Columbine High School massacre
|Columbine High School massacre|
Eric Harris (left) and Dylan Klebold (right) caught on the high school's security cameras in the cafeteria, 11 minutes before their suicides
|Location||Columbine, Colorado, U.S.|
|Date||April 20, 1999 |
11:19 a.m. – 12:08 p.m. (UTC-6)
|Target||Students and faculty at Columbine High School|
|School shooting, mass murder, murder–suicide, arson, attempted bombing, shootout|
|Deaths||15 (including both perpetrators)|
|24 (21 by gunfire)|
|Perpetrators||Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold|
The Columbine High School massacre was a school shooting that occurred on April 20, 1999, at Columbine High School in Columbine, an unincorporated area of Jefferson County (Jeffco), Colorado, United States, near Littleton in the Denver metropolitan area.[n 1] The perpetrators, twelfth grade (senior) students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, murdered 12 students and one teacher. Ten students were murdered in the library.
They injured 21 additional people with gunshots, and exchanged gunfire with the police. An additional 3 people were injured trying to escape the school. The pair subsequently committed suicide in the library. The crime has inspired several copycats, and "Columbine" has become a euphemism for a school shooting. At the time, it was the most deaths ever to happen from one.
In addition to the shootings, the attack involved several homemade bombs. The largest of these were two placed in the cafeteria of the school, car bombs were in the parking lot, and at another location were those intended to divert first responders. The cafeteria and car bombs failed to detonate. The pair's motives remain unclear, but they planned for about a year and wished the massacre to rival the Oklahoma City bombing and cause the most deaths in United States history. The attack has been referred to by USA Today as a "suicidal attack [that was] planned as a grand—if badly implemented—terrorist bombing."
Due to a delay in entering the school, local police have been heavily criticized for not intervening during the shooting. It resulted in the introduction of the Immediate Action Rapid Deployment tactic, used in situations with an active shooter whose goal is to kill rather than take hostages. It also resulted in an increased emphasis on school security with zero tolerance policies, and sparked debate over gun control laws, high school cliques, subcultures, and bullying; as well as a moral panic over goths, gun culture, social outcasts, the use of pharmaceutical antidepressants by teenagers, teenage Internet use and violence in video games.
- 1 Background
- 2 Weaponry
- 3 April 20, 1999: The massacre
- 4 Crisis ends
- 5 Immediate aftermath
- 6 Rationale
- 6.1 FBI's theory: Psychopath and depressive
- 6.2 Other factors explored
- 7 Perpetrators
- 8 Long-term impact
- 9 See also
- 10 Notes
- 11 References
- 12 Further reading
- 13 External links
In 1996, 15-year old Eric Harris created a private website on America Online (AOL). The site was initially to host levels (WADs) Harris created for use in the first-person shooter (FPS) video games Doom and Doom II, as well as Quake.[n 2] Once the website wasmade public after the massacre, AOL permanently deleted it from its servers.
On the site, Harris began a blog, which included jokes and his thoughts on parents, school, and friends. The blog also detailed Harris sneaking out of the house to cause mischief and vandalism, with his friend Dylan Klebold and others, such as lighting fireworks. Rebels are the mascot of Columbine High School (CHS), and he called these "Rebel Missions".[n 3] Harris and Klebold adopted the nicknames "Reb" and "Vodka" respectively.
Beginning in early 1997, the blog postings began to show the first signs of Harris's ever-growing anger against society. By the end of the year, the site contained instructions on how to make explosives. Harris wrote "the first true pipe bombs created entirely from scratch by the rebels (REB and VoDkA)...Now our only problem is to find the place that will be 'ground zero.'"
Harris's site attracted few visitors, and caused no concern until March 1998. Harris ended a blog post detailing his wishes to kill with "All I want to do is kill and injure as many of you as I can, especially a few people. Like Brooks Brown;" a classmate of his.[n 4] Brown claims Klebold gave him the web address, in an effort to warn him of Harris's threats of violence against him. Others suggest it was in fact discovered by Brooks' brother Aaron Brown in 1997.
Search warrant never filed
After Brown's parents viewed the site, they contacted the Jeffco Sheriff's Office. When investigator Michael Guerra accessed the website, he discovered numerous violent threats directed against the students and teachers of CHS. Harris had also written about his general hatred of society, and his desire to kill those who annoyed him. He noted he had made pipe bombs, in addition to a hit list of individuals. Guerra wrote a draft affidavit, requesting a search warrant of the Harris household. The affidavit also mentioned the discovery of an exploded pipe bomb in February 1998, and a suspicion of Harris being involved in the unsolved case. The affidavit was never filed.
On January 30, 1998, Harris and Klebold broke into a van parked near Littleton and stole tools and computer equipment. Both were caught by a policeman shortly afterwards, arrested and subsequently attended a joint court hearing, where they pled guilty to the felony theft. The judge sentenced them to attend a juvenile diversion program.
As a result, both attended mandatory classes such as anger management and talked with diversion officers.[n 5] Harris also began attending therapy with a psychologist, and was prescribed antidepressants by a psychiatrist. They both were eventually released from diversion several weeks early because of positive actions in the program and put on probation. Harris continued his scheduled meetings with his psychologist until a few months before the massacre.
In Harris's yearbook for 1998, nearly a year before the massacre, Klebold wrote "killing enemies, blowing up stuff, killing cops!! My wrath for January's incident will be godlike. Not to mention our revenge in the commons." The commons was another term for the school cafeteria.
Harris and Klebold both kept journals, which were released to the public in 2006. In the journals, the pair would document their arsenal and plan of attack, as well as their feelings of anger and superiority over those around them.
Shortly after the court hearing for the van break-in, Harris reverted his website back to its original purpose of posting user-created levels of Doom. He began to write in a journal instead, recording his thoughts and plans. Klebold had already been writing his thoughts since March 1997. In November 1997, Klebold mentioned going on a killing spree. Harris's journals especially show methodical preparation for the massacre over a long period of time. Harris even wrote on his website about trying to escape to Mexico after the attack, or hijacking an aircraft at Denver International Airport and crashing it into a building in New York City.
Harris and Klebold also incorporated their schoolwork into their pre-massacre activities. They both displayed themes of violence in their creative writing projects. Harris wished for "a lot of foreshadowing and dramatic irony" to be involved in the massacre plot. Harris wrote a paper on school shootings, and a poem from the perspective of a bullet. Klebold wrote a short story about a man killing students which worried his teacher so much that she alerted his parents. On the day of the massacre, Klebold had the story in his car's glove compartment. Both had actively researched war and murder. For one project, Harris wrote a paper on the Nazis and Klebold wrote a paper on Charles Manson. In a psychology class, Harris wrote he dreamed of going on a shooting spree with Klebold. Echoing a science class, Harris's journals included several experimental bomb detonations. Both Harris and Klebold were enrolled in video production classes, and made video tapes foreshadowing the massacre.
Hitmen for Hire
When an economics class had Harris make an ad for a business, Harris and Klebold made a video called "Hitmen for Hire" on December 8, 1998, which was released in February 2004. It depicts Harris and Klebold as part of the Trench Coat Mafia, a clique in the school who wore black trench coats, extorting money for protecting preps from bullies. They were apparently not a part of the Trench Coat Mafia, but were friends with some of its members.[n 6] They did however wear black trench coats on the day of the massacre, and the Hitmen for Hire video seems to be a kind of dress rehearsal, showing them walking the halls of the school, and shooting bullies outside with fake guns.
On October 21, 2003, a video was released showing the pair doing target practice on March 6, 1999, in nearby foothills known as Rampart Range, with the weapons they would use in the massacre. Also shooting with them is Mark Manes and Phil Duran, older men who helped supply one of the guns, and Manes's girlfriend.
Harris and Klebold also kept five video tapes shot with school video equipment that documented the explosives, ammunition, and weapons they had obtained illegally, as well as their plans and reasons for the massacre, including the ways they hid their arsenals in their homes, and how they deceived their parents about their activities. Most of these were shot in the Harris family basement, and have become known as the Basement Tapes. On April 20, approximately thirty minutes before the attack, they made a final video saying goodbye and apologizing to their friends and families.
In December 1999, before anybody else had seen them, Time magazine published an article on these tapes. The victim's family members threatened to sue Jeffco. As a result, select victim families and journalists were allowed to see them, and they were then kept from the public indefinitely for fear of inspiring future massacres. The tapes have since been destroyed. There are only transcripts of some of the dialogue, and a short clip recorded surreptitiously by a victim's father. The pair claimed they were going to make copies of the tapes to send to news stations, but apparently never got around to it.
Harris once did a school project involving a micro cassette tape audio recording of a fellow named Nixon about his life in Singapore. In the early morning hours before the massacre, Harris taped over this recording, leaving a message for his family, and left it on the kitchen table. This too has never been made public. It is known as the Nixon tape. On it Harris said "It is less than nine hours now." He went on to say "People will die because of me" and "It will be a day that will be remembered forever."
