchanged shots with Harris, they didn't follow the killers inside the school; adhering to what was then common practice, they waited for SWAT to arrive and conduct a time-consuming, room-by-room sweep. Meanwhile, the killers were free to fire at will at unarmed targets. (They killed themselves around the time the first SWAT team entered at the opposite side of the building, but police didn't discover their bodies for three hours.)

The entire sorry spectacle unfolded on national television that afternoon. News copters caught images of hundreds of cops standing around outside, seemingly helpless; throngs of terrified students fleeing with their hands in the air; a sign in a window, announcing that teacher Dave Sanders, shot while trying to shepherd students to safety, was bleeding to death in a science classroom. (He died before medical aid could be safely escorted to him.) No other school shooting had ever attracted such a massive live audience before — and new procedures adopted by police across the country in the wake of Columbine, designed to deal swiftly with an active shooter situation, make a repeat of such a prolonged siege unlikely.

The blundering continued long after the siege ended. Fearing civil suits, school and law enforcement officials lawyered up, releasing little information about the killers and even lying about a prior police investigation of Eric Harris for making threats and detonating pipe bombs. Determined to explain the "why" of the shootings, journalists fashioned motives out of rumors, cranking out stories about Harris and Klebold being persecuted goths, or members of the Trench Coat Mafia, or put-upon nerds looking for payback against bullying jocks.

The truth trickled out gradually. Under pressure from victims' families, the Jeffco sheriff's office grudgingly released some of its investigative files while fighting for years to suppress some of the most embarrassing documents — as well as the writings and videos of the killers, claiming they would provoke copycat shootings. (The basement tapes, though viewed by some reporters and Columbine families, are still officially under wraps.) The stonewall made the materials seem far more interesting than they actually were, helping to perpetuate a mystique about Columbine that endures to this day.

The media mythology quickly became fodder for film and television dramas — everything from high-minded indie features to episodes of Law & Order, Cold Case, One Tree Hill and even American Horror Story. The first full-length film out of the box was a low-budget splatterfest, Duck! The Carbine High Massacre, featuring two trenchcoated neo-Nazi killers, Derwin and Derick, who carry out a brutal revenge plot against the jocks at their school. Although the exploitation flick was billed as a dark comedy, its backers were trying to cash in as crassly as possible; the release date was the first-year anniversary of the attack on Columbine.

Only slightly less exploitative, in the view of some Columbine families, is Michael Moore's 2002 venture into quasi-documentary, Bowling for Columbine. Despite the title — an erroneous reference to Harris and Klebold attending their bowling class the morning of the massacre, which didn't happen — the film has little to do with Columbine. The bulk of it is a rambling Moore polemic about America's love of firearms and its culture of fear. Yet the film makes effective use of the now-familiar surveillance footage from the Columbine Commons, as well as a sequence in which Richard Castaldo and Mark Taylor, both severely wounded by the shooters, accompany Moore to Kmart corporate headquarters to protest sales of handgun ammo. Audiences may have felt misled by the title, but they made Bowling for Columbine the highest-grossing documentary of its time — and encouraged other independent filmmakers to plunge into the topic.

The feature films that followed Moore's coup tend to fall into two camps. They either focus on the killers as some inexplicable evil force, or on the aftermath of a school shooting, in which survivors search for solace and explanations. The champ of the killer portraits is Gus Van Sant's Elephant (2003), which borrows many details from the Columbine attack and weaves them into an arty bit of nihilism, complete with long, wordless tracking shots of students trudging down gleaming hallways and gazing up at empty skies outside.

Van Sant's Eric and Alex watch a documentary on Hitler and play first-person shooter games. They're ready to go out and kill everybody — and "most importantly, have fun," one says, a reference to a note left by Klebold — but we never learn why. (There's a scene early in the movie in which Alex is harassed in class, but it seems insufficient provocation for what follows.) Like Eric Harris, Alex quotes Shakespeare, taunts his prey and pauses mid-massacre to take a sip from another student's abandoned drink in the cafeteria. But ultimately, these ephebic murderers are pure ciphers; they have a homosexual tryst just before launching their attack, but it's more about shedding the burden of virginity than any true feeling. As the rampage draws to a close, one dispatches the other casually in mid-sentence, as if swatting a bug.

Even more disturbing, perhaps, and considerably less pretty, is Zero Day (2003), which is presented as a video diary left behind by school shooters Andre and Calvin, who dub themselves the Army of Two. The home-video footage is uncomfortably reminiscent of the basement tapes, but this army doesn't do much ranting or explaining; they seem to blend in all too well with their surroundings. "We see more than you do," one of the boys tells the camera, but much of what we get to see seems chillingly normal. Ironically, the final sequence of their suicides, shot as if taken by a grainy security camera, has been confused online with actual surveillance footage from Columbine.

If the shooter films come across as cold-blooded, those that focus on the aftermath of a shooting resemble somber but preachy after-school specials. Home Room (2002) offers Busy Phillips of Freaks and Geeks as a put-upon goth girl — and a message about not singling people out because they're different. The Life Before Her Eyes (2007) has the star power of Uma Thurman and Evan Rachel Wood, a message about survivor guilt — and a final plot twist right out of Ambrose Bierce's "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge."

Survivor guilt and bullying also provide the framework for April Showers (2009), written and directed by Andrew Robinson, a '99 graduate of Columbine. Tom Arnold delivers a surprisingly strong performance as Mr. Blackwell, a heroic teacher based on Dave Sanders, and some reviewers found the film quite moving, but it suffers from murky sound and an even murkier storyline, with many mawkish moments. Lifetime has its own prior effort at a hope-and-healing film, Dawn Anna (2005), an inspirational biopic starring Debra Winger as the mother of Lauren Townsend, the class valedictorian who was slain in the school library. But the best of all the aftermath movies to date may be a work of non-fiction, the 2011 documentary Thirteen Families, which follows the emotional journey of all the families of those slain at Columbine — and never once mentions the names of the shooters.

The latest entry in the Columbine subgenre is Lynne Ramsay's We Need to Talk About Kevin — which, like Elephant, doesn't offer much accounting for the Bad Seed who decides to practice his archery on his classmates. (Even Kevin, who survives the attack, doesn't have much in the way of motive to offer: "I thought I knew," he says.) The movie is visually striking, with a fragmented, flashback-heavy structure. (There's something about school-shooting movies that invites a non-linear approach — probably so that the violence can be teased out rather than inflicted all at once.) But as in the Lionel Shriver novel the film is based on, it's a bleak business trying to figure out if Kevin is just born bad or a product of rotten mothering by Tilda Swinton's empathy-deprived character. By the end of the film, audiences may be wearing the same look of stunned stupefaction Swinton carries throughout the proceedings.

