Calm Before The Storm
The Littleton School Massacre
The morning of Tuesday, April 20, 1999 started much the same as any other day in the middle-class town of Littleton, Colorado.
None could know, as they went about their normal business, that beneath the calm, an anger had been raging in the hearts and
minds of two young men, Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17. At 11:35 a.m. on that fateful Tuesday, the 110th anniversary
of Adolf Hitler's birth, the two teenagers began a rampage through the corridors of Columbine High School that ultimately
ended their lives. In their wake they left 13 dead, 25 injured, many seriously, and a town shaken to its core.
Eric and Dylan had arrived in the school parking lot and entered through the back cafeteria door. They were wearing the
long black trench coats that were the trademark of the small clique of students,
"The Trench Coat Mafia," of which they were peripheral members. It was not until the teenagers began firing,
from the semi-automatic weapons they had carried, concealed under their coats, that students and staff who filled the cafeteria
realized that something was wrong.
Teacher and coach Dave Sanders was shot twice as he attempted to herd as many students as possible out of the cafeteria
and away to safety. His quick thinking and bravery saved the lives of many students but, unfortunately, at the cost of his
own. By the time he was able to get out of the cafeteria he was bleeding heavily from gunshot wounds to his chest and shoulders
and was already coughing up blood. Students attempted to stem the blood flow from Sanders' wounds, as they cowered behind
desks and tables in terror, but he died shortly after rescue teams finally reached him.
As Harris and Klebold marched through the building, heading toward the library, students and teachers fled. Some hid in
bathrooms, some in storage rooms; others had no more protection than the tables under which they had crawled. From outside
the building, police and SWAT teams who had begun to arrive could hear the sounds of gunfire and explosions. Students poured
out of doors and windows, crying, screaming, some with injuries. They fled as far from the building as they could go. Ambulance
workers and police tried to keep track of them as they made their escape. The injured were tended to as the SWAT teams tentatively
entered the building, not knowing what was in store for them.
Homemade bombs and explosive devices were found planted around the building. The first priority was to evacuate the school
before any of them could detonate. As the police scoured the ground floor looking for bombs, victims and the persons responsible
for the carnage, Harris and Klebold were continuing their "mission" on the second floor, hunting down any stray
students who were hiding in classrooms. In the library, students who had only moments before been studying were shot down
in a blaze of gunfire. Several survivors later reported that Harris and Klebold were smiling and laughing as they shot their
fellow students. The last shots heard were at 12:30 p.m. when Harris and Klebold took their own lives.
SWAT teams still did not know how many shooters there were, whether they were dead, or quietly waiting to ambush the police.
As each bomb was located, it had to be defused. Students, injured and frantic with fear, had to be escorted from the building
to ensure their safety. Each one was also searched for bombs and weapons. It was not until 4:00 p.m. that police declared
the building secure. All survivors had been evacuated. The bodies of the two killers were found with their guns in their hands
and explosive devices hidden under their coats. Police were able to announce the death toll, including the shooters, as being
All of the six district hospitals had been put on alert as soon as news of the shooting had been reported by the school's
security guard at 11:35. They had swung automatically into emergency procedures. By 12:00 p.m., when the first of the victims
began to arrive, they were ready for anything. Twenty- five people were admitted for treatment. Twenty-three had bullet wounds.
Three were in a critical condition.
Terrified parents flocked to the school, watching helplessly as students ran from the building, hoping to catch a glimpse
of their sons and daughters. In the midst of the chaos, someone began to organize a list of all known survivors. Parents read
through the lists, searching for the names of their children. Many would have to wait a long and agonizing time before word
of their children would bring relief. For others, the relief would never come.
When the sun set that night, it was on a different Littleton. Everyone in the town was to be affected by the tragic and
frightening events of Tuesday, April 20, 1999. They were no longer innocents. No longer could they live secure in the knowledge
that such things could never happen to them. It had happened. The next few months would bring the painful grief, self-recrimination
and blame that is a natural process of coming to terms with such a violent and tragic event.
Over the next few days, as citizens of Littleton erected memorials and held services for the fallen, police and SWAT teams
cordoned off the school, which was considered a major crime scene. The bodies of the dead lay where they fell until nightfall
on Wednesday, April 21. Families whose children were still unaccounted for waited nearby for the final identification of the
victims. Unable to face the worst, they desperately held to any other possible explanation for why their children had not
yet been found, hope not leaving them until the last, when they heard their children's names called from the list of the dead.