In the months prior to the attacks, Harris and Klebold acquired two 9 mm firearms and two 12-gauge shotguns. Harris had a Hi-Point 995 Carbine with thirteen 10-round magazines and a Savage-Springfield 67H pump-action shotgun. Klebold used a 9×19mm Intratec TEC-9 semi-automatic handgun with one 52-, one 32-, and one 28-round magazine and a Stevens 311D double-barreled shotgun. Harris's shotgun was sawed-off to around 26 inches (0.66 m) and Klebold shortened his shotgun's length to approximately 23 inches (0.58 m), a felony under the National Firearms Act.
Tanner Gun Show
On November 22, 1998, their friend Robyn Anderson had purchased the carbine rifle and the two shotguns for the pair at the Tanner Gun Show, as they were too young to legally purchase the guns themselves. Anderson made her purchase from a private seller, not a licensed dealer. After the attack, she told investigators that she had believed the pair wanted the items for target shooting, and that she had no prior knowledge of their plans. Anderson was not charged. The Jeffco Final Report explained that "No law, state or federal, prohibits the purchase of a long gun (rifle) from a private individual (non-licensed dealer). Because of this, Anderson could not be charged with any crime. If Anderson had purchased the guns from a federally licensed dealer, it would have been considered a “straw purchase” and considered illegal under federal law to make the purchase for Harris and Klebold." Three days before the shooting, Klebold attended the high school prom with Anderson.
Mark Manes and Phil Duran
Both Harris and Klebold held part-time jobs at a local Blackjack Pizza. Through Philip Duran, a coworker, Klebold bought a TEC-9 handgun from Mark Manes for $500 on January 23.[n 7] After the massacre, Manes and Duran were both prosecuted. Each was charged with supplying a handgun to a minor and possession of a sawed-off shotgun. Manes and Duran were sentenced to a total of six years and four-and-a-half years in prison, respectively.
In addition to the shootings, the complex and highly planned attack involved several improvised explosive devices. Using instructions obtained via the Internet and the Anarchist Cookbook, they constructed a total of 99 bombs.
These included pipe bombs, carbon dioxide cartridges filled with gunpowder (which they called "crickets"), Molotov cocktails, propane tanks converted to bombs, car bombs, and diversionary bombs. For ignition, they used kitchen matches and model rocket igniters as well as timing devices built from clocks and batteries for the propane, car, and diversion bombs. During the massacre, they carried lighters as well as match strikers taped to their forearms to light the pipe bombs and crickets.
Harris also attempted to make napalm, and envisioned a kind of backpack and flamethrower. They both attempted to get another friend and coworker Chris Morris, who was a part of the Trench Coat Mafia, to keep the napalm at his house, but he refused. Harris also tried to recruit him to be a third shooter, but would play it off as a joke when rebuked.
In Spring 1998, Harris's father caught him with a pipe bomb, and went out with him to the mountains to detonate it. Klebold scared his coworkers by once bringing a pipe bomb into work. After the massacre, six pipe bombs had been left in Klebold's bedroom, and two in Harris's. They would give names to their pipe bombs. One left in Klebold's room was called "Atlanta", presumably after the Olympic Park bombing.
The weekend before the shootings, Harris and Klebold had purchased propane tanks and other supplies from a hardware store for a few hundred dollars. They purchased six propane tanks on the morning of the attack. Harris was caught on a Texaco gas station security camera at 9:12 a.m. purchasing a Blue Rhino propane tank. Each cafeteria bomb was made from one 20 pounds (9.1 kg) tank with a gallon gas can attached.
Each car bomb was made from pipe bombs and two 20 pound propane tanks. Cans and bottles filled with gasoline were also set throughout the cars; they did not bother to rig everything together.
Though they never used them, they also each carried two knives during the massacre. One of Harris's was in a sheath taped to his ankle. One of Klebold's was a show piece; it had a curved blade and several spikes on the handle.
April 20, 1999: The massacre
According to their journals and videos, the pair hoped that after detonating their home-made explosives in the cafeteria at the busiest lunch hour, killing hundreds of students, they would shoot and stab and toss bombs at survivors fleeing from the school. Then, as police vehicles, ambulances, fire trucks, and reporters came to the school, bombs set in the boys' cars would detonate, killing these emergency and other personnel. This did not happen, since the bombs in the cafeteria and cars failed to detonate.
Several official sources claim they planned to shoot the fleeing survivors from the parking lot, but moved to the staircase on a hill at the west side of the school when the bombs failed. Other accounts suggest the top of the staircase where the massacre began was in fact their preferred spot to wait for the bombs to go off.[n 8]
Planting the bombs
On Tuesday morning, April 20, 1999, Harris and Klebold placed two duffel bags each containing propane bombs in the cafeteria, set to explode at approximately 11:17 a.m, during the "A" lunch shift.[n 9] Propane bombs were also placed in the cafeteria's kitchen.
No witness recalled seeing the duffel bags being added to the 400 or so backpacks already in the cafeteria. The security staff at Columbine did not observe the bags being placed in the cafeteria, ostensibly because a custodian was replacing the school security video tape as it happened around 11:14 a.m. The bags holding the bombs were supposedly first visible on the fresh security tape, but were not identified as suspicious items. Others have suggested the bombs can be seen being placed on the security video around 10:58 a.m. Shortly after the massacre, police also took seriously the suggestion that the bombs were placed during the "after-prom" party held the prior weekend.
A Jeffco Sheriff's Deputy, Neil Gardner, was assigned to the high school as a full-time uniformed and armed school resource officer. Gardner usually ate lunch with students in the cafeteria, but on April 20 he was eating lunch in his patrol car at the northwest corner of the campus, watching students in the Smokers' Pit in Clement Park, a meadow adjacent to the school.
Two backpacks filled with pipe bombs, aerosol canisters, and small propane bombs were also placed in a field about 3 miles (4.8 km) south of CHS, and 2 mi (3.2 km) south of the fire station.[n 10] Set to explode at approximately 11:14 a.m., the bombs were intended as a diversion to draw firefighters and emergency personnel away from the school. Only the pipe bombs and one of the aerosol canisters detonated, causing a small fire, which was quickly extinguished by the fire department. Bomb technicians immediately examined the bombs, and relayed to police at the school the possibility of devices with motion activators.
At 11:10 a.m., Harris and Klebold arrived separately at CHS. Harris parked his vehicle in the junior student parking lot, and Klebold parked in the adjoining senior student parking lot. The school cafeteria, their primary bomb target, with its long outside window-wall and ground-level doors, was just north of the senior parking lot. Above the cafeteria, the second-story of the window-wall, was the library. Each car contained car bombs timed to detonate at 12 p.m.
As Harris pulled into the parking lot, he encountered Brooks Brown, with whom he had recently patched up their longstanding series of disputes. According to Brown, who was in the parking lot smoking a cigarette, he was surprised to see Harris, whom he had earlier noted had been absent from an important class test. Harris seemed unconcerned, commenting, "It doesn't matter anymore." Harris went on: "Brooks, I like you now. Get out of here. Go home." Brown, feeling uneasy, and already prepared to skip his next class, walked away. Several minutes later, students departing Columbine for their lunch break observed Brown heading down South Pierce Street away from the school.
Meanwhile, Harris and Klebold armed themselves, hiding weapons beneath black trench coats with straps and webbing, and carrying backpacks and duffel bags filled with pipe bombs and ammunition. Harris also had his shotgun in one of the bags. Beneath the trench coats, Harris wore a white t-shirt which read "Natural Selection" in black letters, as well as a homemade bandolier; Klebold wore a black t-shirt which read "Wrath" in red letters.
They climbed to the top of the outdoor steps which led up a hill placing them on a level with the school's west entrance, first Harris and then Klebold. Harris put a black fingerless glove on his right hand, and Klebold was already wearing the matching fingerless glove on his left. From this vantage point, one of the cafeteria's ground-level doors was located at the bottom of the staircase.
The cafeteria bombs failed to explode. Had these bombs exploded with full power, they could have killed or severely wounded all of the approximately 488 students in the cafeteria, and possibly made the ceiling collapse by destroying the pillars holding it up, dropping the library into the cafeteria.
11:19 a.m.: Shooting begins
At 11:19 a.m., 17-year-old Rachel Scott was having lunch with friend Richard Castaldo while sitting on the grass next to the west entrance of the school. Klebold threw a pipe bomb towards the parking lot, which only partially detonated. Thinking the pipe bomb was no more than a crude senior prank, Castaldo did not take it seriously. Several students inside the school during the attack also believed they were watching a senior prank at first.