So far, Kevin hasn't stirred any noticeable outrage among Columbine alums. None of the other filmmakers' interpretations generated much controversy, either. But then, none of them claimed to be the "real story" of Columbine.


The petition opposing Lifetime's miniseries was started by a Las Vegas stage hand named Michael Berry, a 2001 graduate of Columbine. Berry was sitting in his guitar class in the school auditorium when two students ran in and said there were guys with guns running around. As the shots and explosions drew nearer, Berry's teachers locked the doors. Later, a janitor showed the class a safe way out of the school. They ran to a nearby park, where other students milled about in a general panic.

After the initial shock, some students and parents pressed for things to "return to normal" as soon as possible. Berry found that a difficult move. In his senior year, his English class went to see a production of Hamlet set in the 1920s. "The director didn't tell my teacher that at the end of it, the lights go out and guns start firing," he recalls. "A lot of my class had a real hard time with that."

Berry says he doesn't have a problem with Cullen's book, which he hasn't read. But he believes an effort to dramatize the "actual events" of Columbine will do more harm than good. "It's taken me thirteen years, and I still have a few tics and triggers," he says. "This was something that happened to us. Showing someone a video of this — it's way more potent content than reading a book. This is psychologically intense material. It's just toxic. I just don't understand what is going to be added to the conversation."

He notes that people from Jonesboro and Virginia Tech have signed his petition. The issue, he suggests, goes far beyond Columbine: "This does set a precedent for marketing these types of events. If this goes through, I'll bet you twenty dollars there's going to be a movie on the whole Norway thing. Does anybody want to see that rampage? At what point do we draw the line?"

Cullen is well aware of the range of objections to the miniseries. He read through comment after comment in the online petition, trying to understand his critics' perspective, but finally gave it up. "It was demoralizing," he says. "A lot of them were calling me a horrible person."

It stung, he says, that people think the project is just about money, as if anything dealing with Columbine is a guaranteed blockbuster. He spent the better part of ten years researching his book and challenging the core myths about the attack — for example, that Harris and Klebold were out to kill jocks — but most major publishers weren't interested. Even after the book won rave reviews, major studios passed on the idea of a feature-film adaptation.

"It was this project nobody wanted to do, based on this very dark material," he says. "People who think it's a moneymaker, I would love for them to go to Hollywood and have that conversation with the studios that said no."

After some high-profile industry names became attached to the proposal — writer/director Tommy O'Haver (An American Crime) and producers Michael DeLuca (Moneyball, The Social Network) and Christine Vachon and Pam Koffler (Boys Don't Cry) — Lifetime became interested in it as a "prestige project," something to help change the network's image.

"I was leaning all the time toward doing it as a miniseries on TV," Cullen says. "You can tell a much more involved story that way."

Cullen expects to have considerable input into the adaptation, which he says will give due attention to survivors' stories as well as that of the killers. He doesn't anticipate that the miniseries will inspire copycats, because the "actual" Harris and Klebold, stripped of their mythologies, "are pretty unappealing." For economy's sake, the script may contain composite characters on the periphery of the story, but the intent is to tell a true story: "It's definitely all real names, real people, keeping it as real as possible."

Yet it's precisely the assertion of the project's authenticity that most troubles its opponents. In the Columbine community, Cullen's book is widely regarded not as the definitive account of the massacre and its aftermath, but one version of it, with its own biases and questionable interpretations. The second chapter portrays Harris as a chick magnet, an assertion based largely on the account of one reputed girlfriend whom police investigators concluded wasn't credible; several people who knew the killers well believe both Harris and Klebold died as virgins. ("Right now I'm trying to get fucked and trying to finish off these time bombs," Harris wrote two weeks before the attack.) It's one thread in a larger dispute some readers have with Cullen's work — which, in their view, downplays the role of bullying and other factors in its efforts to portray Harris as a well-integrated psychopath and Klebold as his depressed, rejected follower.

It's doubtful that even the most nuanced version of the killers' motives would satisfy all camps. Harris and Klebold offered contradictory explanations for their hatred and despair. They were filled with rage over perceived slights from family members and the "bitches" who rejected them, but they also believed they had "evolved one step above you fucking human shit." They offered ample warning signs of their intentions because they suspected, correctly, that almost no one was paying attention. They disparaged religion but clung to a hope that they would somehow be able to enjoy their dead-celebrity status. They pursued their apocalyptic plot for months, with the monomania of terrorists, even as their lives seemingly improved, yet they were adept at blaming others for their isolation and contempt for the whole world. "I hate you people for leaving me out of so many fun things," Harris wrote in the final, self-pitying entry in his journal. That's not an explanation — just another expression of long-nurtured grievances by an angry, deeply delusional teenager.

A few of Cullen's most vocal critics say they don't trust his book because he relies so heavily on sources among law enforcement and school officials, including Jefferson County lead investigator Kate Battan, FBI agent Dwayne Fuselier (whose psychological analysis of the killers Cullen presents as if handed down from Mount Sinai) and principal Frank DeAngelis — people whom Columbine families accused of misleading them or providing self-serving accounts. Although Cullen deals in a roundabout way with the police cover-up concerning prior investigations of the killers and their blunders on the day of the attack, he also describes the Jeffco commanders — several of whom lied outright to the media and the victims' families — as "essentially honest men," and he makes a point of proclaiming that Battan "was clean."

"He was working with Battan and Fuselier to make the police look good," says Brian Rohrbough, who fought in court for years to establish that the official account of how his son Danny died outside the school was wrong. "He glosses over the cover-up as if it's an incidental thing."

When Columbine was published, three years ago, Rohrbough and other parents were incensed to learn that Oprah Winfrey was going to feature the author, along with Battan and Fuselier, on a show marking the tenth anniversary of the shootings. Contacted by a producer for photos of his son, Rohrbough suggested that Winfrey was making a terrible mistake.

"I said, 'I'd be happy to pay for my own plane ticket and be part of this,'" he recalls. "'If you're going to put these liars on, someone needs to be there to refute them.' She was horrified."

An appearance on Oprah virtually guaranteed a dramatic rise in sales for any author. Winfrey decided to shelve the episode on Cullen's book, issuing a brief statement: "After reviewing it, I thought it focused too much on the killers. Today, hold a thought for the Columbine community. This is a hard day for them."

"Focused too much on the killers" is a frequent rap on Cullen's work. Jeff Kass, the author of Columbine: A True Story, another tenth-anniversary release that made less of a splash than Cullen's book, recently wrote an op-ed piece about the miniseries flap, suggesting that his competitor's psychological approach presents a distorted view of "two teens who wanted to kill almost everyone they met...and wanted to keep hurting people even after they died."

