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Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold

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Eric and Dylan at Rampart Range in March 1999

Eric David Harris (April 9, 1981 – April 20, 1999) and Dylan Bennet Klebold (/ˈklbld/; September 11, 1981 – April 20, 1999) were an American mass murder duo who killed 13 people[n 1] and wounded 24 others[n 2] on April 20, 1999 at Columbine High School in Columbine, Colorado. This became known as the Columbine High School massacre.[1] Harris and Klebold were seniors at the school at the time of the shooting. Both perpetrators committed suicide in the library, where they had killed 10 of their victims.[2] The pair have become what the Napa Valley Register have called "cultural icons" for some people.[3] Their shooting spree still remains today as one of the most infamous shootings in history. The shooting would also go on to cause a moral panic in society, leading schools to implement zero tolerance policies towards bullying and weapons on school grounds.[4][5]

Harris and Klebold were both born in 1981. While Klebold stayed situated all of his life in Colorado, Harris moved around frequently due to his father being a U.S. Air Force transport pilot. Harris finally situated in Littleton, Colorado in 1993, when his father was forced to retire from active duty. The boys had met sometime while they were in the 7th grade at Ken Caryl Middle School. Over time, they became increasingly close. By the time they were juniors, they were described as inseparable. There are differing reports, some claimed Harris and Klebold were very unpopular students and frequent targets of bullying, while others claim they weren't anywhere near the bottom of the social hierarchy and each had friends.[6] The pair were known to have opposite personalities. Harris was described as more outgoing and charismatic, while Klebold was more reserved and shy. Although, both were known to be highly intelligent and geeky, spending a lot of their time on computers and playing video games. They were both arrested in January 1998 for breaking into a van and stealing equipment. They got into a diversionary program, to help the boys stay out of any more trouble, while expunging their criminal records if they passed, which they successfully did at the beginning of 1999.[7] Over this time, the pair had developed a hatred for the school and society in general. By May 1998, Harris and Klebold began planning the massacre, gathering an arsenal of weapons and building explosives. They left behind many journal writings and videos, foreshadowing and explaining their actions and what they hoped to achieve, like surpassing the carnage in the 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing. Ultimately, wanting the most deaths in United States history.[8]

After the massacre, it was widely believed the boys were part of a clique in school called the "Trenchcoat Mafia",[9] although this turned out to be untrue, as neither Harris or Klebold had any affiliation with the group, aside from being friends with a few of its members. Others attributed poor parenting, bullying and mental illness to the attack.[10] While they left behind writings and recordings of why they attacked their school, the answer proved to not be that simple to investigators. The FBI concluded that Harris was a brooding psychopath, who showed in his journal writings a lack of empathy, narcissism and unconstrained aggression.[11][12] Klebold, however, was concluded as an angry depressive. Klebold showed in his journal writings agony and sadness, feeling of no self-worth and wanting revenge against those who did not accept him.[13][14] Both also seemingly had a wish to be infamous and "kickstart a revolution," as Harris stated in a home video.[15] Dylan's mother, Sue, believes the pair had a "magnetic attraction" to one another, where one fulfilled something in one another, which made them even more sure that they could pull off their plans.[16] The FBI's conclusion is often disputed, such as people arguing Harris was also depressed because he took the anti-depressant Luvox;[17] and Klebold was the first to mention a killing spree in a 1997 journal entry.[18] The motive for the attack remains inconclusive.[19]

Harris and Klebold are often seen, depicted and referenced in popular culture through movies, television shows, video games, music, stage plays, documentaries and books.[20][21] Many killers since the Columbine massacre have taken inspiration from the two, hailing them as heroes and icons. Harris and Klebold also have a fanbase who call themselves "Columbiners", who make blog posts, fan fiction and fan art on them.[22][23] Others have also dressed as Harris and Klebold for Halloween and cosplay.[24][25]