Schools in the district were closed on Wednesday as students and parents alike came to terms with the horror. Columbine
would close for the rest of the school year. Many students would express their reluctance to ever return. Mourners from all
over the district met at Cleveland Park, not far from the school, attempting to gain some solace in the other mourners around
them. Flowers, candles, and posters were laid at makeshift memorials, as much for the living as the dead.
Wayne and Kathy Harris and Sue and Tom Klebold, the parents of the two teenage shooters, sat stunned in their homes as
police searched for bombs, weapons and other material that might help them to understand what had occurred on Tuesday morning.
Filled not only with grief for the death of their own children, they bore the weight of responsibility for the deaths of the
people their sons had murdered. They were overwhelmed by disbelief. That their sons could have behaved in the way described
by police and witnesses was beyond their comprehension.
It would take many months of intense investigation, in what has been described as the state's most complex police investigation,
before anyone would come close to some of the answers. The answers they found led to more questions, many of which may never
As the police investigation progressed, the background of the two boys gradually unfolded. Initially it seemed that Eric
Harris and Dylan Klebold were just two average teenagers -- intelligent, well-mannered kids who had come from good homes.
However, it would not take long before a contrasting picture began to emerge. A picture of two young men, angry at the world
they thought had wronged them, who had sought, for some time, a way to accomplish their revenge.
Eric Harris was born on April 9, 1981 in Wichita, Kansas. His parents Wayne, and Kathy Harris had both been born in Colorado
but Wayne's career as an Air Force transport pilot had meant that the family had moved often. They had lived in Ohio, Michigan
and New York. When Wayne Harris retired, he and Kathy chose to settle in Littleton in 1996. There Wayne worked at the Flight
Safety Services Corporation in Englewood. Kathy worked at a catering company in the same area. Friends, neighbors and associates
of the Harrises in all of the areas in which they had lived described Wayne and Kathy as good people, supportive and considerate
of both of their sons.
During his childhood, Eric Harris had played Little League and was a Boy Scout. Eric and Dylan became firm friends soon
after the Harrises moved to Littleton. Before long they had linked their home computers and would spend many hours playing
Eric had hoped to be accepted into the Marine Corps but had been informed, several days before the massacre, that his
application had been rejected. The reason given was that Eric had been taking the anti-depressant Luvox, which was often used
to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder. Luvox is a commonly prescribed drug, which normally does not cause any physical or
psychological side effects unless taken with other drugs or alcohol. No evidence of drugs or alcohol had been found in Harris's
body after his death.
Dylan Klebold, like Eric Harris, came from a stable middle-class family which was held in high regard by friends, neighbors
and associates. Dylan was born on September 9, 1981 in Lakewood, Colorado. He had lived in Littleton for many years with his
parents Sue and Tom Klebold and older brother Byron.
Tom Klebold, a former geophysicist, operated a mortgage management business from their family home while Sue worked at
the State Consortium of Community Colleges providing accessibility for disabled students. Close friends felt that Dylan began
to change after he befriended Eric Harris during 1996.
As far as anyone knew there had only been one incident of criminal behavior in the past. In March the previous year, the
boys had been arrested on felony charges of criminal trespass and theft for breaking into a car and stealing some tools. Klebold
and Harris had made such a good impression on the juvenile officers involved in the case that they were offered to have their
records cleared if they promised to stay out of trouble and participate in a diversionary program. Harris was required to
attend anger management classes. Again, he had made a good impression on authorities.
As the investigation progressed, however, another picture of the two boys began to emerge. This picture was in stark contrast
to that known to their parents and close friends. It was soon discovered that Eric Harris had a website posted which openly
expressed his anger toward the people of Littleton, especially teachers and students at Columbine High School. On this site,
Harris had begun to express his desire for revenge against everyone that had irritated or annoyed him. The words "God,
I can't wait until I can kill you people," and "I'll just go to some downtown area in some big (expletive) city
and blow up and shoot everything I can" were posted as early as March 1998. It was also around this time that both Harris
and Klebold began experimenting with pipe bombs, posting the results of their tests on the site.