"Lifetime may have every right to make a Columbine miniseries," Kass writes. "But it also has an obligation to make it the right way."

But what's the right way? Cullen points out that his book also deals with the recovery process of survivors and victims' families, especially Patrick Ireland, the badly wounded youth who crawled out of the library window into the arms of rescuers, and the wife of Dave Sanders. His book was positively received by some of the Columbine families — as well as by thousands of people affected by other shootings and forms of trauma. He insists the producers he's working with are as committed as he is to honoring the victims and not glorifying the killers.

At the same time, he concedes that he doesn't have an easy response for people concerned about the trauma the miniseries might trigger. "Of all the anger and reasons for protest, that's the one that gnaws at me the most," he says. "That's the one I'm really worried about. You'd think I'd have a better answer for that by now. I don't know how to answer it without sounding like an asshole."

Cullen says he recognizes that the post-traumatic stress experienced by many of the survivors is genuine and ongoing. He had two diagnosed bouts of "secondary PTSD" himself while researching his book, one of which was triggered by a series of school shootings in the news in a matter of days. The two most emotionally trying chapters to write, he says, involved the death of Sanders and, oddly, Klebold's funeral.

"I couldn't get any work done," he recalls. "I was pretty much crying every day. I thought I would get over it. I was about three weeks into it when I realized I was in trouble. I was kind of a mess."

But he believes the downside to revisiting the shootings is outweighed by the good that a thorough, honest treatment of the event could do. He likens the project to Vietnam movies of the late 1970s, which distressed some vets but helped the nation come to terms with the war's legacy. "The whole country did go through Columbine and really needs something that will help them," he says. "So I think we need to do it."

Sam Granillo and other petition signers don't agree. Many of them have strong notions about what constitutes PTSD and what sort of catharsis might be helpful.

"I don't doubt that he went through emotional hardships," Granillo says of Cullen, with whom he's exchanged a few e-mails. "But he didn't witness anything. He probably read a lot of horrible stories, but he did that to himself. None of us chose what happened to us."

The miniseries controversy has only strengthened Granillo's resolve to pursue his own documentary about how his classmates have dealt with the long-term legacy of the shootings. He recently launched a website to promote the project, now called Columbine: Wounded Minds, and has a fundraiser planned for next month.

"There's no reason to relive the tragedy endlessly," he says. "What needs to be done now is, how do we get people help? How do we prevent this from happening in the future? There needs to be a new perspective of the situation, from us — and that has not been done yet."

"For the people who've struggled over the years with flashbacks and nightmares, maybe this film can help motivate them to get help," says Hochhalter, who's a strong supporter of Granillo's project. "Other people have had struggles and gotten help, and it really did improve their lives. I'm happy with my life. I have a really good support system, and I think that's key."

Many of the people Granillo is interviewing for his documentary have never talked publicly about the attack before. It's difficult work, he says, and easy to get off track, as subject and interviewer start reminiscing about various friends they lost, or share little stories about life at Columbine before everything was utterly transformed. "It's so close to home," he says. "I can ask questions nobody else can even think of."

Recently, Granillo sat down with Frank DeAngelis, who remains at the helm of Columbine after all these years, the person reporters seek out for every anniversary story. For the first 45 minutes, the interview trudged forward as just another retrospective — the same canned questions and answers. Then Granillo asked his old principal what was really going on in his head, having to be the spokesman and public face of Columbine.

DeAngelis thought about it. He began to talk more candidly than Granillo had ever heard him talk before. The two spent the next four hours in conversation about the school they loved and mourned.

"It was both of us," Granillo says, "sharing things we could relate to. Things we knew, that you had to be there to know."

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Columbine on TV: The five most convoluted school shooting episodes

By Alan Prendergast

Thursday, March 22, 2012

This week's feature, "The Columbine Effect," reports on the controversy over a proposed miniseries about the shootings at Columbine -- and the way filmmakers have made use of the tragedy to advance various agendas of their own. But references to Columbine in indie films and documentaries, however upsetting to survivors of the attack on the school, still tend to be less gratuitous than the license network television shows have taken with the event.

In order to give us stories ripped from yesterday's headlines -- and crank up the ratings of tired, formulaic cop shows and teen-angst dramas -- writers for various series have tried their hand at a school shooting plot. Typically, that means borrowing a few bare details from press coverage, working up some kind of theme about bullying and brilliant geeks striking back...and then adding a few incoherent twists and sub-subplots so that the show can address its more customary Big Questions, such as whether that cute assistant DA is going to let the sensitive, guilt-wracked cop buy her a drink or not.

Here are five queasy forays into real-life action that left us wondering how we got from something as heart-wrenching and indelible as the attack on Columbine to this synthetic mess:

5. Law & Order SVU: "Manic" (2003).

A young teen (Rory Culkin) is first mistaken for a survivor of a shooting that claimed two other students, but it turns out that the kid is the shooter, a bullied outcast on depression medication. And yes, his meds, supplied in a shady fashion by an evil pharmaceutical giant, may have triggered the violence. After the usual serpentine court maneuvers, detectives Stabler and Benson get to slap the cuffs on the CEO of the drug company, the real villain of the story.

4. NUMB3RS: "Dark Matter" (2006)

One school shooter is found among the dead after an attack on a high school, but it's up to the team to find his partner. They learn that the shooters belonged to a nerdy outcast group of online gamers and track their suspect to a cybercafe, where he's killed trying to escape. End of story? Not when Charlie (David Krumholtz) figures out from pursuit data obtained from the school that there was a third shooter, a student journalist who was using the nerds so she could attack less random targets, the athletes who raped her at a party months ago -- either before or after she exposed the school steroid scandal, depending on how closely you followed all this.

3. Cold Case: "Rampage" (2006)

The detectives reopen a 1995 shooting spree at a shopping mall, which resulted in fifteen deaths and the suicides of the two young male shooters. A tape the pair (Kyle Gallner and Will Rothhaar) made of their attack has just resurfaced, and the sleuths soon realize there's a third party involved, holding the camera -- one of the survivors was actually in cahoots with the killers. Is it the mall security guard? The former bully? Could it be the popular girl who got sexually assaulted just before the attack and is egging the boys on so that they'll wipe out the rapists -- wait! Did these clowns rip off an episode of NUMB3RS that ran five months earlier?