Early life

Eric Harris

Harris' senior year picture, 1999

Eric David Harris was born on April 9, 1981 in Wichita, Kansas. Eric's parents were both born in Colorado but while his father Wayne Harris was working in the Air Force as a transport pilot, Wayne held 11 different positions at six different bases in Ohio, Michigan and New York. Plattsburgh, New York was the last place the family moved to before Wayne's forced retirement from the military in 1993 due to cutbacks. His mother, Katherine Ann Poole, was a homemaker. The family moved to Littleton, Colorado, in July 1993.[26]

Eric joined Columbine High School in 1995 as a freshman. From all accounts, he had many friends and was on the soccer team. During his freshman year, Eric met Tiffany Typher, who was in his German class and took her to the homecoming. After the date, it appeared that Typher was no longer interested in seeing Eric anymore. So, when she refused to go out with him again, Eric staged a fake 'suicide', sprawling on the ground with fake blood splashed all over him. She was screaming for help then Eric and his friends began laughing and Typher stormed off, telling Eric to get help. Over time, some people noticed Eric's changing personality and behavior. He became more irritable, angry, reckless and less accepting of all his peers, based on weaknesses.[27]

The Harris family lived in rented accommodations for the first three years that they lived in the Littleton area. During this time, Eric met Dylan Klebold. In 1996, the Harris family purchased a house south of Columbine High School. Eric's older brother, Kevin, attended college at the University of Colorado.[28][29]

Dylan Klebold

Klebold's senior year picture, 1999

Dylan Bennet Klebold was born on September 11, 1981 in Lakewood, Colorado to Thomas and Susan Klebold.[26] His parents were pacifists and attended a Lutheran church with their children. Both Dylan and his older brother, Byron, attended confirmation classes in accordance with the Lutheran tradition.[30] As had been the case with his older brother, Dylan was named after a renowned poet – in Dylan's case, Dylan Thomas.[31]

At the family home, the Klebolds also observed some rituals in keeping with Klebold's maternal grandfather's Jewish heritage.[30][32] Dylan attended Normandy Elementary School for first and second grade and then transferred to Governor's Ranch Elementary School where he was part of the CHIPS (Challenging High Intellectual Potential Students) program for gifted children. His appeared somewhat sheltered according to reports at Governors Ranch Elementary. When he transitioned to Ken Caryl Middle School, he found it very difficult because he was a shy individual. [33]

During his earlier school years, Klebold played T-ball, baseball and soccer. He was in Cub Scouts with friend Brooks Brown, whom he was friends with since the first grade. Brown lived near the house Harris' parents had bought when they finally settled in Littleton, and rode the same bus as Harris. Shortly after, Harris introduced Klebold to his friend Nathan Dykeman, who also attended their middle school, and the boys all became friends.



Harris and Klebold were described, by people that knew them, as almost having opposite personalities. Both boys were known to be highly intelligent, especially with computers. Harris was described as very nice, likable and charismatic, who often hugged his female classmates and on one occasion even gave his favorite teacher a Christmas present. Harris often bragged about his ability to deceive other people, and was also known to be ill-tempered and quick to anger. Towards the end of Harris' life, people noticed an odd change in his behavior. Unlike before, he would be angry with everyone and seemed that no one was good enough for Harris' standards. Meanwhile, Klebold was described by his peers as painfully shy, quiet and reserved. Klebold would often take minutes to get himself ready for a conversation, even with those close to him. He would often blush and be fidgety whenever someone new talked to him, especially girls. However, like Harris, Klebold was prone to angry outbursts and was known to have had verbal altercations with his teachers and his boss at Blackjack Pizza. Harris was more outgoing, although very picky on who he'd be friends with. Meanwhile, Klebold was easier to get along with and would befriend anyone.[34]


Much of the information on Harris and Klebold's relationship is unknown, on their interactions and conversations, aside from the Basement Tapes, which only transcripts have been released of. Harris and Klebold met at Ken Caryl Middle School during the seventh grade. Over time, they became increasingly close, hanging out by often going out bowling, carpooling and playing the video game Doom over a private server they connected their personal computers to. By their junior year in high school, the boys were described as inseparable. Chad Laughlin, a close friend of Harris and Klebold, said that they always sat alone together at lunch and often kept to themselves.[6] A rumor eventually started that the two were romantically involved, but it is unknown if they were aware of this rumor.[35] Judy Brown, the mother of their friend Brooks Brown, believed Harris was emotionally dependent on Klebold, who was more liked by the broader student population.[36] Susan Klebold, along with many experts, agree that Harris' rage and hatred for society, intermingled with Klebold's poor self-esteem and need for revenge, caused the boys to feed off of each other and enter in what eventually would become an infernal friendship.[37]