Harris and Klebold faced each other and nodded. Harris then yelled, "Go! Go!" They pulled their guns from beneath their trench coats and began shooting at Castaldo and Scott. Scott was killed when she was hit four times with rounds fired from Harris's carbine; one shot was to the left temple. Castaldo was shot eight times in the chest, arm, and abdomen and paralyzed below the chest, falling into unconsciousness.
Harris removed his trench coat and aimed his carbine down the west staircase toward three youths: 15-year-olds Daniel Rohrbough and Sean Graves and 16-year-old Lance Kirklin. The three friends had been ascending the staircase directly below the shooters. All three were shot and wounded. In the cafeteria, Dave Sanders, a teacher and coach at the school, became aware of the gunfire and began warning students.
The shooters turned and began firing west in the direction of five students sitting on the grassy hillside adjacent to the steps and opposite the west entrance of the school. 15-year-old Michael Johnson was hit in the face, leg, and arm, but ran and escaped; 16-year-old Mark Taylor was shot in the chest, arms, and leg and fell to the ground, where he feigned death. The other three escaped uninjured.
Klebold walked down the steps toward the cafeteria. He came up to Lance Kirklin, who was already wounded and lying on the ground, weakly calling for help. Klebold said, "Sure. I'll help you," then shot Kirklin in the face with his shotgun, critically wounding him. Daniel Rohrbough and Sean Graves had descended the staircase when the shooters' attention was diverted by the students on the grass; Graves—paralyzed beneath the waist—had crawled into the doorway of the cafeteria's west entrance and collapsed. He rubbed blood on his face and played dead. Klebold shot Rohrbough with his shotgun, who was already fatally wounded by the shots previously fired by Harris, at close range through the upper left chest, and then stepped over the injured Graves to enter the cafeteria. Graves remembers Klebold saying, "Sorry, dude".
Klebold only slightly entered the cafeteria, and did not shoot at the several people still inside. Officials speculated that Klebold went to check on the propane bombs. Harris was still on top of the stairs shooting, and severely wounded and partially paralyzed 17-year-old Anne-Marie Hochhalter as she tried to flee. Klebold came out of the cafeteria and went back up the stairs to join Harris. They shot at students standing close to a soccer field but did not hit anyone. They walked toward the west entrance, throwing pipe bombs in several directions including onto the roof, very few of which detonated. Witnesses heard one of them say "This is what we always wanted to do. This is awesome!"
Meanwhile, inside the school, Patti Nielson, an art teacher, had noticed the commotion and walked toward the west entrance with a 17-year-old student, Brian Anderson. She had intended to walk outside to tell the two students to "Knock it off," thinking they were either filming a video or pulling a student prank. As Anderson opened the first set of double doors, they shot out the windows, injuring him with flying glass and hitting Nielson in the shoulder with shrapnel. Nielson ran back down the hall into the library, alerting the students inside to the danger and telling them to get under desks and keep silent. She dialed 9-1-1 and hid under the library's administrative counter. Anderson remained behind, caught between the exterior and interior doors.
11:22 a.m.: Police response
At 11:22 a.m., the custodian called Deputy Neil Gardner, the assigned resource officer to Columbine, on the school radio, requesting assistance in the senior parking lot. The only paved route took him around the school to the east and south on Pierce Street, where at 11:23 a.m. he heard on his police radio that a female was down, and assumed she had been struck by a car. While exiting his patrol car in the Senior lot at 11:24 a.m., he heard another call on the school radio, "Neil, there's a shooter in the school". Harris, at the west entrance, immediately turned and fired ten shots from his carbine at Gardner, who was sixty yards away. As Harris reloaded his carbine, Gardner leaned over the top of his car and fired four rounds at Harris from his service pistol. Harris ducked back behind the building, and Gardner momentarily believed that he had hit him. Harris then reemerged and fired at least four more rounds at Gardner (which missed and struck two parked cars), before retreating into the building. No one was hit during the exchange of gunfire.[n 11] Gardner reported on his police radio, "Shots in the building. I need someone in the south lot with me."
The gunfight distracted the shooters from Brian Anderson, who escaped to the library, fell to the floor bleeding from his injuries, and hid inside an open staff break room. By this point, Harris had shot 47 times, and Klebold just 5. The shooters then entered the school through the west entrance, moving along the main North Hallway, throwing pipe bombs and shooting at anyone they encountered. Klebold shot Stephanie Munson in the ankle; she was able to walk out of the school. The pair then shot out the windows to the East Entrance of the school. After proceeding through the hall several times and shooting toward—and missing—any students they saw, they went toward the west entrance and turned into the Library Hallway.
Deputy Paul Smoker, a motorcycle patrolman for the Jeffco Sheriff's Office, was writing a traffic ticket north of the school when the "female down" call came in at 11:23 a.m., most likely referring to the already dead Rachel Scott. Taking the shortest route, he drove his motorcycle over grass between the athletic fields and headed toward the west entrance. When he saw Deputy Scott Taborsky following him in a patrol car, he abandoned his motorcycle for the safety of the car. The two deputies had begun to rescue two wounded students near the ball fields when another gunfight broke out at 11:26 a.m., as Harris returned to the double doors and again began shooting at Deputy Gardner, who returned fire. From the hilltop, Deputy Smoker fired three rounds from his pistol at Harris, who again retreated into the building. As before, no one was hit.
Inside the school cafeteria, teacher Dave Sanders and two custodians, Jon Curtis and Jay Gallatine, initially told students to get under the tables, then successfully evacuated students up the staircase leading to the second floor of the school. The stairs were located around the corner from the Library Hallway in the main South Hallway. Sanders then tried to secure as much of the school as he could.
By now, Harris and Klebold were inside the main hallway. Sanders and another student were down at the end of the hallway, where he gestured for students in the library to stay. They encountered Harris and Klebold, who were approaching from the corner of the North Hallway. Sanders and the student turned and ran in the opposite direction. Harris and Klebold shot at them both, with Harris hitting Sanders twice in the back and neck but missing the student. The latter ran into a science classroom and warned everyone to hide. Klebold walked over towards Sanders, who had collapsed, to look for the student but returned to Harris up the North Hallway.
Sanders struggled toward the science area, and a teacher took him into a classroom where 30 students were located. Due to his knowledge of first aid, student Aaron Hancey was brought to the classroom from another by teachers despite the unfolding commotion. With the assistance of a fellow student named Kevin Starkey, and teacher Teresa Miller, Hancey administered first aid to Sanders for three hours, attempting to stem the blood loss using shirts from students in the room, and showing him pictures from his wallet to keep him talking. Using a phone in the room, Miller and several students maintained contact with police outside the school.
11:29 a.m. – 11:36 a.m.: Library massacre
As the shooting unfolded, Patti Nielson talked on the phone with emergency services, telling her story and urging students to take cover beneath desks. According to transcripts, her call was received by a 9-1-1 operator at 11:25:05 a.m. Before entering, the shooters threw two bombs into the cafeteria, both of which exploded. They then threw another bomb into the library hallway; it exploded and damaged several lockers. At 11:29 a.m., they entered the library, where a total of 52 students, two teachers and two librarians had concealed themselves.
Harris yelled, "Get up!" so loudly that he can be heard on Patti Nielson's 9-1-1 recording at 11:29:18 a.m. Staff and students hiding later said they also heard the gunmen say things like: “Everyone with a white cap, stand up!” "All jocks stand up! We'll get the guys in white hats!" and "Anybody with a white hat on is dead". Wearing a white baseball cap at Columbine was a tradition among sports team members. Several students tried to hide their white hats.
When no one stood up in response, Harris said, "Fine, I'll start shooting anyway!" He fired his shotgun twice at a desk. A student named Evan Todd had been standing near a pillar when the shooters entered the library, and had just begun hiding behind a copier. Todd was hit by wood splinters in the eye and lower back but was not seriously injured. Todd then hid behind the administrative counter.
The shooters walked into the library, toward rows of computers. A disabled student, Kyle Velasquez, 16, was sitting at the north row; police later said he had not hidden underneath the desk when the shooters had first entered the library, but had curled up under the computer table. Klebold shot and killed Velasquez with his shotgun, hitting him in the head and back.
"This is our revenge!" they shouted. "For the four fucked-up years you put us through. For four years of bullying and giving us shit. Hey, jocks, this is our revenge for making us outcasts. This is what we've been waiting for all our lives. We're gonna blow this library up!"
The shooters put down their ammunition-filled duffel bags at the south—or lower—row of computers and reloaded their weapons. They walked toward the windows facing the outside staircase. Noticing police evacuating students outside the school, Harris said: "Let's go kill some cops." They shot out the windows in the direction of the police. Officers returned fire, and the gunmen retreated from the windows; no one was injured.