2. One Tree Hill: "With Tired Eyes, Tired Minds, Tired Souls, We Slept" (2006).

Producers of the campy school drama decided to get serious with their "Columbine episode," as it soon became known. They brought back Jimmy Edwards (Colin Fickes), a little-used chubby character, to take revenge on bullies and hold a bunch of good-looking kids hostage inside the school. He takes his own life and, in a final shocker, is framed posthumously for another murder. Degrassi: The Next Generation did a similar show two years earlier, but it didn't have nearly as cool a title.

1. American Horror Story: "Halloween (Part 2)" and "Piggy Piggy" (2011).

No one can parse all the inexplicable and supernatural goings-on in this preposterous show with confidence; not even the writers seem to know what's going on half the time. But give FX credit for defying the usual low expectations for horror series -- and the presence of Tate (Evan Peters), a deceased school shooter who doesn't recall his crimes and isn't even aware that he's a ghost when we meet him, makes the situation all the more intriguing. His arc gets a workout in these two episodes, in which he's confronted by some of his victims and and finds he has more ties to the world of the living than he realizes.

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Columbine to Newtown: A tragic list of school shootings since 1999

By Michael Roberts

Monday, December 17, 2012

In updating the list below, we discovered that there have been 73 more school shootings since our 2009 post -- at least.

Chardon, Ohio, February 27, 2012 A seventeen-year old boy fired ten shots at a group of students in the Chardon High School cafeteria as school began Monday, then shot an additional student elsewhere in the cafeteria, then proceeded down a hallway, where he shot one more student. He then fled and was arrested nearby, authorities said. Three boys were killed. Another male victim remains hospitalized, while a female victim has been released to her family, officials said.

Port Orchard, Washington, February 23, 2012 A nine-year-old boy boy accidently shot a fellow third-grader. Authorities say the boy brought a .45-caliber handgun he got from his mother's house to an elementary school in Bremerton on Wednesday, and the weapon discharged from inside his backpack just before classes let out, critically injuring an eight-year-old girl.

Murfreesboro, Tennessee, February 21, 2012 A fourteen-year-old boy was shot twice in the leg on the grounds of Carson Lane Academy. The shooting occurred just after 5 o'clock on a Monday afternoon during an altercation between two groups of kids.

Brownsville, Texas, January 4, 2012 A male eighth grade Cummings Middle School student brandished a weapon today at approximately eight a.m. in the school's main hallway. School administrators immediately contacted the Brownsville Police Department and BISD Police and Security Services. The school initiated standard lock down procedures. Law Enforcement Officers responded to the scene immediately. The student engaged the officers and was shot. He was transported to a local hospital by ambulance. No other students or employees were injured.

Berkeley, CA, November 15, 2011 At 2:17 p.m., the UCPD got a 911 call about a man who reportedly had a gun in a backpack at the Haas School of Business. At 2:19 p.m., three officers arrived at the school and found the suspect in a computer lab on the third floor. The suspect pulled a gun out of his backpack, the police chief said, and displayed it "in a threatening manner." The chancellor said there were four students in the vicinity of the suspect and the officers, and that "it appeared students' lives might be at risk." After the officers told the man "numerous times" to drop his weapon, one of the three officers fired at the suspect, Celaya said. No one else was injured in the incident.

Fayetteville, NC, October 25, 2011 Two teenagers were in custody in the shooting of a 15-year-old fellow student who was wounded in the neck during a lunch period outside her North Carolina high school, and a sheriff said Monday the pair will be charged. Abercrombie was in stable condition after surgery at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center, according to Butler, who said she was standing in a breezeway outside the school cafeteria when she was shot.

Baltimore, MD, October 14, 2011 A man was shot several times in the back in the parking garage on the University of Maryland at Baltimore. The shooting happened at 6 p.m., and the gunman fled. The man shot was taken to the nearest hospital in critical condition. The school enacted its "shelter in place" emergency protocol, and by 7:30 people were allowed to move about the buildings freely and cars were allowed to leave the parking lot.

Harper Woods, Michigan, August 26, 2011 A fifteen-year-old girl was wounded when shots were fired at the conclusion of a football game at Chandler Park Academy in Harper Woods. When police arrived, witnesses said at least two people had been shot, but none of the victims remained at the scene. Detroit police contacted Harper Woods authorities to report a fifteen-year-old girl, who was shot in the stomach in the academy's parking lot after the game, was taken or walked to a nearby house in Detroit. An ambulance was called and transported the teenager to Children's Hospital in Detroit.

Mandeville, Louisiana, August 8, 2011 Three fifteen-year-old New Orleans-area boys were arrested for allegedly plotting to shoot at least one student at Lakeshore High School and to kill law enforcement officials who responded to the scene. Authorities said the boys named their group "Day Zero." They had reportedly planned to acquire several guns and bring them to the school. Police collected information from computers in the boys' homes after other students told a school administrator about the alleged plot.

Pearl City, HI, May 23, 2011 A student was injured when a .45 caliber Glock semi-automatic pistol accidentally went off inside a middle school. The gun was unintentionally fired by another student who had brought the gun in to school to show off to friends. The bullet was shot through one student's jacket and ricocheted off a wall before inflicting nonlethal injuries on the victim.

Cleveland, OH, May 23, 2011 A robbery attempt turned violent when a sixteen-year-old Benedictine High School student, Sophomore Jackrell Russell, was shot in the chest by a robber. The teenager was approached by the suspect who demanded the boy's cell phone and school-issued laptop. Jackrell was able to flag down a passing RTA bus where a passenger called 9-1-1. He was taken to a hospital and stabilized.

Houston, TX, April 19, 2011 Officials say three students were injured after a 6-year-old brought a loaded gun to his Houston elementary school that accidentally discharged when it fell out of the child's pocket. None of the injuries appeared life-threatening.

Los Angeles, CA, April 15, 2011 A teenager was in custody today for allegedly shooting a fifteen-year-old boy who was shot as he walked to Los Angeles High School. A teenage suspect was later arrested and taken to a juvenile lockup. Investigators say the shooter and the victim, both boys, knew one another. The wounded boy suffered a bullet wound to the buttocks. A motive for the shooting was not disclosed.

Apopka, Florida, April 13, 2011 One person suffered a non-life-threatening injury after a shooting outside Sheeler Charter High in Apopka. The victim and two others, including one student, were taken into custody. The victim was shot in the abdomen. Investigators believe the suspects, who do not attend the school, came to the school to confront a student.

Nashville, TN, April 12, 2011 A seventeen-year-old girl was shot and injured when shots were fired into her school bus. Two brothers, eighteen and nineteen years old, were charged in the shooting outside Pearl Cohn High School. Police say the suspects' intended target was standing outside the bus at the time of the shooting.