Columbine High School

At Columbine High School, Harris and Klebold were active in school play productions, operated video productions and became computer assistants, maintaining the school's computer server.[26] According to early accounts of the shooting, they were very unpopular students and targets of bullying. While sources do support accounts of bullying directed toward Harris and Klebold,[38][39][40] accounts of them being outcasts have been reported to be false, since both of them had a close knit group of friends.[41][42]

Harris and Klebold were initially reported to be members of a clique that was called the "Trenchcoat Mafia", although in fact they had no particular connection with the group,[clarification needed] and did not appear in the group's photo in Columbine High's 1998 yearbook.[43][44] Harris's father erroneously stated that his son was "a member of what they call the Trenchcoat Mafia" in a 9-1-1 call he made on April 20, 1999.[45] Klebold attended the high school prom three days before the shootings with a classmate named Robyn Anderson.[2]

The boys linked their personal computers on a network and played video games over the Internet. Harris created a set of levels for the game Doom, which later became known as the 'Harris levels'. Harris had a web presence under the handle "REB" (short for Rebel, a nod to the nickname of Columbine High's sports teams) and other online aliases, including "Rebldomakr", "Rebdoomer", and "Rebdomine". Klebold went by the names "VoDKa" and "VoDkA". Harris had various websites that hosted Doom and Quake files, as well as team information for those he gamed with online. The sites openly espoused hatred for people in their neighborhood and the world in general. When the pair began experimenting with pipe bombs, they posted results of the explosions on the websites. The website was shut down by America Online after the shootings and was preserved for the FBI.[46]

Initial legal encounters

In January 1998, Harris and Klebold were charged with mischief, breaking and entering, trespassing, and theft after breaking into a locked van to steal computers and other equipment. They both left good impressions on juvenile officers, who offered to expunge their criminal records if they agreed to attend a diversionary program which included community service and psychiatric treatment. Harris was required to attend anger management classes where, again, he made a favorable impression. The boys' probation officer discharged them from the program a few months ahead of schedule for good behavior. Of Harris, it was remarked that he was "a very bright individual who is likely to succeed in life", while Klebold was said to be intelligent, but "needs to understand that hard work is part of fulfilling a dream."

On April 30, Harris handed over the first version of a letter of apology he wrote to the owner of the van, which he completed the next month.[47] In the letter, Harris expressed regret about his actions and seemed very sincere; however, in one of his journal entries dated April 12, he wrote: "Isnt america supposed to be the land of the free? how come, If im free, I cant deprive some fucking dumbshit from his possessions If he leaves them sitting in the front seat of his fucking van in plain sight in the middle of fucking nowhere on a fri-fucking-day night? Natural selection. Fucker should be shot. [sic]".[48][49]

Hitmen for Hire

In December 1998, Harris and Klebold made Hitmen for Hire, a video for a school project in which they swore, yelled at the camera, made violent statements, and acted out shooting and killing students in the hallways of Columbine High School.[50][51] Both also displayed themes of violence in their creative writing projects; of a Doom-based story written by Harris on January 17, 1999, Harris's teacher said: "Yours is a unique approach and your writing works in a gruesome way — good details and mood setting."[52][53]


9 mm Hi-Point 995 carbine, one of the guns Eric Harris used
9 mm TEC-DC9 pistol also known as the TEC-9, one of the guns Dylan Klebold used

Due to Harris and Klebold being underage at the time, Robyn Anderson (with whom Klebold attended the prom three days before the shooting), an 18-year-old Columbine student and old friend of Klebold's, made a straw purchase of two shotguns and a Hi-Point carbine for the pair. In exchange for her cooperation with the investigation that followed the shootings, no charges were filed against Anderson. After illegally acquiring the weapons, Klebold sawed off his Savage 311-D 12-gauge double-barrel shotgun, shortening the overall length to approximately 23 inches (0.58 m), a felony under the National Firearms Act, while Harris's Savage-Springfield 12-gauge pump shotgun was sawed off to around 26 inches (0.66 m).[54]