After firing out the windows, Klebold fired his shotgun at a nearby table, injuring three students: Patrick Ireland, Daniel Steepleton, and Makai Hall. He then removed his trench coat. Harris walked toward the lower row of computer desks with his shotgun, firing a single shot under the first desk from a short distance away, while down on one knee. He hit 14-year-old Steven Curnow with a mortal wound to the neck. Harris then walked closer, got on one knee, and shot under the adjacent computer desk, injuring 17-year-old Kacey Ruegsegger with a shot which passed completely through her right shoulder and hand, also grazing her neck and severing a major artery. When she started gasping in pain, Harris tersely stated, "Quit your bitching, it's just a flesh wound." Klebold laughed.
Harris walked over to the table across from the lower computer row, slapped the surface twice and knelt, saying "Peek-a-boo" to 17-year-old Cassie Bernall before shooting her once in the head, killing her instantly. Harris had been holding the shotgun with one hand at this point and the weapon hit his face in recoil, breaking his nose. Prior to her murder, Bernall had been praying, with her hands on the sides of her head.
After fatally shooting Bernall, Harris turned toward the next table, where Bree Pasquale sat next to the table rather than under it. Harris's nose was bleeding heavily; witnesses later reported that he seemed disoriented and had blood around his mouth. Harris asked Pasquale if she wanted to die, and she responded with a plea for her life. Harris laughed and responded "Everyone's gonna die." When Klebold said "shoot her", Harris responded "No, we're gonna blow up the school anyway." Klebold noticed Ireland trying to provide aid to Hall, who had suffered a wound to his knee. As Ireland tried to help Hall, his head rose above the table; Klebold shot him a second time, hitting him twice in the head and once in the foot. Ireland was knocked unconscious, but survived.
Klebold walked toward another set of tables, where he discovered 18-year-old Isaiah Shoels, 16-year-old Matthew Kechter and 16-year-old Craig Scott (Rachel's younger brother), hiding under one table. Klebold tried to pull Shoels out from under the table. He called to Harris, "Reb! There's a nigger over here!" Harris left Pasquale and joined him. According to witnesses, they taunted Shoels for a few seconds, making derogatory racial comments. Harris knelt down and shot Shoels once in the chest at close range, killing him instantly. Klebold also knelt down and opened fire, hitting and killing Kechter. Harris then yelled; "Who's ready to die next?" Meanwhile, Scott was uninjured; he lay in the blood of his friends, feigning death. Harris turned and threw a cricket at the table where Hall, Steepleton, and Ireland were located. It landed on Steepleton's thigh, Hall quickly threw it away, and it exploded behind them in mid-air.
Harris walked toward the bookcases between the west and center section of tables in the library. He jumped on one and shook it, apparently attempting to topple it, then shot at the books which had fallen. Klebold walked through the main area, past the first set of bookcases, the central desk area and a second set of bookcases into the east area. Harris walked from the bookcase he had shot from, past the central area to meet Klebold. The latter shot at a display case located next to the door, then turned and shot toward the closest table, hitting and injuring 17-year-old Mark Kintgen in the head and shoulder. He then turned toward the table to his left and fired, injuring 18-year-olds Lisa Kreutz and Valeen Schnurr with the same shotgun blast. Klebold then moved toward the same table and fired with the TEC-9, killing 18-year-old Lauren Townsend. At this point, the seriously injured Valeen Schnurr began screaming, "Oh my God, oh my God!" In response, Klebold asked Schnurr if she believed in the existence of God; when Schnurr replied she did, Klebold asked "Why?" and commented "God is gay" before walking from the table.
Harris approached another table where two girls were hiding. He bent down to look at them and dismissed them as "pathetic". Harris then moved to another table where he fired twice, injuring 16-year-olds Nicole Nowlen and John Tomlin. Tomlin moved out from under the table. Harris then taunted Tomlin's attempt at escape before Klebold shot him repeatedly, killing him. Harris then walked back over to the other side of the table where Townsend lay dead. Behind the table, a 16-year-old girl named Kelly Fleming had, like Bree Pasquale, sat next to the table rather than beneath it due to a lack of space. Harris shot Fleming with his shotgun, hitting her in the back and killing her instantly. He shot at the table behind Fleming, hitting Townsend and Kreutz again, and wounding 18-year-old Jeanna Park. An autopsy later revealed that Townsend died from the earlier gunshots inflicted by Klebold.
The shooters moved to the center of the library, where they reloaded their weapons at a table. Harris then pointed his carbine under a table, but the student he was aiming at moved out of the way. Harris turned his gun back on the student and told him to identify himself. It was John Savage, an acquaintance of Klebold's. He asked Klebold what they were doing, to which he shrugged and answered, "killing people." Savage asked if they were going to kill him. Possibly because of a fire alarm, Klebold said, "What?" Savage asked again whether they were going to kill him. Klebold said no, and told him to run. Savage fled, escaping through the library's main entrance.
After Savage left, Harris turned and fired his carbine at the table directly north of where they had been, hitting the ear and hand of 15-year-old Daniel Mauser. Mauser reacted by shoving a chair at Harris; Harris fired again and hit Mauser in the center of the face at close range, killing him by breaking his neck. Both shooters moved south and fired randomly under another table, critically injuring two 17-year-olds, Jennifer Doyle and Austin Eubanks, and fatally wounding 17-year-old Corey DePooter. DePooter was later credited with having kept his friends calm during the ordeal. He was the last to die in the massacre, at 11:35 a.m.
There were no further victims. They had killed 10 people in the library and wounded 12. Of the 56 library hostages, 34 remained unharmed. Investigators would later find that the shooters had enough ammunition to have killed them all. Throughout the library massacre, the gunmen seemed to be enjoying themselves, shouting things like "yahoo" after shooting.
At this point, several witnesses later said they heard the shooters comment that they no longer found a thrill in shooting their victims. Klebold was quoted as saying, "Maybe we should start knifing people, that might be more fun." They moved away from the table and went toward the library's main counter. Harris threw a Molotov cocktail toward the southwestern end of the library, but it failed to explode. Harris then went around the east side of the counter and Klebold joined him from the west; they converged close to where Todd had moved after having been wounded.
Klebold pulled out a chair, pointed his TEC-9 at Todd, and commented "Look what we have here." Harris seemed disoriented from his broken nose, and asked "What?" Klebold responded "Just some fat fuck". Todd was wearing a white hat. Klebold asked if he was a jock, and when Todd said no Klebold responded "Well, that's good. We don't like jocks." Klebold then demanded to see his face, Todd partly lifted his hat so his face would remain obscured. When Klebold asked Todd to give him one reason why he should not kill him, Todd said: "I don't want trouble." Klebold responded back angrily "Trouble? You don't even know what fucking trouble is!" He also remarked "You used to call me a fag. Who's a fag now?!" Todd tried to correct himself: "That's not what I meant! I mean, I don't have a problem with you guys. I never will and I never did." Klebold then spoke to Harris, "I'm gonna let this fat fuck live, you can have at him if you want to."
Harris did not pay much attention and said "Let's go to the commons." Klebold turned and fired a single shot into an open library staff break room, hitting a small television. Before they left, Klebold slammed a chair down on top of the computer terminal and several books on the library counter, directly above the bureau where Patti Nielson had hidden.
The two walked out of the library at 11:36 a.m., ending the hostage situation there. Cautiously, fearing the shooters' return, 34 uninjured and 10 injured survivors began to evacuate the library through the north door, which led to the sidewalk adjacent to the west entrance. Kacey Ruegsegger was evacuated from the library by Craig Scott. Had she not been evacuated at this point, Ruegsegger would likely have bled to death from her injuries. Patrick Ireland, unconscious, and Lisa Kreutz, unable to move, remained in the building. Patti Nielson joined Brian Anderson and the three library staff in the exterior break room, into which Klebold had earlier fired shots, and locked themselves in.
12:08 p.m.: Suicide
After leaving the library, the gunmen entered the science area, where they threw a small Molotov cocktail into an empty storage closet. It caused a fire, which was extinguished by a teacher hidden in an adjacent room. The gunmen proceeded toward the south hallway, where they shot into an empty science room. At approximately 11:44 a.m., they were captured on the school security cameras as they re-entered the cafeteria. The recording shows Harris kneeling on the landing and firing a single shot toward one of the propane bombs left in the cafeteria, in an unsuccessful attempt to detonate it. As Klebold approached the propane bomb and examined it, Harris took a drink from one of the cups left behind. Klebold lit a Molotov cocktail and threw it at the propane bomb. They left the cafeteria at 11:46 a.m, as the Molotov cocktail exploded. The gallon of fuel attached to the bomb ignited, causing a fire that was extinguished by the fire sprinklers.
After leaving the cafeteria, they returned to the main north and south hallways of the school, shooting aimlessly. They walked through the south hallway into the main office before returning to the north hallway. On several occasions, they looked through the windows of classroom doors, making eye contact with students hidden inside, but they never tried to enter any of the rooms. They taunted students hidden inside a bathroom, making such comments as: "We know you're in there" and "Let's kill anyone we find in here," but never attempted to enter the bathroom. At 11:55 a.m., they returned to the cafeteria, and briefly entered the school kitchen. They returned up the staircase and into the south hallway at 11:58 a.m.