Opelika, AL, April 6, 2011 A 63-year-old woman was killed and three other people were wounded by a gunman who opened fire outside the Higginbotham Academic Center at Union State Community College. Investigators arrested a 34-year-old man who admitted to the shooting which is believed to be domestic related. A 36-year-old woman who was a student at the college was hurt along with a 94-year-old woman and a four-year-old child who was injured by shattered glass. The shooting took place while students were changing classes.

Houston, Texas, March 31, 2011 One person was killed and five others were injured during a shooting -- believed to be gang-related -- just before 7 p.m. at Worthing High School during a powder puff football game. Eyewitnesses said a car, which police believe carried gang members, drove onto the athletic field and started shooting. Six people were shot, one of whom was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital. The identity of the victim has not been released. The suspects fled the scene but police managed to track down a gold Ford Taurus with blood stains on its doors about five miles from the Texan high school. At least one person was taken into custody.

Martinsville, Indiana, March 25, 2011 A shooting suspect was apprehended and police searched for a gun hours after a shooting at a middle school in which a student was injured. The shooting took place at Martinsville West Middle School. The victim was shot twice in the stomach. The shooting involved a student who was recently either expelled or suspended from school, authorities said.

Los Angeles, California, February 23, 2011 A student was arrested for shooting and killing his instructor at the Coast Career Institute vocational school. The shooting took place inside a school classroom right in front of the class. The 22-year-old gunman was training to become a security guard. He fired at least 10-rounds from a semiautomatic handgun at point-blank range then went outside and waited until police arrived.

Murfreesboro, Tennessee, February 14, 2011 A fight led to a shooting at Middle Tennessee State University. The shooting suspect, a twenty-year-old MTSU junior, was arrested. The twenty-year-old victim, a former MTSU student, was shot in the hand when the bullet ricocheted off the ground and hit his thumb. The campus was put on alert for nearly 45-minutes until the gunman was apprehended.

Youngstown, Ohio, February 6, 2011 One person was killed and eleven were injured in a shooting at an after-hours party near the Youngstown State University campus. The deceased was a university student. Six of the injured were also students at the university. Two suspects were arrested.

Placerville, California, February 2, 2011 A disagreement between a custodian and an elementary school principal over the hiring of a nighttime janitor led to the principal's fatal shooting. The shooter was told to leave Louisiana Schnell Elementary School earlier in the day but later came back to the school, went to the principal's office, and fired two rounds killing the principal. No children were hurt.

Los Angeles, California, January 18, 2011 A fifteen-year-old girl and a fifteen-year-old boy were hurt when a 9-mm Beretta inside a fellow student's backpack went off at Gardena High School. Both victims were hit by the same bullet. The bullet hit one victim in the head and the other in the neck and shoulder. The seventeen-year-old suspect was already on probation for a misdemeanor battery charge.

Omaha, Nebraska, January 5, 2011 A seventeen-year-old student shot the principal and assistant principal at Millard South High School before fleeing the school and shooting and killing himself. The assistant principal later died of her injuries. The gun used by the teen was a Glock .40 believed to be the service weapon of his father, an Omaha police officer.

Panama City, Florida, December 14, 2010 Ex-convict Clay Duke held a Florida school board a gunpoint firing several shots before shooting himself. No one else was hurt. The entire incident was caught on video.

Aurora, Colorado, December 6, 2010 A seventeen-year-old female student was shot in the torso outside Aurora Central High School as she talked with classmates. Witnesses say two shots were fired into the crowd of students. No one else was hurt. The shooting prompted a lockdown at the high school, five elementary schools and a middle school. A nineteen-year-old boy was arrested in connection with what police said may have been a gang-related shooting.

Garden City, South Carolina, December 4, 2010 A person leaving basketball practice at Groves High School was hit by a bullet when someone fired multiple shots at two cars. The victim was treated and released from a local hospital. The victim, who had been watching basketball practice, was not a student at the school.

Chicago, Illinois, November 29, 2010 A seventeen-year-old Thornridge High School student was shot and injured during an armed robbery outside the school in south suburban Dolton. The shooting occurred after school hours. Police arrested a fourteen and a fifteen-year old in connection to the crimes. The pair fled after the shooting but authorities apprehended them a short time later.

Marinette, Wisconsin, November 28, 2010 A fifteen-year-old student shot a film projector and held 23 classmates and a teacher hostage for about five hours at Marinette High School. The shooter had two pistols, knives and more than 200 rounds of ammunition. He fatally shot himself when police broke down the classroom door.

Fairfield, California, October 11, 2010 A 29-year-old man was shot to death in the parking lot of Armijo High School. Two people, including a nineteen-year-old, were arrested. Police said the shooting was not connected to the high school campus. Investigators believe the fight was arranged by gangs intent on settling a feud.

Selma, Alabama, October 25, 2010 Shots were fired into a classroom at Payne Elementary School from outside after school was over for the day. A teacher was in the classroom but was unharmed. Nobody was injured.

Carlsbad, California, October 8, 2010 A man jumped the fence at Kelly Elementary School and opened fire on children playing outside at lunchtime. When his gun jammed, nearby construction workers tackled him. Two girls, ages six and seven, were injured. Neighbors report the shooter often screamed obscenities and racial epithets, and that the police had been called repeatedly.

Elizabeth City, North Carolina, October 3, 2010 A student fatally shot another student in the victim's dorm room at Mid-Atlantic University on Sunday afternoon. The University said the shooting stemmed from a conflict between the two individuals.

Austin, Texas, September 28, 2010 A nineteen-year-old student fatally shot himself in the main library at the University of Texas with an AK-47 assault rifle. He ran through parts of the campus and fired several shots into the air before entering the library and killing himself.

Columbia, South Carolina, September 21, 2010 A student confronted and shot at a resource officer at Socastee High School. The officer sustained minor injuries as the bullet hit the officer after ricochet off a wall. The student, working with another student, had also planted pipe bombs around the school. The bombs were removed and disarmed by police without injury.

Moss Bluff, Louisiana, September 16, 2010 A student fatally shot himself at St. Theodore/Holy Family School at the start of the school day.

Las Cruces, New Mexico, September 7, 2010 A seventeen-year-old fired a handgun during a fight between several teenagers during a volleyball game at Las Cruces High School.

Detroit, Michigan, September 7, 2010 A fourteen-year-old girl and a sixteen-year-old boy were shot outside Mumford High School on their first day of the school. A fight had began inside the school but spilled outside.

Omaha, Nebraska, August 18, 2010 A fifteen-year-old fired a gun on a school bus on the way home from Burke High School. Nobody was injured. Officials were unaware of the incident until it was reported by a parent the next day. A sixteen-year-old was found with a gun at the same school the next day.