The shooters also possessed a TEC-DC9 semi-automatic handgun, which had a long history. The manufacturer of the TEC-DC9 first sold it to Miami-based Navegar Incorporated. It was then sold to Zander's Sporting Goods in Baldwin, Illinois, in 1994. The gun was later sold to Thornton, Colorado, firearms dealer Larry Russell. In violation of federal law, Russell failed to keep records of the sale, yet he determined that the purchaser of the gun was twenty-one years of age or older. He was unable to identify the pictures of Anderson, Harris or Klebold shown to him by police after the shooting. Two men, Mark Manes and Philip Duran, were convicted of supplying weapons to the two.[55]

The bombs used by the pair varied and were crudely made from carbon dioxide canisters, galvanized pipe, and metal propane bottles. The bombs were primed with matches placed at one end. Both had striker tips on their sleeves. When they rubbed against the bomb, the match head would light the fuse. The weekend before the shootings, Harris and Klebold had purchased propane tanks and other supplies from a hardware store for a few hundred dollars. Several residents of the area claimed to have heard glass breaking and buzzing sounds from the Harris family's garage, which later was concluded to indicate they were constructing pipe bombs. The two boys purchased six more propane tanks on the morning of the attack.[56]

More complex bombs, such as the one that detonated on the corner of South Wadsworth Boulevard and Ken Caryl Avenue, had timers. The two largest bombs built were found in the school cafeteria and were made from small propane tanks. Only one of these bombs went off, only partially detonating. It was estimated that if any of the bombs placed in the cafeteria had detonated properly, the blast could have caused extensive structural damage to the school and would have resulted in hundreds of casualties.[57]


Day of the massacre

Harris (left) and Klebold (right) on a surveillance camera on the day of the shooting

On April 20, 1999, while smoking a cigarette at the start of lunch break, Brooks Brown saw Harris arrive at school. Brown had severed his friendship with Harris a year earlier after Harris had thrown a chunk of ice at his car windshield; Brown reconciled with Harris just prior to the shooting. Brown scolded Harris for skipping his morning classes, because Harris was always serious about schoolwork and being on time. Harris reportedly said, "It doesn't matter anymore" and also said, "Brooks, I like you now. Get out of here. Go home."[58] Brown quickly left the school grounds. At 11:19 am, he heard the first gunshots after he had walked some distance away from the school, and informed the police via a neighbor's cell phone.

By that time, Klebold had already arrived at the school in a separate car, and the two boys left two gym bags, each containing a 20-pound propane bomb, inside the cafeteria. When these devices failed to detonate, Harris and Klebold launched a shooting attack against their classmates. It was the deadliest attack ever perpetrated at an American high school until the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting on February 14, 2018.[59][60] Harris was responsible for eight of the thirteen confirmed deaths (Rachel Scott, Daniel Rohrbough,[61] teacher Dave Sanders, Steve Curnow, Cassie Bernall, Isaiah Shoels, Kelly Fleming, and Daniel Mauser), while Klebold was responsible for the remaining five (Kyle Velasquez, Matthew Kechter, Lauren Townsend, John Tomlin, and Corey DePooter). There were 24 injured (21 of them by the shooters), most in critical condition.


At 12:02 pm, Harris and Klebold returned to the library. This was 20 minutes after their lethal shooting spree had ended, leaving 12 students dead, one teacher dying, and another 24 students and staff injured. Ten of their victims had been killed in the library. Harris and Klebold went to the west windows and opened fire on the police outside. Between three and six minutes later, they walked to the bookshelves near a table where Patrick Ireland lay badly wounded and unconscious. Student Lisa Kreutz, injured in the earlier library attack, was also in the room, unable to move.