A number of students told of incidents where Harris and Klebold had bragged that they would one day seek revenge on the
"jocks" at the school, whom they felt had ridiculed them and treated them as outcasts. A video made as a school
project by the pair showed them walking through the corridors of the school wielding guns, killing all who stood in their
way. They had been disappointed when their teacher had not allowed the video to be viewed by the rest of the school because
of its violence. Harris was also known for his violent themes in creative writing projects.
Many of their teachers described the youths as being depressed, angry, and admirers of Nazism. In the minds of some teachers,
Harris and Klebold had shown many disturbing signs of their violent tendencies; these same teachers had reported their concerns.
Unfortunately, no action could be taken against the boys, as they had in fact done nothing to warrant it. Although, one of
the boys had been suspended the year before for hacking into the school's computer system. Despite the growing concern of
many of their teachers, the Klebolds and Harrises claim that they had never been informed of their sons' behavioral problems.
The lack of communication between the juvenile authorities, school officials and their parents enabled Eric Harris and
Dylan Klebold to maintain the appearance of normalcy to those closest to them, while secretly planning the fulfillment of
their angry, violent fantasies.
Police investigations into the worst case of school violence in America's history began on Wednesday, April 21, 1999.
At Columbine High School, the bodies of 12 students were recovered. All had died from gunshot wounds. In the library, the
bodies of Harris and Klebold were found with explosive devices attached to them. The four guns they had used in the shooting
were lying next to them. They had both died of self-inflicted gun shot wounds. It was reported that, over the next few days,
between 30 and 50 bombs and explosive devices were found throughout the school, in cars, the school parking lot and in Eric
Harris's home. A search of the homes of the two teenage gunmen uncovered evidence that suggested to police that Harris and
Klebold might have had one or more accomplices and had spent over a year planning and preparing for the shooting. A website
and journal owned by Harris confirmed their suspicions.
The first mystery police had to solve was how Harris and Klebold were able to obtain the four guns used in the shooting.
The two shotguns and the rifle could have been purchased legally by Harris, who had turned 18 less than two weeks earlier
but the semi-automatic, identified as a TEC-DC9, could not be legally purchased by anyone under the age of 21.
It was soon revealed that a close friend of Dylan Klebold had purchased the guns for him at a gun show in the Denver area
in November or December 1998. The young woman was identified as Robyn K. Anderson, an 18-year-old student at Columbine High
School. She and Klebold had been close friends for some time and, although not romantically involved, had attended the school
prom together three days before the shooting. Police investigations concluded that Anderson, who was in the running to be
school valedictorian, had no prior knowledge of Klebold and Harris's plans for the guns and would not be considered as a suspect
in the case.
The TEC-DC9 proved to be much more difficult to trace. The manufacturer initially sold it to a Miami-based company, Navegar
Inc. In 1994, it was sold to Zander's Sporting Goods in Baldwin, Illinois. Zander's then sold the gun to a dealership near
Westminster, which sold it, legally, to someone over the age of 21. At some point the gun was sold to Larry Russell, a Thornton
firearms dealer, who sold it at the Tanner Gun Show. Although Russell did not keep records of the purchaser, he is definite
that the person was over the age of 21. He was not able to identify Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold, or Robyn Anderson as the purchaser
from photographs shown to him by police.
For some time police suspected that Chris Morris, a member of the "Trench Coat Mafia" and an employee of a pizza
restaurant where Harris and Klebold also worked, may have acted as a middle-man in the sale of the gun to the gunmen. Their
suspicions were allayed when a person, who has not yet been identified by police, came forward to tell police that he had
sold the gun to Harris. Two men have since been charged with supplying the guns to Harris.
Morris was also questioned extensively by police regarding the possibility that Harris and Klebold may have had one or
more accomplices prior to the shooting. Early in the investigation there were as many as 10 people who police considered as
possible suspects. Three teenagers, wearing black boots and trench coats, were detained during the confusion after the shooting
but were later cleared of any involvement. Another teenager, who fled before the shooting began, is suspected of helping Harris
and Klebold to carry duffel bags filled with bombs into the school. A teenager, wearing a white tee shirt was also seen with
Harris and Klebold in the parking lot just before the gunmen entered the school, and Klebold's black BMW was seen 40 minutes
before the shooting began, driving near the school with four teenagers inside. Police believe that, while there may have been
others with prior knowledge of the shooting, Harris and Klebold were the only shooters.