They reentered the library, perhaps to watch their car bombs detonate, which had been set to explode at noon, but which failed. The library was empty of surviving students except for the unconscious Patrick Ireland and the injured Lisa Kreutz. Once inside, at 12:02 p.m., they shot through the west windows at police, who returned fire. Nobody was injured in the exchange.
By approximately 12:08 p.m., both gunmen had committed suicide. In a subsequent interview, Kreutz recalled hearing a comment such as, "You in the library," around this time. Harris sat down with his back to a bookshelf and fired his shotgun through the roof of his mouth; Klebold went down on his knees and shot himself in the left temple with his TEC-9. An article by The Rocky Mountain News stated that Patti Nielson overheard them shout "One! Two! Three!" in unison, just before a loud boom. However, Nielson said at no time had she ever spoken with either of the writers of the article, and evidence suggests otherwise. Just before committing suicide, Klebold lit a Molotov cocktail on a nearby table, underneath which lay Patrick Ireland, which caused the tabletop to momentarily catch fire. Underneath the scorched film of material was a piece of Harris's brain matter, suggesting Harris had shot himself by this point.
In 2002, the National Enquirer published two photos of Harris and Klebold after their suicides, showing both dead laying on their backs, and the guns in seemingly curious locations, such as Klebold's right hand laying on his gun despite his being left-handed, and leading to speculation that Harris shot Klebold before killing himself. However, the photographs were taken after SWAT had checked the bodies for bombs and booby-traps, and likely kicked Klebold onto his back. The placement of his blood and baseball cap suggest he died face down on Harris's legs.
A total of 188 rounds of ammunition were fired by the perpetrators during the massacre. Harris fired nearly twice as much as Klebold; he fired his carbine rifle a total of 96 times, and discharged his shotgun 25 times. Klebold fired the TEC-9 handgun 55 times, while he discharged a total of 12 rounds from his double-barreled shotgun. Additionally, law enforcement officers fired a total of 141 rounds during exchanges of gunfire with the shooters.
By noon, SWAT teams were stationed outside the school, and ambulances started taking the wounded to local hospitals. A call for additional ammunition for police officers in case of a shootout came at 12:20 p.m. Authorities reported pipe bombs by 1 p.m., and two SWAT teams entered the school at 1:09 p.m., moving from classroom to classroom, discovering hidden students and faculty. They entered at the end of the school opposite the library, hampered by old maps and unaware a new wing had recently been added. They were also hampered by the sound of the fire alarms.
Meanwhile, families of students and staff were asked to gather at nearby Leawood Elementary School to await information. All students, teachers, and school employees were taken away, questioned, and offered medical care in small holding areas before being bussed to meet with their family members at Leawood Elementary. Some of the victims families were told to wait on one final school bus that never came.
The boy in the window
Patrick Ireland had regained and lost consciousness several times after being shot by Klebold. Paralyzed on his right side, he crawled to the library windows where, on live television, at 2:38 p.m., he stretched out the window, intending to fall into the arms of two SWAT team members standing on the roof of an emergency vehicle, but instead falling directly onto the vehicle's roof in a pool of blood. He became known as "the boy in the window". They were later criticized for allowing Ireland to drop more than seven feet to the ground while doing nothing to try to ensure he could be lowered to the ground safely or break his fall. Lisa Kreutz, shot in the shoulder, arms, hand, and thigh, remained laying in the library. She had tried to move but became light-headed. Kreutz kept track of time by the sound of the school's bells until police arrived.
1 bleeding to death
At 2:15 p.m. students placed a sign in the window: "1 bleeding to death," in order to alert police and medical personnel of Dave Sanders' location in the science room. Police initially feared it was a ruse by the shooters. A shirt was also tied to the doorknob. At 2:30 p.m. this was spotted, and by 2:40 p.m. SWAT officers evacuated the room of students, and called for a paramedic. Hancey and Starkey were reluctant to leave Sanders behind. By 3:00 p.m., the SWAT officers decided a paramedic was not coming or could not get in, and opted to move Sanders themselves, and placed him in a chair. As they did so, a paramedic arrived, and found Sanders had no pulse. He had died in the science room of his injuries before he could receive medical care. He was the only teacher to die in the shooting.
Suicide mission; estimated 25 dead
Kreutz was finally evacuated at 3:22 p.m., along with Patti Nielson, Brian Anderson and the three library staff who had hidden in the break room. Officials found the bodies in the library by 3:30 p.m. By 4:00 p.m., Sheriff Stone made an initial estimate of 25 dead students and teachers, fifty wounded, and referred to the massacre as a "suicide mission." US President Bill Clinton issued a statement.
Bomb squad response
Stone said that police officers were searching the bodies of the gunmen. They feared they had used their pipe bombs to booby-trap corpses, including their own. At 4:30 p.m. the school was declared safe. At 5:30 p.m., additional officers were called in, as more explosives were found in the parking lot and on the roof. By 6:15 p.m., officials had found a bomb in Klebold's car in the parking lot, set to detonate the gas tank. Stone then marked the entire school as a crime scene.
At 10:40 p.m., a member of the bomb squad, who was attempting to dispose of an un-detonated pipe bomb, accidentally lit a striking match attached to the bomb by brushing it against the wall of the ordnance disposal trailer. The bomb detonated inside the trailer but no one was injured.
The bomb squad disrupted the car bomb. Klebold's car was repaired and in 2006, was put up for auction.
On the morning of April 21, bomb squads combed the high school. By 8:30 a.m. the official death toll of 15 was released. The estimate was ten over the true count, but close to the total count of wounded students. The total count of deaths was 12 students (14 including the shooters) and one teacher; 20 students and one teacher were injured as a result of the shootings. Three more victims were injured indirectly as they tried to escape the school. It was then the worst school shooting in US history.
At 10 a.m., the bomb squad declared the building safe for officials to enter. By 11:30 a.m., a spokesman of the sheriff declared the investigation underway. Thirteen of the bodies were still inside the high school as investigators photographed the building.
At 2:30 p.m., a press conference was held by Jeffco District Attorney David Thomas and Sheriff John Stone, at which they said that they suspected others had helped plan the shooting. Formal identification of the dead had not yet taken place, but families of the children thought to have been killed had been notified.
Throughout the late afternoon and early evening, the bodies were gradually removed from the school and taken to the Jeffco Coroner's Office to be identified and autopsied. By 5:00 p.m., the names of many of the dead were known. An official statement was released, naming the 15 confirmed deaths and 27 injuries related to the massacre. On April 22, the bombs left in the kitchen were found.
In the days following the shootings, Rachel Scott's car and John Tomlin's truck became memorials, and impromptu memorials were held in Clement Park. On April 30, carpenter Greg Zanis erected 15 six feet tall wooden crosses to honor those who had died at the school. Daniel Rohrbough's father cut down the two meant for the gunmen. There were also fifteen trees planted, and he cut down two of those as well.
Search warrant press conference
Also on April 30, high-ranking officials of Jeffco and the Jeffco Sheriff's Office met to decide if they should reveal that Michael Guerra had drafted an affidavit for a search warrant of Harris's residence more than a year before the shootings, based on his previous investigation of Harris's website and activities. Since the affidavit's contents lacked the necessary probable cause, they decided not to disclose this information at a press conference held on April 30, nor did they mention it in any other way.
Over the next two years, Guerra's original draft and investigative file documents were lost. In September 1999, a Jeffco investigator failed to find the documents during a secret search of the county's computer system. A second attempt in late 2000 found copies of the document within the Jeffco archives. Their loss was termed "troubling" by a grand jury convened after the file's existence was reported in April 2001. It was concealed by the Jeffco Sheriff's Office and not revealed until September 2001, resulting from an investigation by the TV show 60 Minutes. The documents were reconstructed and released to the public, but the original documents are still missing. The final grand jury investigation was released in September 2004.
In the wake of the shooting, victims Rachel Scott and Cassie Bernall came to be regarded as Christian martyrs by Evangelical Christians. Considerable media attention focused upon Bernall, who had been killed by Harris in the library and who Harris was reported to have asked, "Do you believe in God?" immediately prior to her murder. Bernall was reported to have responded "Yes" to this question before her murder. Emily Wyant, the closest living witness to Bernall's death, denied that Bernall and Harris had such an exchange. The closest living witness to Scott's death, Richard Castaldo, once claimed Harris asked Scott if she believed in God, and murdered her after she answered "You know I do", but this also appears to be untrue.
Survivor Valeen Schnurr claims that she was the one questioned as to her belief in God. Joshua Lapp thought Bernall had been queried about her belief, but was unable to correctly point out where Bernall was located, and was closer to Schnurr during the shootings. Another witness, Craig Scott claimed the discussion was with Bernall. When asked to indicate where the conversation had been coming from, he pointed to where Schnurr was shot.