By 12:08 PM, both gunmen had killed themselves. 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.[62] Nielson said that she had never spoken with either of the writers of the article,[63] and evidence suggests otherwise. Just before shooting himself, Klebold lit a Molotov cocktail on a nearby table, underneath which Patrick Ireland was lying, 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.[64][65]


There was controversy over whether the perpetrators should be memorialized. Some were opposed, saying that it glorified murderers, while others argued that the perpetrators were also victims. Atop a hill near Columbine High School, crosses were erected for Harris and Klebold along with those for the people they killed,[66] but the father of Daniel Rohrbough cut them down, saying that murderers should not be memorialized in the same place as their victims.[67]


Harris and Klebold wrote much about how they would carry out the massacre, but less about why. A journal found in Harris' bedroom contained almost every detail that the boys planned to follow after 5:00 a.m. on April 20, 1999.[68] In journal entries, the pair often wrote about events such as the Oklahoma City bombing, the Waco siege, the Vietnam War and other similar events, including blurbs and notes on how they wished to "outdo" these events, focusing especially on what Timothy McVeigh did in Oklahoma City. They mentioned how they would like to leave a lasting impression on the world with this kind of violence.[69]

Much speculation occurred over the date chosen for their attack. The original intended date of the attack may have been April 19; Harris required more ammunition from Mark Manes, who did not deliver it until the evening of April 19.[70][71]

Harris and Klebold were both avid fans of KMFDM, an industrial band led by German multi-instrumentalist Sascha Konietzko. It was revealed that lyrics to KMFDM songs ("Son of a Gun", "Stray Bullet", "Waste") were posted on Harris' website,[72] and that the date of the massacre, April 20, coincided with both the release date of the album Adios[73] and the birthday of Adolf Hitler.[74] Harris noted the coincidence of the album's title and release date in his journal.[49] In response, KMFDM's Konietzko issued a statement that KMFDM was "against war, oppression, fascism and violence against others" and that "none of us condone any Nazi beliefs whatsoever".[75]

An April 22, 1999 Washington Post article described Harris and Klebold:

They hated jocks, admired Nazis and scorned normalcy. They fancied themselves devotees of the Gothic subculture, even though they thrilled to the violence denounced by much of that fantasy world. They were white supremacists, but loved music by anti-racist rock bands.[76]

The attack occurred on Hitler's birthday, which led to speculation in the media. Some people, such as Robyn Anderson, who knew the perpetrators, 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. Dave Cullen, author of the 2009 book Columbine, cites evidence that Harris 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. He commented in his journal about how hard it was to wait until April to express all his hatred for the human race.[77] In his journal, Harris mentioned his admiration of what he imagined to be natural selection, and wrote that he would like to put everyone in a super Doom game and see to it that the weak die and the strong live.[49] On the day of the massacre, Harris wore a white T-shirt with the words "Natural selection" printed in black.[42]


One of Harris' last journal entries read: "I hate you people for leaving me out of so many fun things. And no don't … say, 'Well that's your fault,' because it isn't, you people had my phone number, and I asked and all, but no. No no no don't let the weird-looking Eric KID come along."[42]

Klebold said on the Basement Tapes, "You've been giving us shit for years. You're fucking gonna pay for all the shit! We don't give a shit. Because we're gonna die doing it."[78][79]

Accounts from various parents and school staffers describe bullying at the school as "rampant."[80] 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.[81] "People surrounded them in the commons and squirted ketchup packets all over them, laughing at them, calling them faggots," Brooks Brown says. "That happened while teachers watched. They couldn't fight back. They wore the ketchup all day and went home covered with it."[38] In his book, No Easy Answers: The Truth Behind Death at Columbine, Brown wrote that 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.[39]

"A lot of the tension in the school came from the class above us," Chad Laughlin states. "There were people fearful of walking by a table where you knew you didn't belong, stuff like that. Certain groups certainly got preferential treatment across the board. I caught the tail end of one really horrible incident, and I know Dylan told his mother that it was the worst day of his life." That incident, according to Laughlin, involved seniors pelting Klebold with "ketchup-covered tampons" in the commons.[40]