Harris had indicated in his website, using code names, that his plans included at least two other teenagers. The first
name, "Vodka," was quickly identified as Dylan Klebold but the identity of the other name, "KiBBz," could
not be determined. On this website, Harris's anger toward students and teachers at Columbine was clearly revealed and his
desire for revenge was vented in vivid detail. Also posted was a detailed account of his, Klebold's and KiBBz's experiments
with making and detonating pipe bombs. Police intended to review the dozen or more cases of bomb detonations in the Jefferson
County in the past 12 months to determine whether they could be linked to Harris and Klebold.
Police believe that Harris and Klebold had learned about bomb making on the Internet. Many sites include recipes for pipe
bombs and other explosive devices. Although details of the construction of the 30 or more bombs planted at the Columbine school
have not been revealed, it has been reported that they were made from materials that could be easily purchased at local hardware
stores. As yet, police have been unable to confirm a report from a sales clerk at a local hardware store that Harris and Klebold
had bought five large propane filled tanks, nails, wire, screws and duct tape a week before the assault. He also claims that
there were two other teenage boys in the car with Harris and Klebold.
Captain Phil Spence of the Arapahoe County Sheriff's department described some of the bombs as being crude and simple,
made of carbon dioxide canisters, galvanized pipe or metal propane bottles. Others, like the one which exploded on the corner
of South Wadsworth Boulevard and Ken Caryl Avenue minutes before the attack, were equipped with timing devices and were much
more sophisticated. Many of the simpler bombs were primed with matches stuck in one end of the pipes. Harris and Klebold had
striker strips attached to their sleeves, which they rubbed over the match heads as they walked past. Despite their simplicity,
they were still powerful.
One bomb blew a hole through a wall in the library. The largest bomb, found in the kitchen was made out of a pipe bomb,
two propane tanks, and several smaller fuel cylinders. Evidence suggests that Harris and Klebold had opened fire on this bomb
when it failed to explode. If they had been successful in detonating this and all of the other bombs they had planted, the
death toll could have been as many as three hundred.
In the journal found in Harris's bedroom, his and Klebold's intention to kill as many as 500 people had been clearly stated.
They had decided to start their attack in the cafeteria at 11:00 a.m., as the highest number of students would be there at
that time. Every detail of their intended movements for Tuesday, April 20, 1999 was chronicled in the journal, beginning with
an early start at 5:00 a.m. It appears from Harris's writing that Columbine High School was intended to be just the beginning
of their rampage. Their ultimate hope had been to continue the massacre in neighboring homes, then to hijack a plane. The
grand finale was to crash the plane into New York City. Only a long trail of death and destruction would have satisfied Harris's
and Klebold's need for revenge for the perceived wrongs done to them.
Days after the massacre was over, Littleton faced the threat that Harris and Klebold's death was not to be the end of
the destruction. A letter was received by the Denver-area Rocky Mountain News. The note, apparently authored by Eric Harris,
blamed their murderous scheme on the parents, teachers, and students of Columbine High. The students were blamed for their
ridicule and non-acceptance of those who were different, and the parents and teachers blamed for training them to be sheep.
The note ended with the threatening words:
"You may think the horror ends with the bullet in my head, but you wouldn't be so lucky. All that I can leave you
with to decipher what more extensive death is to come is "12Skizto." You have until April 26th. Goodbye."
As police made inquiries as to the authenticity of the note, schools in the district made preparations to increase security
for the following Monday. The threats were not fulfilled and the police soon announced that they believed the note to have
been a hoax.
As the initial shock waves from the massacre rippled through the community, citizens were drawn together in their grief.
Thousands attended memorial services for the slain, offering and receiving comfort as mourners attempted to come to terms
with the tragedy that had befallen them. A spirit of forgiveness was even displayed toward the two teenage perpetrators in
the form of two crosses placed alongside those of their 13 victims. Within days however, the mood began to change as grief
turned to anger and all that were touched by the tragedy looked desperately for someone or something to blame. Before six
months had passed, the need to hold someone accountable had turned the small community upon itself.
Blame was first pointed at the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department. Many believed that it had taken police too long
to secure the building, leading to many unnecessary deaths. Teacher and coach Dave Sanders was wounded minutes after the shooting
began but died just moments after paramedics reached him four and a half hours later. Police officials quickly defended their
actions, explaining that due to the number of undetonated bombs in the building, it had been necessary to go through each
room, 250 in total, one by one. Even if they had been told that Sanders was injured somewhere, they would not have been able
to get to him any sooner. When asked why police didn't storm the building and confront the shooters, a commander of one of
the SWAT teams, Denver police Lieutenant Frank Vessa answered "We're not the military. We can't have collateral damage.