South Gate, California, May 18, 2010 A seventeen-year-old shot a fifteen-year-old student in the abdomen at South Gate High School. The shooter attended a neighboring high school.

Portsmouth, Virginia, April 29, 2010 A student entered Wilson High School through a back door and fired several shots inside the school. Nobody was injured.

Baton Rouge, Louisiana, March 23, 2010 Four middle school students were arrested for bringing a gun onto school grounds and firing it near a practice field. No one was injured during the incident.

Columbus, Ohio, March 9, 2010 A disgruntled Ohio State University maintenance employee, who had recently been fired from his job, opened fire in a campus facilities building, killing a maintenance manager and wounding another co-worker before he turned the gun on himself. The shooter had been in prison previously.

Littleton, Colorado, February 23, 2010 A 32-year-old man shot at students as they left Deer Creek Middle School at the end of the day. Two students were injured before a math teacher tackled the shooter. The shooter used his father's rifle in the attack.

DeKalb, Illinois, February 19, 2010 One student was injured and another placed into police custody after a shooting on the campus of Northern Illinois University. The shooting was caused by an altercation between the shooter and victim.

Huntsville, Alabama, February 12, 2010 A professor opened fire fifty minutes into at a Biological Sciences Department faculty meeting at the University of Alabama, killing three colleagues and wounding three others. The shooter had a history of violence: she shot and killed her brother in 1986, was possibly involved in an attempted mail bombing, and was convicted of disorderly conduct, and assault and battery in an incident in 2002. The gun used in shooting was bought from the shooter's husband in 1989 by a friend in New Hampshire to avoid a waiting period in Massachusetts.

Knoxville, Tennessee, February 10, 2010 A teacher shot and wounded the principal and assistant principal in their offices at Inskip Elementary School, where all three worked.

Madison, Alabama, February 5, 2010 A fourteen-year-old student was shot and killed between classes at Discovery Middle School. The suspect in police custody is a fellow ninth grade student.

Livingston, Alabama, January 20, 2010 A high school teacher was shot multiple times outside her school in what police believe was a domestic incident. The suspect was caught thirty miles from the scene after causing a traffic accident.

Phoenix, Arizona, January 7, 2010 A sixteen-year-old former student shot three students outside Esperanza Charter School. The shooter argued with two nineteen year olds and then shot them. A ten-year-old boy was also grazed with a bullet. Police believe the shooting was gang related.

Shreveport, Louisiana, December 11, 2009 A 28-year-old man shot an eighteen-year-old female student multiple times outside of Shreveport High School. The shooter waited at the school for her to arrive in the morning and is believed to have been involved with the teenager. The victim is expected to survive.

Woodbridge, Virginia, December 8, 2009 A twenty-year-old student fired twice at his math professor during class at Northern Virginia Community College. The shooter then put his gun down, left the classroom and was arrested without incident. Nobody was injured.

Brockton, Massachusetts, December 2, 2009 A seventeen-year-old former student was shot in both legs late in the afternoon at Brockton High School. He was shot near the gymnasium where approximately 100 students were participating in basketball tryouts.

Boston, Massachusetts, November 17, 2009 A 22-year-old man was shot while playing basketball in the evening at an elementary school. Police believe the shooting was gang-related.

Dallas, Texas, November 16, 2009 A Dallas schools maintenance man visiting Umphrey Lee Elementary School accidentally shot himself in the leg while talking with a custodian. No children were nearby when the shooting occurred.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, November 6, 2009 A fifteen-year-old shot a seventeen-year-old fellow student in the head on the school bus to CEP Miller School before fleeing. He was later arrested and found in possession of a handgun. Police believe the shooter was retaliating for being bullied by the victim.

Pineville, Louisiana, November 1, 2009 A nineteen year old fatally shot himself in the head with an SKS assault rifle. He was at a party with a group of people who were "playing" with the gun at 3 a.m.

Memphis, Tennessee, October 24, 2009 Four teenagers shot an AK-47 assault rifle in a wooded area behind Craigmont High School while school was in session. Two of the suspects, who were not students at the school, were parked outside the school in the fire lane, and apprehended by police with the weapon and a thirty-round magazine.

Long Beach, California, October 20, 2009 A sixteen-year-old female student was shot and killed, and two non-students, ages eighteen and twenty, were injured when someone opened fire as hundreds of people were leaving a Friday night football game at Woodrow Wilson High School. There was a school dance, with approximately 200 students, also happening at the school at the time of the shooting.

Southold, New York, October 8, 2009 A 28-year-old man fired a bullet that went through a window of Mattituck High School and grazed the head of an eighteen-year-old student sitting in class. The bullet was possibly fired from his home that is located near the school.

Henrico, Virginia, September 16, 2009 A sixteen-year-old student with a handgun fired multiple shots in the parking lot of Virginia Randolph Community High School while school was in session. The gunman fled on foot, but was arrested without incident by police a short while later. Nobody was injured.

Grand Rapids, Michigan, September 14, 2009 A sixteen-year-old student fired a shot into air in the parking lot of Creston High School. Nobody was injured. The next day another student was caught with a sawed off shotgun in his pants leg at the same school.

Stamford, Connecticut, September 8, 2009 A sixteen year old shot at a fellow student outside of Stamford Academy, a charter high school. Police believe the shooter and target had a previous dispute.

Atlanta, Georgia, September 3, 2009 Someone fired a gun multiple times during a fight on the campus of Clark Atlanta University, fatally injuring a nineteen-year-old student walking in the area with friends. The victim went to neighboring Spellman College.

San Bruno, California, September 2, 2009 One person got shot during a fight in a parking lot at Skyline College.

Houston, Texas, July 10, 2009 Six people were shot, including one student, in a drive by shooting at a community rally on the campus of Texas Southern University. Police believe the shooting to be gang related.

Parkersburg, Iowa, June 24, 2009 A 24-year-old man shot and killed his former high school football coach in the weight room of Aplington-Parkersburg High School. Several students were in the weight room at the time of the shooting, but no one else was injured. The shooter was arrested at a nearby home.

Lexington, Kentucky, June 9, 2009 A school employee shot and killed another employee at Leestown Middle School. School had ended for the year and no students from the school's summer programs were present during the shooting. The victim and shooter had clashed in the past.

Cambridge, Massachusetts, May 18, 2009 A 21-year-old man died after being shot at a Harvard University dormitory during an attempted drug robbery. Two men have been arrested in connection with the shooting. Neither the victim nor the assailants were students at Harvard.