Journals and investigation

Harris began keeping a journal in April 1998, a short time after the pair was convicted of breaking into a van, for which each received ten months of juvenile intervention counseling and community service in January 1998. They began to formulate plans then, as reflected in their journals.[71]

Harris wanted to join the United States Marine Corps, but his application was rejected shortly before the shootings because he was taking the drug fluvoxamine, an SSRI antidepressant, which he was required to take as part of court-ordered anger management therapy. According to the recruiting officer, Harris did not know about this rejection. Though some friends of Harris suggested that he had stopped taking the drug beforehand,[82] the autopsy reports showed low therapeutic or normal (not toxic or lethal) blood-levels of Luvox (fluvoxamine) in his system, which would be around 0.0031–0.0087 mg/ml,[83] at the time of death.[84] After the shootings, opponents of contemporary psychiatry like Peter Breggin[85] claimed that the psychiatric medications prescribed to Harris after his conviction may have exacerbated his aggressiveness.[86]

In April 2009, Professor Aubrey Immelman, PhD of the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University, published a personality profile of Eric Harris, based on journal entries and personal communication. Immelman's profile 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.[dead link][87]

In his journal, Klebold wrote about his view that he and Harris were "god-like" and more highly evolved than every other human being, but his secret journal records self-loathing and suicidal intentions. Page after page was covered in hearts, as he was secretly in love with a Columbine student. Although both had difficulty controlling their anger, Klebold's anger had led to his being more prone to serious trouble than Harris. Klebold was known to swear at teachers and fight with his boss at Blackjack Pizza. After their arrest, which both recorded as the most traumatic thing they had ever experienced, Klebold wrote a letter to Harris, saying how they would have so much fun getting revenge and killing cops, and how his wrath from the January arrest would be "god-like". On the day of the massacre, Klebold wore a black T-shirt which had the word "WRATH" printed in red.[42] It was speculated that revenge for the arrest was a possible motive for the attack, and that the pair planned on having a massive gun battle with police during the shooting. Klebold wrote that life was no fun without a little death, and that he would like to spend the last moments of his life in nerve-wracking twists of murder and bloodshed. He concluded by saying that he would kill himself afterward in order to leave the world that he hated and go to a better place. Klebold was described as being "hotheaded, but depressive and suicidal."[88]

Some of the home recorded videos, called "The Basement Tapes", have reportedly been destroyed by police. Harris and Klebold reportedly discussed their motives for the attacks in these videos and gave instructions in bomb making. Police cite the reason for withholding these tapes as an effort to prevent them from becoming "call-to-arms" and "how-to" videos that could inspire copycat killers.[89] Some people have argued that releasing the tapes would allow psychologists to study them and would help identify characteristics of future killers.

Media accounts

Initially,[43] the shooters were believed to be members of a clique that called themselves the "Trench Coat Mafia", a small group of Columbine's self-styled outcasts who wore heavy black trench coats. Early reports described the members as also wearing German slogans and swastikas on their clothes.[43] Additional media reports described the Trench Coat Mafia as a cult with ties to the Neo-Nazi movement which fueled a media stigma and bias against the Trench Coat Mafia. The Trench Coat Mafia was a group of friends who hung out together, wore black trench coats, and prided themselves on being different from the 'jocks' who had been bullying the members and who also coined the name Trench Coat Mafia.[90] The trench coat inadvertently became the members' uniform after a mother of one of the members bought it as an inexpensive present.[43]

Investigation revealed that Harris and Klebold were only friends with one member of the group, Kristin Thiebault, and that most of the primary members of the Trench Coat Mafia had left the school by the time that Harris and Klebold committed the massacre. Most did not know the shooters, apart from their association with Thiebault, and none were considered suspects in the shootings or were charged with any involvement in the incident.[43]

Marilyn Manson was blamed by the media in the wake of the Columbine shooting, and responded to criticism in an interview with Michael Moore, in which he was asked, "If you were to talk directly to the kids at Columbine and the people in the community, what would you say to them if they were here right now?", to which 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."[91]