Our job was to save the lives of as many innocent as we could."
With the investigation in full swing, the blame began to shift in a new direction. When it was reported that bombs, a
shotgun barrel, a journal and several hand written notes had been found in clear view in Eric Harris's bedroom, the parents
of the two teenage shooters took the brunt of the community's anger. The Harrises and Klebolds were accused of being negligent
parents who had ignored their sons' violent tendencies. The anger of some was so great that the Klebolds began to receive
death threats. This was in stark contrast to the placard, conveying the love and support of friends and neighbors, left on
their front lawn immediately after the massacre.
Friends and neighbors of the two families quickly jumped to their defense, claiming that they were good parents who had
been completely unaware of their sons' disturbing behavior. A fellow student who had known Harris well believes that Harris
had always hidden his anti-social behavior from his parents, the only reason he would have left things in the open that day
was because he knew he wasn't coming back. According to close friends, the parents were as distressed and mystified by the
boys' actions as everyone else in the community was. At no time had the school informed them of the dark poetry, anti-social
behavior or the video they had made. Nor were they informed of several complaints about Harris, which were made to police
by parents of another Columbine student.
In response to police criticisms of the Harrises and Klebolds, Randy and Judy Brown reported to a local paper and News4
that police had done nothing when the Browns had complained to police about Eric Harris the year before. The Browns told reporters
that they had had many run-ins with Harris over the past two years. In March 1998, they turned to the police when Harris threatened
their son's life. Then they went to the sheriff's office with copies of 15 pages they had downloaded from Harris's Internet
site. The writings included plans to shoot up the school, details of experiments with pipe bombs and, more specifically, a
threat to kill the Browns' 17-year-old son, Brook. When the Browns had not heard anything from police, they called the sheriff's
office. They were told that there was no record of such a complaint ever being made.
Having had no success with the police, the Browns went to see Harris's parents themselves. Judy Brown felt that both
Wayne and Kathy Harris had reacted as strongly as any normal parent would and they did talk to their son, but Judy believes
that Harris had succeeded in deceiving his parents about the seriousness of the situation. This belief was soon confirmed
when they received an email, written by Harris, which described how he had fooled his father.
As they still hadn't received any word from police, and the email repeated Harris's threats against their son, Judy and
Randy decided to make a second visit to the sheriff's office. They met with a detective who said that the Internet postings
they showed him were some of the worst he had seen. When he looked up police records, he found that Harris had been arrested
recently for a car break-in. Despite this, no further action was taken and officials handling Harris and Klebold's break-in
charges were not informed of the Browns' report.
A police report regarding the Browns' complaints was forwarded to Neil Gardner, the sheriff's deputy stationed at Columbine
High School, but no further action was taken. According to Jefferson County Schools' spokesman, Rick Kaufmann, the report
was not forwarded to the school's district office but he did not know if anyone in the school received the report.
The district attorney's office says that it never received a copy of the report. Sheriff John Stone explained that his
office received many complaints, known as "suspicious incidents," in any given period. They are usually given very
low priority, although he did concede that the information regarding Harris's and Klebold's pipe bomb experiments should have
been followed up more thoroughly.
According to Denver lawyer Scott Robinson, who reviewed Harris's web pages, the reports of building and detonating pipe
bombs could have been used as probable cause to persuade a judge to issue a search warrant for Harris's house.
The need to find someone responsible for the horrific events at Columbine has resulted in the filing of at least 18 lawsuits
before the October cut-off was reached. Anyone who may have any degree of culpability in the massacre -- gun makers, Harris's
and Klebold's parents, the school district and the sheriff's department will all be required to defend their position, if
and when these cases come to court. With several lawsuits being filed against them, the Klebolds have filed their own suit
against the sheriff's department in an attempt to cover the possible costs incurred if the cases against them are successful.
Harriet Hall, the mental health worker responsible for providing counseling to the Columbine victims, was not surprised at
the dissension that occurred in the community since the massacre. "I'd be worried if there weren't disagreements This
is a natural response to what the community has been through," she said.
Debate in the House of Representatives over a major concealed-weapons bill ignited a new furor about school safety. The
shooting at Columbine, while the worst act of school violence in America to date, was not the first.