We are Columbine
In August 1999, students returned to the school, and principal Frank Deangelis led a rally of students clad in "We are Columbine" shirts.
Several former students and teachers suffer from PTSD. Six months after the shootings, Anne Marie Hochhalter's mother committed suicide. Greg Barnes, a basketball player who witnessed Sanders get shot, committed suicide in May 2000. 10 of the 16 SWAT members who entered the library died from either overdose or suicide.
Though the attack was planned as a terrorist attack which would cause "the most deaths in US history", the motive has never been ascertained with confidence. Soon after the massacre, it was thought Harris and Klebold targeted jocks, blacks, and Christians. Both sought to provide answers in the journals and video tapes, but investigators found them lacking. In a letter provided with the May 15 report on the Columbine attack, Sheriff John Stone and Undersheriff John A. Dunaway wrote they "cannot answer the most fundamental question—why?"
FBI's theory: Psychopath and depressive
The conclusion of the FBI was mental illness, that Harris was a clinical psychopath, and Klebold was depressive. Dr. Dwayne Fuselier, the supervisor in charge of the Columbine investigation, would later remark: "I believe Eric went to the school to kill and didn't care if he died, while Dylan wanted to die and didn't care if others died as well."
In April 1998, as part of his diversion program, Harris wrote a letter of apology to the owner of the van. Around the same time, he derided him in his journal, stating that he believed himself to have the right to steal something if he wanted to. By far the most prevalent theme in Klebold's journals is his private despair at his lack of success with women, which he refers to as an "infinite sadness." Klebold had repeatedly documented his desires to commit suicide, and his final remark in the Basement Tapes, shortly before the attack, is a resigned statement made as he glances away from the camera: "Just know I'm going to a better place. I didn't like life too much."
According to this theory, used by Dave Cullen for his 2009 book Columbine, Harris had been the mastermind, having a messianic-level superiority complex, and hoping to demonstrate his superiority to the world; Klebold was a follower who primarily participated in the massacre as a means to simply end his life.
However, this theory has met with criticism. For instance, it was Klebold and not Harris who first mentioned going on a killing spree in his journal, and there is evidence to suggest both were depressed, such as Harris being prescribed antidepressants. Sheriff Stone said "I've talked to students who were shot by Klebold. He was not just a follower."
There have been other attempts to diagnose Harris and Klebold with mental illness. Peter Langman believes Harris was a psychopath and Klebold was schizotypal. Professor Aubrey Immelman published a personality profile of Harris, based on journal entries and personal communication, and believes the materials suggested behavior patterns consistent with a "malignant narcissism ... pathological narcissistic personality disorder with borderline and antisocial features, along with some paranoid traits, and unconstrained aggression". The report notes that such a profile should not be construed as a direct psychiatric diagnosis, which is based on face-to-face interviews, formal psychological testing, and collection of collateral information.
Other factors explored
The link between bullying and school violence has attracted increasing attention since the massacre. Both of the shooters were classified as gifted children who had allegedly been victims of bullying for four years. Early stories following the shootings charged that school administrators and teachers at Columbine had long condoned a climate of bullying by the so-called jocks or athletes, allowing an atmosphere of intimidation and resentment to fester. Critics said this could have contributed to triggering the perpetrators' extreme violence. Reportedly, homophobic remarks were directed at Klebold and Harris. Klebold said on the Basement Tapes, "You've been giving us shit for years."
Accounts from various parents and school staffers describe bullying at the school as "rampant." Nathan Vanderau, a friend of Klebold, and Alisa Owen, Harris's eighth-grade science partner, reported that Harris and Klebold were constantly picked on. Vanderau noted that a "cup of fecal matter" was thrown at them.
Klebold is known to have remarked to his father of his hatred of the jocks at Columbine, adding that Harris in particular had been victimized. Klebold had stated, "They sure give Eric hell." Chad Laughlin stated "A lot of the tension in the school came from the class above us...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." Brown also noted Harris was born with mild chest indent. This made him reluctant to take his shirt off in gym class, and other students would laugh at him.
A year after the massacre, an analysis by officials at the U.S. Secret Service of 37 premeditated school shootings found that bullying, which some of the shooters described "in terms that approached torment", played the major role in more than two-thirds of the attacks. A similar theory was expounded by Brooks Brown in his book on the massacre, No Easy Answers; he noted that teachers commonly looked the other way when confronted with bullying, and that whenever Klebold and Harris were the recipients of such incidents from the jocks at Columbine, they would make statements such as: "Don't worry, man. It happens all the time!" if anyone expressed shock or surprise.
One author has strongly disputed the theory of "revenge for bullying" as a motivation for the actions of Harris and Klebold. Dave Cullen, while acknowledging the pervasiveness of bullying in high schools including Columbine, has claimed that the two were not victims of bullying. Cullen said that Harris was more often the perpetrator than victim of bullying.
During junior year, both Harris and Klebold had been confronted by a group of youths at the school—all members of the football team—who had sprayed them with ketchup and mustard while referring to the pair as "faggots" and "queers". According to Brown, "People surrounded them in the commons and squirted ketchup packets all over them, laughing at them, calling them faggots" "That happened while teachers watched. They couldn't fight back. They wore the ketchup all day and went home covered with it." Laughlin stated "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.
During and after the initial investigations, social cliques within high schools such as Trench Coat Mafia were widely discussed. One perception formed was that both Klebold and Harris were outcasts who had been isolated from their classmates, prompting feelings of helplessness, insecurity, and depression, as well as a strong need for attention. This concept has been questioned, as both Harris and Klebold had a close circle of friends and a wider informal social group.
One of Harris' last journal entries read: "I hate you people for leaving me out of so many fun things." "The lonely man strikes with absolute rage" wrote Klebold. In an interview, Brown described them as the school's worst outcasts, "the losers of the losers".
Sociologist Ralph Larkin has theorized the massacre happened as a political act rather like the Oklahoma City Bombing, though in this case to trigger a revolution of outcast students and the dispossessed. Larkin concluded: "Harris and Klebold committed their rampage shooting as an overtly political act in the name of oppressed students victimized by their peers...The Columbine shootings redefined such acts not merely as revenge but as a means of protest of bullying, intimidation, social isolation, and public rituals of humiliation." One author argues Columbine was increasingly linked to terrorism after the September 11 attacks.
Adolf Hitler's birthday
The attack occurred on April 20, Adolf Hitler's birthday, which led to speculation in the media that the attack was political. One teacher referred to Klebold's boots as "Nazi boots". Some people, such as Robyn Anderson, stated that the pair were not obsessed with Nazism nor did they worship or admire Hitler in any way. Anderson stated, in retrospect, that there were many things the pair did not tell friends. Harris at least did revere the Nazis. He praised them often in his journal, and some of his friends grew irritated at his frequent Nazi salutes and quotations in the months leading up to the shooting. At a certain point, Harris realized he needed to reduce this behavior, for fear of revealing his plans.
The original date for the massacre may have been April 19, like the Oklahoma City Bombing. On April 11, Harris said "there are 7 and 1/3 days left." However, Harris wished for more ammunition from Mark Manes, for which one had to be 21 years old to obtain from K-Mart, and Manes did not get it for him until the evening of the 19th, causing the massacre to happen on the 20th. Manes asked if Harris was going shooting that night. Harris replied he would tomorrow. In 2001, K-Mart announced it would no longer sell handgun ammunition.
In one scheduled meeting with his appointed psychiatrist, Harris had complained of depression, anger, and suicidal thoughts. He was prescribed Zoloft. He complained of feeling restless and having trouble concentrating; his doctor switched him to Luvox, a similar selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI).
Toxicology reports confirmed that Harris had Luvox in his bloodstream at the time of the shootings. Klebold had no medications in his system. Opponents of contemporary psychiatry like Peter Breggin claimed that the psychiatric medications prescribed to Harris may have exacerbated his aggressiveness.
Harris wished to join the United States Marine Corps. His application to the Marines was rejected shortly before the shootings because of his taking Luvox. According to the recruiting officer, Harris did not know about this rejection.
Blame for the shootings was directed at a number of metal or 'dark music' bands. Both Harris and Klebold were fans of the German rock bands KMFDM and Rammstein. Harris was enrolled in German class. His website contained lyrics from both artists, such as KMFDM's "Son of a Gun", "Stray Bullet", and "Waste", as well as translations for the songs done in German.
In the same blog post which threatened Brown, Harris wrote: "Ill just go to some downtown area in some big ass city and blow up and shoot everything I can. Feel no remorse, no sense of shame." The last sentence is a quote from the KMFDM song "Anarchy". As above, Klebold wrote in Harris's yearbook "My wrath for January's incident will be godlike," and he wore a shirt saying "Wrath" during the massacre. "Wrath" and "Godlike" are songs by KMFDM.