Psychological analysis

One report suggested that Harris was a psychopath and Klebold was severely depressed, and consequently that Harris was influenced by sadism, whereas Klebold was influenced by revenge. This report suggested that all of the reasons the boys gave for the shooting were justifications in order to present themselves as killers with a cause.[92][93][94]

Although early media reports attributed the shootings to a desire for revenge on the part of Harris and Klebold for bullying that they received, subsequent psychological analysis indicated Harris and Klebold harbored serious psychological problems. According to Supervisory Special Agent Dwayne Fuselier, the FBI's lead Columbine investigator and a clinical psychologist, Harris exhibited a pattern of grandiosity, contempt, and lack of empathy or remorse, distinctive traits of psychopaths that Harris concealed through deception. Fuselier adds that Harris engaged in mendacity not merely to protect himself, as Harris rationalized in his journal, but also for pleasure, as seen when Harris expressed his thoughts in his journal regarding how he and Klebold avoided prosecution for breaking into a van. Other leading psychiatrists concur that Harris was a psychopath.[92]

According to psychologist Peter Langman, Klebold displayed signs of schizotypal personality disorder – he struck many people as odd, was very shy, appeared to have had disturbed thought processes and constantly misused language in unusual ways as evidenced by his journal, considered notable due to Klebold's peers that often described him as very intelligent. He appeared to have been delusional, viewed himself as "god-like" and wrote about he was "made a human without the possibility of BEING human." He was also convinced that others hated him and felt like he was being conspired against, even though according to many reports, Klebold was loved by his family and plenty of friends.[95]

Reaction of Sue Klebold

Sue Klebold, mother of Dylan Klebold, initially was in huge denial about Dylan's involvement in the massacre, believing he was tricked by Eric into doing it, among other things. Six months later, she finally saw the infamous Basement Tapes made by Eric and Dylan, and she finally realized that Dylan was equally responsible for the killings.[96] She spoke about the Columbine High School massacre publicly for the first time in an essay that appeared in the October 2009 issue of O: The Oprah Magazine. In the piece, Klebold wrote: "For the rest of my life, I will be haunted by the horror and anguish Dylan caused", and "Dylan changed everything I believed about myself, about God, about family, and about love." Stating that she had no clue of her son's intentions, she said, "Once I saw his journals, it was clear to me that Dylan entered the school with the intention of dying there."[97] In Andrew Solomon's 2012 book Far from the Tree, she acknowledged that on the day of the massacre, when she discovered that Dylan was one of the shooters, she prayed he would kill himself. "I had a sudden vision of what he might be doing. And so while every other mother in Littleton was praying that her child was safe, I had to pray that mine would die before he hurt anyone else."[98]

In February 2016, Klebold published a memoir, titled A Mother's Reckoning, about her experiences before and after the massacre.[99][100] It was co-written by Laura Tucker and included an introduction by National Book Award winner Andrew Solomon. It received very favorable reviews, including from the New York Times Book Review.[101] It peaked at No. 2 on the New York Times bestseller list.[102]

On February 2, 2017, Klebold posted a TED Talk titled, "My son was a Columbine shooter. This is my story."[103] As of August 2019, the video has over 6.6 million views. The site listed Klebold's occupation as "activist", and stated: "Sue Klebold has become a passionate agent working to advance mental health awareness and intervention."

Lawsuits against their families

In April 2001, the families of more than 30 victims were given shares in a $2,538,000 settlement by the families of the perpetrators, and the two men convicted of supplying the weapons used in the massacre. The Harrises and the Klebolds contributed $1,568,000 to the settlement from their own homeowners' policies, the Maneses contributed $720,000, and the Durans contributed $250,000. The Harrises and the Klebolds were ordered to guarantee an additional $32,000 be available against any future claims. The Maneses were ordered to hold $80,000 against future claims, and the Durans were ordered to hold $50,000.[104] One family had filed a $250-million lawsuit against the Harrises and Klebolds in 1999 and did not accept the 2001 settlement terms. A judge ordered the family to accept a $366,000 settlement in June 2003.[105][106] In August 2003, the families of five other victims received undisclosed settlements from the Harrises and Klebolds.[105]