Larose, Louisiana, May 18, 2009 A fifteen year old fired a shot at a teacher before fleeing to a bathroom and shooting himself in the head at Larose-Cut Off Middle School. The teacher was not hit. The boy died several days later.

West Covina, California, May 4, 2009 Two teenagers, ages fifteen and sixteen, were charged with conspiracy to commit murder after plotting to shoot their classmates during a school assembly at Covina High School. Police found two loaded handguns at the home of the fifteen year old, and believe the teens stole them from the sixteen year old's stepfather. The police began investigating when the stepfather reported his handguns missing over a month ago.

Sheboygan, Wisconsin, May 1, 2009 A troubled seventeen year old shot himself in the stomach in the parking lot of Sheboygan North High School.

Hampton, Virginia, April 26, 2009 An eighteen-year-old former student followed a pizza deliveryman into his old dormitory, and shot the deliveryman, a dorm monitor, and himself at Hampton University. No students were injured and all of those who were hurt are expected to survive.

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PostSubject: Re: Articles on the event and it's aftermath   Articles on the event and it's aftermath Icon_minitimeWed Apr 15, 2015 1:14 am

The shadow of Columbine looms over this Jeffco sheriff's race

By Alan Prendergast

Thursday, June 20, 2013

In his nearly thirty years at the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, Jeff Shrader has been involved in just about every public aspect of the agency's operation, from running its jail to supervising investigations to overseeing a $35 million construction project and the creation of a regional crime lab.

But for some families whose lives were altered by the 1999 shootings at Columbine High School, it's his involvement in one not-so-public operation that matters most — especially now that Shrader has announced that he's running to replace term-limited Ted Mink as sheriff next year.

A few days after the attack on the high school by Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, who killed thirteen and wounded two dozen others before taking their own lives, a group of top government officials met secretly at Jefferson County Open Space offices. The gathering included then-district attorney Dave Thomas, the county attorney and several members of the JCSO top brass — as well as Shrader, a lieutenant at the time. They were there to discuss what the sheriff's office knew about the teen gunmen before the attack, and how to handle press inquiries about what appeared to be a badly bungled investigation a year earlier of Harris.

As a result of that meeting, on April 30, 1999, JCSO spokesman Steve Davis read a prepared statement at a press conference defending his agency's actions. The statement, which had been drafted by Shrader, contained several glaring omissions, mischaracterizations of fact and outright whoppers. It was the start of a campaign to mislead the public, discredit critics and deflect lawsuits that would go on for years, until court actions and a grand jury probe uncovered the coverup.

Shrader has always denied any role in the coverup, saying that he simply conveyed information supplied to him by others. But that's not how Randy Brown sees it.

"I will never trust him," says Brown, a longtime critic of the official Columbine investigation. "He placed the interests of the sheriff's department above the families of murdered children and above the truth. Everyone at the meeting did that, and they kept the secret like the cowards I believe they are."

It was Brown and his wife, Judy, who'd contacted the sheriff's office thirteen months before Columbine to file a report on Harris, who had been boasting on his website about blowing up pipe bombs and had threatened to kill the couple's oldest son, Brooks. Harris was already on probation for breaking into a van, and the investigators the Browns spoke with seemed to take seriously the information they provided, including several pages of disturbing rants printed out from Harris's website.

After the massacre, Sheriff John "Stonewall" Stone insisted that there had never really been an investigation, supposedly because of a lack of cooperation by the Browns. Stone even went on national television and suggested that Brooks Brown, who'd had a strange encounter with Harris shortly before the attack began, was a potential suspect in the case. At the April 30 press conference, the statement Davis read claimed that the Browns had wanted to remain anonymous and hadn't wanted Harris contacted directly; that Harris's website couldn't be accessed; that investigators hadn't been able to link the claims about detonating pipe bombs to any actual pipe bombs found in the neighborhood; and that the matter hadn't involved the number of meetings with police that the Browns claimed.

All of this was provably untrue. And one of the documents that disproved it had been the focus of the secret meeting a few days before that press conference. It was a two-page affidavit for a warrant to search Harris's house and computer, drafted by JCSO bomb tech Mike Guerra. The affidavit noted that investigators had met with the Browns and had located pipe bombs exploded in a field that matched those described on the website.

If Guerra's search warrant had been executed, it's possible the attack on Columbine could have been prevented; police would likely have stumbled upon at least some of the weapons and extensive writings about the planned attack that Harris was already assembling in the spring of 1998. But since the ball had been dropped, the folks at the meeting decided to act as if the affidavit had never existed and to downplay the Browns' complaints. Shrader's statement made no mention of the affidavit — which wasn't made public until 60 Minutes learned of its existence two years later and went to court to get it released, after county officials had failed to provide it in response to numerous open-records requests. (Point of disclosure: I served as a paid consultant to CBS News on the project and was involved in that court battle.)

The coverup was subsequently investigated by a state grand jury under Attorney General Ken Salazar. The grand jury failed to indict anyone, but issued a report expressing some "concern" over the secret meeting, the press conference "omissions" and missing files ("Anatomy of a Coverup," September 30, 2004). Shrader was one of only two law enforcement officers to formally respond to the report, countering that both District Attorney Thomas and the county attorney had told him that Guerra's draft affidavit "was clearly an investigative work in process" and had failed to establish probable cause. By not mentioning it in the statement he wrote, he simply "gave due deference to the conclusions of these officials," he said.

Yet the statement presented at the press conference did more than simply omit mention of the affidavit. Contacted recently about other incorrect assertions made in that document, Shrader explained that he'd been "tasked to helping out" with Columbine matters from his assignment in the detention division and was not as familiar with the underlying issues as others at the meeting.

"It's a long time ago," he says. "I was able to help draft a press release. I don't know what ultimately went out in the press release. I presume there was some executive level of review. I only took the information that people had said in that meeting and conveyed it in a document. I didn't have time to investigate it."

But anyone who'd read the Guerra affidavit, Brown responds, would know that many of the statements made by Davis and others at the press conference were untrue. "He either knew what was going on and kept secrets," Brown says of Shrader, "or if he didn't know what was going on, he's not smart enough to be sheriff."

Shortly after the Columbine shootings, Shrader was promoted to division chief. He's now in charge of special projects; he's also been involved in forums to address juvenile violence, helped lead the agency's community-outreach and decentralization efforts, and spearheaded development of what he calls a "command accountability model." Dealing with the tragedy of Columbine, he says, has helped to make school safety one of the priorities of his campaign.

"I think we're growing," he says of the sheriff's office. "Our training is better. We're certainly not perfect people. I'm not a perfect individual, but I'm going to work hard."