* On April 16, 1999, a high school sophomore fired two shotgun blasts in a school hallway in Notus, Idaho. There were
* On May 21, 1998, a 15-year-old boy opened fire at a high school in Springfield, Oregon. Two teenagers were fatally
shot and 20 people were injured. The boy's parents were found slain in their home.
* On May 19, 1998, an 18-year-old honor student opened fire in a parking lot at a high school in Fayetteville, Tennessee.
A classmate who was dating the student's ex-girlfriend was killed.
* On April 24, 1998, a 14-year-old student shot a science teacher to death at an eighth-grade graduation dance in
* On March 24, 1998, in Jonesboro, Arkansas, two boys, aged 11 and 13, opened fire on teachers and students as they
left a middle school building during a false fire alarm. Four girls and a teacher were killed and 10 people were wounded.
* On December 1, 1997, a 14-year-old student was arrested after three students were killed and five others wounded
in a hallway at Heath High School, West Paducah, Kentucky. One of the injured girls is paralyzed.
* On October 1, 1997, a 16-year-old boy in Pearl, Mississippi killed his mother then shot nine students, two fatally.
According to a survey conducted in 1997 by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 10% of the participating
high school students said they had carried a weapon onto school property. In Colorado, 506 students were expelled during the
1997-98 school year for taking weapons to school. This is an 18 % increase from the previous year.
With statistics such as these rising every year, school authorities are at a loss as to what they can do. Large student
populations during lunchtimes are impossible to control and it is impractical and illegal to lock children in schools. Many
schools, such as Columbine, have law enforcement officers on the premises but their effectiveness is questionable. None of
the schools in the Denver metropolitan area have metal detectors permanently in place, as they are impractical and, as Denver
Public Schools spokesman, Mark Stevens, said "if they'd had metal detectors at Columbine, the first fatality might well
have been the metal detector operator." Many experts say schools can take precautionary action by erecting fences around
the property to limit access, installing security cameras, and training teachers to spot problem children.
Throughout the country, school administrators have been working with school psychologists to put together a behavior checklist
to help teachers spot potentially violent students before any problems start. The intention of such a profile would be to
alert teachers and parents of potentially violent students so that they can receive counseling, be transferred to an alternative
education facility, or be expelled, depending on the situation.
There are a number of character checklists now available for teachers. The National School Safety Center in Westlake Village,
California has created a list of 20 warning signs. The American Psychological Association and MTV produced a guide called
Warning Signs In the Memphis Conference: Suggestions for Preventing and Dealing with Student Initiated Violence which includes
criminologist William Reisman's list of 50 indicators. Early Warning, Timely Response: A Guide to Safe Schools was commissioned
by President Clinton and distributed to schools nationwide. Compiled by the National Association of School Psychologists,
the U.S. Department of Education, and other agencies, the guide identifies 16 features that may distinguish violence-prone
children, including social withdrawal, feelings of rejection and poor academic performance.
Many critics of "student profiling" programs believe there is a danger that children who do not reflect a desired
image may be unfairly labeled. American Civil Liberties Union spokeswoman, Emily Whitfield says "Not only are students
being unfairly targeted but, in some cases, there's not a whole lot of thought going into it." Recognizing such dangers,
Elizabeth Kuffner, spokesperson for the National Association of School Psychologists warns, "Definitely there are warning
signs. Definitely, there are things to look for. But to just say a kid fits this profile, we don't think this is a good idea."
While the police investigation into the shooting at Columbine High School has done much to reveal the events of Tuesday,
April 20,1999 the question as to why is still very much a mystery.
How do two seemingly normal teenagers become mass murderers? Why is school violence on the increase and what can we do
to stop it? How can we protect our children from such atrocities occurring again?
These questions have ignited much public and private debate. Anti-gun lobbyists believe that if guns were not so readily
available our children would not be at risk. On the other hand, pro-gun supporters argue that it is people, not guns, who
kill. Others believe that violence in the media is poisoning our children's minds, but isn't the media content a reflection
of the public's demands? All sides of the debate have some degree of validity, yet none offer a complete answer. Are there
much deeper issues involved?