On April 20, 1999 KMFDM released the album Adios. Harris noted the coincidence of the album's title and release date in his journal "a subliminal final "Adios" tribute to Reb and Vodka. thanks KMFDM... I ripped the hell outa the system". He quotes "Godlike".
Sascha Konietzko of KMFDM issued a statement:
First and foremost, KMFDM would like to express their deep and heartfelt sympathy for the parents, families and friends of the murdered and injured children in Littleton. We are sick and appalled, as is the rest of the nation, by what took place in Colorado yesterday.
KMFDM are an art form—not a political party. From the beginning, our music has been a statement against war, oppression, fascism and violence against others. While some of the former band members are German as reported in the media, none of us condone any Nazi beliefs whatsoever.
The majority of that blame was directed at Marilyn Manson and his eponymous band. In the weeks following the shootings, media reports about Harris and Klebold portrayed them and the Trench Coat Mafia as part of a gothic cult. After being linked by news outlets and pundits with sensationalist headlines such as "Killers Worshipped Rock Freak Manson" and "Devil-Worshipping Maniac Told Kids To Kill", many came to believe that Manson's music and imagery were their sole motivation, despite later reports that the two were not fans. In truth, they were moderate fans of Manson, but not nearly as much as KMFDM, Rammstein, or Nine Inch Nails.
In the immediate aftermath, the band canceled the remaining North American dates of their Rock Is Dead Tour out of respect for the victims, while steadfastly maintaining that music, movies, books or video games were not to blame. Manson stated:
The media has unfairly scapegoated the music industry and so-called Goth kids and has speculated, with no basis in truth, that artists like myself are in some way to blame. This tragedy was a product of ignorance, hatred and an access to guns. I hope the media's irresponsible finger-pointing doesn't create more discrimination against kids who look different.
On May 1, 1999, Manson expanded his rebuttal to the accusations leveled at him and his band in an op-ed piece for Rolling Stone magazine, He castigated the ensuing hysteria and moral panic and criticized the news media for their irresponsible coverage; he chastised America's habit of hanging blame on scapegoats to escape responsibility. He rebuked the ensuing "witch hunt" and "the sad fact that America puts killers on the cover of Time magazine, giving them as much notoriety as our favorite movie stars...Don't be surprised if every kid who gets pushed around has two new idols." Columbine and America's fixation on a culture of guns, blame, and "celebrity by death" was further explored in the group's 2000 album Holy Wood.
In 2002, Manson appeared in Michael Moore's documentary, Bowling for Columbine; his appearance was filmed during the band's first show in Denver since the shooting. When Moore asked Manson what he would have said to the students at Columbine, he replied, "I wouldn't say a single word to them. I would listen to what they have to say and that's what no one did."
Parents of some of the victims filed several unsuccessful lawsuits against film companies, over films such as The Basketball Diaries, which includes a dream sequence with a student shooting his classmates in a trench coat. In the Basement Tapes, they debate on whether or not Steven Spielberg or Quentin Tarantino are appropriate choices to direct films about the massacre. Their home videos also show inspiration taken from Pulp Fiction. Both were fans of the film Lost Highway. Apocalypse Now was found in Harris's VCR.
Natural Born Killers
They were avid fans of the movie Natural Born Killers, and used the film's acronym, NBK, as a code for the massacre. In February 1998, Klebold wrote "Soon...either ill commit suicide, or I'll get w. [redacted girl's name] & it will be NBK for us." In April 1998, Harris wrote "When I go NBK and people say things like "oh it was tragic" or "oh he is crazy!" or "It was so bloody." I think, so the fuck what you think that's a bad thing?" In Harris's yearbook Klebold wrote "the holy April morning of NBK". Around February 1999, he wrote "maybe going "NBK" (gawd) w. eric is the way to break free."
Both Harris and Klebold were fans of FPS video games such as Doom, Quake, Duke Nukem 3D, Wolfenstein 3D, and Postal. Harris wrote the massacre will "be like the LA riots, the Oklahoma bombing, WWII, Vietnam, Duke and Doom all mixed together." In his last journal entry, Harris wished to "Get a few extra frags on the scoreboard."
Duke Nukem 3D had pipe bombs. In Postal the main character shoots himself in the mouth rather like Harris did. In the cafeteria, Harris shot at the propane bombs, expecting them to explode. In several FPS games including Doom and Duke Nukem 3D, explosions can be set off by shooting at barrels or tanks or bombs.
They were fans of Doom especially. Harris said of the massacre, "It's going to be like fucking Doom." He also wrote "I must not be sidetracked by my feelings of sympathy...so I will force myself to believe that everyone is just another monster from Doom." In Harris's yearbook, Klebold wrote "I find a similarity between people and Doom zombies".
In Doom, the first gun you obtain after the handgun you start with is a pump-action shotgun. Harris named his pump-action shotgun Arlene after a character in the Doom novels. Harris said the gun was "straight out of Doom". Klebold had a TEC-9 and a double-barreled shotgun. The Doom novels and Harris's journal reference an AB-10 several times, which is like a TEC-9. Doom II introduces the "super shotgun", which is a sawn off, double-barreled shotgun.
Rumors that the layout of the Doom levels Harris created resembled that of CHS circulated after the massacre, but appear to be untrue. Harris spent a great deal of time creating a large WAD, named Tier (a song by Rammstein), calling it his "life's work." The WAD was uploaded to the Columbine school computer and to AOL shortly before the attack, but appears to have been lost.
Eric David Harris (April 9, 1981 – April 20, 1999) was born in Wichita, Kansas. The Harris family relocated often, as Harris's father was a U.S. Air Force transport pilot. His mother was a homemaker. The family moved from Plattsburgh, New York, to Littleton, Colorado, in July 1993, when his father retired from military service.
The Harris family lived in rented accommodations for the first three years that they lived in the Littleton area. During this time, he attended Ken Caryl Middle School, and Harris met Klebold. In 1996, the Harris family purchased a house south of CHS. His older brother attended college at the University of Colorado Boulder.
Dylan Bennet Klebold (//; September 11, 1981 – April 20, 1999) was born in Lakewood, Colorado. His parents were pacifists and attended a Lutheran church with their children. Both Dylan and his older brother attended confirmation classes in accordance with the Lutheran tradition. As had been the case with his older brother, Klebold was named after a renowned poet – in his case the playwright Dylan Thomas.
At the family home, the Klebolds also observed some rituals in keeping with Klebold's maternal grandfather's Jewish heritage. Klebold attended Normandy Elementary in Littleton, Colorado for the first two grades before transferring to Governor's Ranch Elementary and became part of the CHIPS ("Challenging High Intellectual Potential Students") program. He found the transition to Ken Caryl Middle School difficult.
Unlike the white caps of the jocks, Harris and Klebold wore black baseball caps. As was typical in the 1990s, they wore them backwards. Harris wore a KMFDM cap, and apparently did not wear it during the massacre. Klebold's cap had a Colorado Avalanche logo on the front and a Boston Red Sox logo sewn onto the back.
Following the Columbine shooting, schools across the United States instituted new security measures such as see-through backpacks, metal detectors, school uniforms, and security guards. Some schools implemented school door numbering to improve public safety response. Several schools throughout the country resorted to requiring students to wear computer-generated IDs.
Schools also adopted a zero tolerance approach to possession of weapons and threatening behavior by students. Despite the effort, several social science experts feel the zero tolerance approach adopted in schools has been implemented too harshly, with unintended consequences creating other problems.
Police departments reassessed their tactics and now train for Columbine-like situations after criticism over the slow response and progress of the SWAT teams during the shooting. Sheriff Stone did not seek reelection.
Police followed the traditional tactic at Columbine: surround the building, set up a perimeter, and contain the damage. That approach has been replaced by a tactic that takes into account the presence of an active shooter whose interest is to kill, not to take hostages, known as the Immediate Action Rapid Deployment tactic. This tactic calls for a four-person team to advance into the site of any ongoing shooting, optimally a diamond-shaped wedge, but even with just a single officer if more are not available. Police officers using this tactic are trained to move toward the sound of gunfire and neutralize the shooter as quickly as possible. Their goal is to stop the shooter at all costs; they are to walk past wounded victims, as the aim is to prevent the shooter from killing or wounding more. Dave Cullen has stated: "The active protocol has proved successful at numerous shootings...At Virginia Tech alone, it probably saved dozens of lives."
After the massacre, many survivors and relatives of deceased victims filed lawsuits. Under Colorado state law at the time, the maximum a family could receive in a lawsuit against a government agency was $600,000. Most cases against the Jeffco police department and school district were dismissed by the federal court on the grounds of government immunity. The case against the sheriff's office regarding the death of teacher Dave Sanders was not dismissed due to the police preventing paramedics from going to his aid for hours after they knew Harris and Klebold were dead. The case was settled out of court in August 2002 for $1,500,000.