Several years ago, not long after the grand jury's report was released, Shrader met with Randy Brown to discuss his role in the secret meeting. The two have different recollections of that conversation. Shrader says he was under the impression that any dispute between him and Brown had been resolved.

Brown disagrees. "He was not apologetic," he says. "He made no attempt to understand anything. He's had fourteen years to tell the truth about that meeting and the other meetings. He has remained silent."

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PostSubject: Re: Articles on the event and it's aftermath   Articles on the event and it's aftermath Icon_minitimeWed Apr 15, 2015 1:16 am

Columbine Killers' Basement Tapes Destroyed

By Alan Prendergast

Monday, February 2, 2015

They were the most notorious yet least-seen artifacts from one of the worst school shootings in American history -- roughly four hours of home videos made by two teenage killers-to-be, shot in the last weeks of their lives and offering glimpses into the methods and motives behind the 1999 attack on Columbine High School that killed thirteen people and seriously injured two dozen more. The so-called "basement tapes" of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold have been the subject of intense litigation and media speculation, morbid curiosity and outrage, half-baked psychoanalysis and earnest requests from violence-prevention researchers to make them available for study.

And now they're history -- but not the way the gunmen thought they would be.

Law enforcement officials have always regarded the tapes as a particularly infectious form of toxic waste, a primer in mass murder that could inspire more violence and must never be released. That's no longer a problem: A spokesperson for the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, the agency that took custody of the videos hours after the shootings, recently confirmed that every known copy of the basement tapes has been destroyed.

"I am not aware of any copies that are out there in anyone's hands," says Jacki Kelley, the JCSO public information director. "We actually held on to a lot of evidence from the Columbine investigation longer than our retention policies require."

Kelley says Sheriff Ted Mink approved the destruction of the tapes -- along with shell casings, weapons and other remaining Columbine evidence -- in early 2011. The obliteration of the videos was only acknowledged recently, though, after a private party filed an open records request seeking access to the basement tapes. A response from the county attorney's office noted that the sheriff's office "no longer has any documents in its possession responsive to your request."

Mink, who completed an eleven-year stint as sheriff in 2014 and is now a deputy director at the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, says he wanted to insure that the rantings of Harris and Klebold -- who go into some details in the tapes about bomb-making and other preparations, express hopes that others will launch similar attacks, and say they expect to attract followers "because we're so fucking godlike" -- never surface on social media.

"That was my call," Mink says. "My decision. I can't tell you how to measure prevention. I feel in my own heart it was preventative."

But some social scientists have contended that the tapes, along with writings by the killers and other videos they made, could be helpful in understanding the psychology of school shooters and recognizing warning signs. "A number of people have seen them and written about them," notes Del Elliott, founding director of the Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence at the University of Colorado Boulder. "Their value by themselves I don't see as critical. But the fact that we're losing information that could have been available some time in the future is distressing."

Several victim families, as well as the killers' own parents, had favored suppressing or destroying the tapes, fearing they would inspire copycat killings. But some families had pressed for their release, seeing Jeffco officials' reluctance to disclose evidence as part of a larger pattern of cover-ups and misinformation that plagued the Columbine investigation. A few contended that releasing the tapes would de-mythologize the killers, showing them to be angry, deluded, self-obsessed and far-from-godlike adolescents.

"When you have Islamic terrorists cutting off people's heads on YouTube, it's hard to look back on those tapes and say they shouldn't be released," says Brian Rohrbough, whose fifteen-year-old son, Dan, was killed at Columbine.

The quiet destruction of the tapes, he adds, only deepens his distrust of the sheriff's office: "There was a copycat shooting immediately after Columbine, and you can make the argument that this stuff shouldn't be released for a while. But all those arguments go out the window when you consider the way [former Sheriff] John Stone and [former Jefferson County District Attorney] Dave Thomas deceived the families about what they knew."

The content of the tapes was one of the most closely guarded secrets of the Columbine investigation during its first few months -- right up until the point that Jeffco officials provided exclusive access to the materials to a reporter from Time magazine, leading to a lurid cover story and community outrage. Stone then arranged a hasty viewing of the tapes by some local media outlets and victim family members, the only time the tapes -- or at least some portion of them -- have been publicly screened.

In 2001, after first Westword and then the Rocky Mountain News published extensive excerpts from Eric Harris's journal, the Denver Post went to court to demand that the rest of the materials seized from the killers' homes be released, including the basement tapes. The case dragged on for five years. After the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that the materials were criminal justice records, under the control of the sheriff's office, Sheriff Mink decided to release the writings of Klebold and Harris but keep the video and audio recordings the pair made in the vaults. (Other videos, including several made for school assignments and one showing the pair test-firing their weapons, had already been released.)

There were discussions about allowing violence-prevention researchers some form of limited access to the tapes, but Colorado's open records laws don't contain provisions for such an arrangement. "We were all very much under the impression that it would be an all-or-nothing release," Kelley says.

The tapes also became highly restricted exhibits in civil lawsuits filed against a pharmaceutical company and the killers' parents. Following the settlement of those cases, U.S. District Judge Lewis Babock ordered that the parents' depositions be turned over to the National Archives and Records Administration and kept under seal for twenty years. It's not clear to what extent some exhibits may also have been preserved, but a separate decision by Babcock ordered that the copies of the tapes used in the litigation be destroyed.

Is every known copy of the tapes now gone? Mink and Kelley think so. Other sources claim there's at least one bootleg audio recording of at least some of the tapes, and partial transcripts of the material have circulated online for years -- including one summary released by the sheriff's office itself. But text isn't the same as video, and Mink feels he's done all he can to insure the tapes don't end up on YouTube.

Mink is comfortable with his decision, reached after conferring with experts from the FBI's famed Behavioral Analysis Unit, who told him that the tapes would be a "strong motivator" to violence for other suicidal or homicidal youth.

"The consensus from the scientists in the room was that there was no value to these," Mink says. "They saw nothing there. They only saw the potential for further violence if these tapes got into the wrong hands."

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PostSubject: Re: Articles on the event and it's aftermath   Articles on the event and it's aftermath Icon_minitimeWed Apr 15, 2015 1:18 am

Reader: Destroying Columbine Killers' Tapes Could Lead to More Sandy Hooks

By Michael Roberts

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Alan Prendergast's revelation that Columbine killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold so-called basement tapes have been destroyed elicited strong reactions among reader. This one feels they could have been used for positive purposes.

shennessy writes:

Wow, awesome, how intelligent! Why do we as a nation IGNORE all the logic we're given? IF we have scientists willing to analyze these to prevent similar tragedies, DO IT. Sandy Hook may not have happened -- so ignorant to destroy them without researching, You're asking for another attack by having no prevention method.

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