Perhaps our fascination for violence, whether as a participant or spectator, stems from our basic need for control, a
need which, when unfulfilled, drives us to exert power over others, the most extreme expression of this is taking the life
You do not have to look too far back in history to see the pattern. Every nation that has lusted for power has won it
with violence, and in time, turned that violence in upon itself, ultimately ending in its own destruction. As we finish another
millennium we can see that not much has changed except in the form in which it is expressed.
Perhaps in time, if we search deeply enough, we will find the answers. In the meantime, we continue to mourn for those
who are cut down at the hands of others, knowing only that it shouldn't happen.
On October 12, 2002, Associated Press reported that four videotapes made by the Columbine High School killers -- showing
the teen gunmen brandishing weapons they used in the attack and donning the clothes they wore -- will remain in lawyers' offices.
The tapes are evidence in a lawsuit brought by a Columbine survivor against the pharmaceutical company that made an anti-depressant
taken by gunman Eric Harris. The parents of Harris and Dylan Klebold had sought to keep the videotapes under lock and key
during the trial, for fear they would be leaked to the media. But U.S. District Judge Clarence Brimmer turned the parents
down Friday, saying: In preparing a case for trial, you need to have the matters you will deal with to work on, and you need
it in your office.
Other videos in which the killers said how they were going to carry out the attacks will remain locked up, along with
writings by the killers.
Mike Montgomery, a lawyer for the Harris family, said, the parents do not want to run the risk that the videotapes could
be broadcast on television, offered in video rental stores or over the Internet, potentially glorifying the attack.
The lawsuit was brought by Columbine survivor Mark Taylor against Solvay Pharmaceuticals, which makes the anti-depressant
Luvox. Taylor, who was wounded by Harris, claims Luvox made Harris homicidal.
Also as reported in October 2002 by the Associated Press, CNN and other news sources, based on an article in The Rocky
Mountain News, records about Eric Harris that previously had been closed revealed that he had told counselors that he had
trouble controlling his violent thoughts. When he'd get anxious, his anger would build until it felt explosive. He'd punch
walls and think about killing himself.
A year before the massacre, he reportedly made death threats against another boy and that boy's parents had filed a police
report stating that he put messages on the Internet about bombs and mass murder. This incident was investigated, but no action
Harris apparently told his parole officer around this same time that he thought a lot about violence against others and
himself. The parole officer enrolled him in a course on anger management.
Harris was already in a juvenile diversion course with Dylan Klebold, his partner in crime, because in January 1998 they
were caught breaking into a van and stealing a briefcase, tools, and a flashlight. They went through the program, but were
allowed out early in February 1999, three months before their attack on the high school.
"Eric is a very bright young man who is likely to succeed in life," news reports quoted a diversion officer
as writing. "He is intelligent enough to achieve lofty goals as long as he stays on task and remains motivated."
Of Klebold, the same officer noted: "Dylan has earned the right for an early termination. ... He is intelligent enough
to make any dream a reality but he needs to understand hard work is part of it."
Each teen completed 45 hours of community service, paid fines, received counseling and wrote an apology letter to the
person whose van they had entered.
Apparently in their case, the program failed to work. They put on the appearance that everyone wanted to see, but in
their private space, they were creating a nightmare. In fact, after the anger management sessions, Harris wrote, "I
learned that the thousands of suggestions are worthless if you still believe in violence." Klebold had been fantasizing
since 1997 about getting a gun and going on a killing spree. He had written in a journal that he wanted to die. Together,
they appeared to be a self-destructive team.
The disclosure of this sealed report is controversial, but some officials and families are pressing for yet more open
files. Many feel that the red flags were all there well ahead of time and should have been acted on more effectively. Apparently
there are many documents still sealed that potentially could throw light on a case still shrouded in darkness.
It does seem clear that even as these two boys were meeting with counselors in a program meant to help them, they were
already planning their assault. Had they managed to escape, they indicated in journals, they would plant many more bombs
to blow things up and then go live on an island. If they couldn't manage that, they'd hijack a plane and crash it into New
In another development, on Sunday, October 20, 2002, CNN reported that some parents of children killed in the Columbine
massacre praised a new documentary about the killings, saying it contributes to the fight for tighter gun control. Others
said the film exploits tragedy.
Bowling for Columbine, shown Saturday at the Starz Denver International Film Festival, uses the slayings as a launching
point to examine violence and gun culture in America. The film is by Michael Moore, the left-wing author and documentary maker
known for his film about GM, Roger & Me, and his best-selling book Stupid White Men.