In April 2001, the families of more than 30 victims received a $2,538,000 settlement in their case against the families of Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold, Mark Manes, and Phillip Duran. Under the terms of the settlement, the Harrises and the Klebolds contributed $1,568,000 through their homeowners' policies, with another $32,000 set aside for future claims; the Manes contributed $720,000, with another $80,000 set aside for future claims; and the Durans contributed $250,000, with an additional $50,000 available for future claims. The family of Isaiah Shoels, the only African-American victim, rejected this settlement, but in June 2003 were ordered by a judge to accept a $366,000 settlement in their $250-million lawsuit against the shooters' families. In August 2003, the families of victims Daniel Rohrbough, Kelly Fleming, Matt Kechter, Lauren Townsend, and Kyle Velasquez received undisclosed settlements in a wrongful death suit against the Harrises and Klebolds.
On February 24 and 25, 2004, thousands of pieces of evidence from the massacre were put on display in Littleton.
A permanent memorial "to honor and remember the victims of the April 20, 1999 shootings at Columbine High School" was dedicated on September 21, 2007, in Clement Park. The memorial fund raised $1.5 million in donations over eight years of planning.
The shooting resulted in calls for more gun control measures. In 2000 federal and state legislation was introduced that would require safety locks on firearms as well as ban the importation of high-capacity ammunition magazines. Though laws were passed that made it a crime to buy guns for criminals and minors, there was considerable controversy over legislation pertaining to background checks at gun shows. There was concern in the gun lobby over restrictions on Second Amendment rights in the United States.
The 2016 biographical film I'm Not Ashamed, based on the journals of Rachel Scott, includes glimpses of Harris' and Klebold's lives and interactions with other students at CHS.
The 1999 black comedy, Duck! The Carbine High Massacre is inspired by the Columbine massacre. The 2003 Gus Van Sant film Elephant depicts a fictional school shooting, but is based in part on the Columbine massacre. The 2003 Ben Coccio film Zero Day was also based on the massacre.
Also in 2003, the Uwe Boll film Heart of America: Home Room was released. The film's main plot focuses on two bullied students, who plan to carry out a school shooting on the last day of school after being tortured by the school jocks. The main character has second thoughts and quits at the last minute, while the other carries out the plan with a female accomplice. The film is believed to have been inspired by several shootings that are listed before the credits, Columbine being among them.
The first documentary on Columbine may have been the TLC documentary Lost Boys in 2000. The 2002 Michael Moore documentary film Bowling for Columbine won several awards. Also in 2002, A&E made "Columbine: Understanding Why".
In the 2009 film April Showers, which was written and directed by Andrew Robinson, who was a senior at CHS during the shooting. The 2013 film Kids for Cash about the kids for cash scandal detail it as part of the "zero-tolerance" policy in the wake of the Columbine shootings.
Columbine students Jonathan and Stephen Cohen wrote a song called Friend Of Mine (Columbine), which briefly received airplay in the US after being performed at a memorial service broadcast on nationwide television. The song was pressed to CD, with the proceeds benefiting families affected by the massacre, and over 10,000 copies were ordered. Shortly following the release of the CD single, the song was also featured on the Lullaby for Columbine CD.
Since the advent of online social media, a fandom for shooters Harris and Klebold has had a documented presence on social media sites, especially Tumblr. Fans of Harris and Klebold refer to themselves as "Columbiners." An article published in 2015 in the Journal of Transformative Works, a scholarly journal which focuses on the sociology of fandoms, noted that Columbiners were not fundamentally functionally different from more mainstream fandoms. Columbiners create fan art and fan fiction, and have a scholarly interest in the shooting.
The Columbine shootings influenced subsequent school shootings. Ralph Larkin wrote that Harris and Klebold established a script for them. Larkin examined twelve major school shootings in the United States in the eight years after Columbine and found that in eight of those, "the shooters made explicit reference to Harris and Klebold." Larkin wrote "Numerous post-Columbine rampage shooters referred directly to Columbine as their inspiration; others attempted to supersede the Columbine shootings in body count." Many foiled school shooting plots mentioned Columbine and the desire to "outdo Harris and Klebold."
A 2014 investigation by ABC News identified "at least 17 attacks and another 36 alleged plots or serious threats against schools since the assault on Columbine High School that can be tied to the 1999 massacre." Ties identified by ABC News included online research by the perpetrators into the Columbine shooting, clipping news coverage and images of Columbine, explicit statements of admiration of Harris and Klebold, such as writings in journals and on social media, in video posts, and in police interviews, timing planned to an anniversary of Columbine, plans to exceed the Columbine victim counts, and other ties.
A 2015 investigation by CNN identified "more than 40 people...charged with Columbine-style plots." According to psychiatrist E. Fuller Torrey of the Treatment Advocacy Center, a legacy of the Columbine shootings is its "allure to disaffected youth." In 2015 journalist Malcolm Gladwell writing in The New Yorker magazine proposed a threshold model of school shootings in which Harris and Klebold were the triggering actors in "a slow-motion, ever-evolving riot, in which each new participant's action makes sense in reaction to and in combination with those who came before."
In 2012 sociologist Nathalie E. Paton of the National Center for Scientific Research in Paris analyzed the online videos created by post-Columbine school shooting perpetrators. A recurring set of motifs was found, including self-portraits with firearms in which the perpetrator points his gun "at the camera, then at his own temple, and then spreads his arms wide with a gun in each hand; the closeup" and "the wave goodbye at the end," as well as explicit statements of admiration and identification with previous perpetrators. Paton said the videos serve the perpetrators by distinguishing themselves from their classmates and associating themselves with the previous perpetrators.
The first copycat may have been the W. R. Myers High School shooting, just 8 days after the shooting, when a 14-year old Canadian student went into his school at lunchtime, with a sawed-off .22 rifle under his dark blue trench coat, and opened fire, killing one student. Charles Andrew Williams, the Santana High School shooter, reportedly told his friends that he was going to "pull a Columbine," though none of them took him seriously. Convicted students Brian Draper and Torey Adamcik of Pocatello High School in Idaho, who murdered their classmate Cassie Jo Stoddart, mentioned Harris and Klebold in their homemade videos, and were reportedly planning a "Columbine-like" shooting.
In a self-made video recording similar to what we are told about the Basement Tapes, posted by Seung-Hui Cho to the news media immediately prior to his committing the Virginia Tech shootings, Cho referred to the Columbine massacre as an apparent reference to his motivation. In the recording, he wore a backwards baseball cap and also referred to Harris and Klebold as "martyrs." Adam Lanza, the perpetrator of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting had "an obsession with mass murders, in particular the April 1999 shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado."
The Tumblr fandom gained widespread media attention in February 2015 after three of its members conspired to commit a mass shooting at a Halifax mall on Valentine's Day. In 2017, two 15 year old school boys from Northallerton, North Yorkshire, UK were charged with conspiracy to murder after becoming infatuated with the crime and "hero-worshipping" the two perpetrators. The two boys plotted to emulate the actions of Harris and Klebold before being arrested.
- Folie à deux
- Gun violence in the United States
- Mass shootings in the United States
- List of attacks related to secondary schools
- List of school-related attacks
- List of school shootings in the United States
- The school's location is on Pierce Street, which runs north-south through Columbine, roughly one mile west of the Littleton city limit. The U.S. Postal Service designates "Littleton" as the default place name for addresses in the school's ZIP code; thus, the massacre was widely reported as having happened in the adjacent city of Littleton.
- Some of the Doom levels he created can still be found online, known as the Harris levels.
- In the case of Columbine, the Rebels refer to Revolutionary War minutemen.
- Brown had told Harris's parents where he hid alcohol, after Harris had thrown a chunk of ice at his car windshield.
- Klebold had a history of drinking and failed a dilute urine test, but neither he nor Harris attended any substance abuse classes.
- They did not appear in a group photo of the Trench Coat Mafia in the yearbook. However, Harris's father did state that his son was "a member of what they call the Trench Coat Mafia" in the 911 call he made on April 20, 1999.
- Friend and coworker Nate Dykeman saw the two exchange money, and feared Klebold was buying drugs. When Klebold told him it was for a gun instead, he was initially relieved.
- Klebold made notes just before the massacre which include "Go to outside hill, wait. When first bombs go off, attack."
- All times are in Mountain Daylight Time, UTC-6
- On the corner of South Wadsworth Boulevard and Ken Caryl Avenue.
- Gardner was not wearing his prescription eyeglasses.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Columbine High School massacre.|
- Video of the evacuation in progress, Second video of the evacuation (KUSA-TV (9News) news coverage via CNN)
- "Columbine High School massacre". Find a Grave. Retrieved August 28, 2010.
- FBI file on the Columbine massacre
- Jefferson County CO Library – Columbine massacre archives
- The Lullaby for Columbine Project