ITV describes the legacy of Harris and Klebold as deadly, as they ushered in a new area of mass gun violence in the United States. Their attack, even 20 years later, remains one of the most shocking events in United States history.[107] Author Dave Cullen called Harris and Klebold the fathers of the movement for disenfranchised youth.[108] Harris and Klebold have also, as CNN stated, left their inevitable mark on pop culture.[109]


The Columbine shootings influenced subsequent school shootings, with many praising Harris and Klebold, referring to them as martyrs and heroes.[110] a number of whose plots mention it, and which in some cases, led to the closing of entire school districts.[111] According to psychiatrist E. Fuller Torrey of the Treatment Advocacy Center, a legacy of the Columbine shootings is its "allure to disaffected youth."[112]

Ralph Larkin examined twelve major school shootings in the US in the following eight years and found that in eight of those, "the shooters made explicit reference to Harris and Klebold."[113] Larkin wrote that the Columbine massacre established a "script" for shootings. "Numerous post-Columbine rampage shooters referred directly to Columbine as their inspiration; others attempted to supersede the Columbine shootings in body count."[114]

A 2015 investigation by CNN identified "more than 40 people...charged with Columbine-style plots." 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,[n 3] and in police interviews, timing planned to an anniversary of Columbine, plans to exceed the Columbine victim counts, and other ties.[116]

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."[113][117]

The first copycat may have been the W. R. Myers High School shooting, just eight days after Columbine, 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.[114] A month after the massacre, Heritage High School in Conyers, Georgia had a shooting which Attorney General Janet Reno called a Columbine "copycat".[118] A friend of Harris and Klebold, Eric Veik, was arrested after threatening to "finish the job" at CHS in October 1999.[119]

In 2001, 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.[111] In 2005, Jeff Weise, an American Indian who wore a trench coat, killed his grandfather, who was a police officer, and his girlfriend. He took his grandfather's weapon and his squad car, and drove to his former high school in Red Lake and murdered several students before killing himself. In an apparent reference to Columbine, he asked one student if they believed in God.[120]

The perpetrator of the Dawson College shooting wrote a note praising Harris and Klebold.[121] 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.[122] The perpetrator of the Emsdetten school shooting praised Harris in his diary.[123]

In November 2007, Pekka-Eric Auvinen imitated Columbine with a shooting in Jokela in Tuusula, Finland. He wore a shirt saying "Humanity is Overrated".[114] In December 2007, a man killed two at a Youth with a Mission center in Arvada, Colorado and another two at the New Life Church in Colorado Springs before killing himself. He quoted Harris prior to the attack under the heading "Christianity is YOUR Columbine".[114]

In a self-made video recording sent to the news media by Seung-Hui Cho prior to his committing the Virginia Tech shootings, he referred to the Columbine massacre as an apparent motivation.[124] In the recording, he wore a backwards baseball cap and referred to Harris and Klebold as "martyrs."[110] 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."[125]

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.[126] In 2017, two 15-year-old school boys from Northallerton in England were charged with conspiracy to murder after becoming infatuated with the crime and "hero-worshipping" Harris and Klebold.[127]

The Santa Fe High School shooting, in which ten people were killed, strongly resembled the Columbine massacre; the perpetrator, Dimitrios Pagourtzis, used a pump-action shotgun and homemade explosives, wore similar clothing as Harris and Klebold (including a black trench coat and combat boots) and reportedly yelled "Surprise!" to a victim during the shooting, a possible reference to the library massacre at Columbine (Eric Harris famously said "peek-a-boo" to victim Cassie Bernall before killing her). The Kerch Polytechnic College massacre also appears to have been directly inspired by Columbine.

In popular culture

In the 1999 black comedy Duck! The Carbine High Massacre, which is inspired by the Columbine shooting, the two shooters are played by William Hellfire and Joey Smack, who also co-wrote, directed and produced the film.[128] The shooters are named "Derrick and Derwin", a play on Harris' and Klebold's first names.

The 2002 Michael Moore documentary film Bowling for Columbine focuses heavily on a perceived American obsession with handguns, its grip on Jefferson County, Colorado, and its role in the shooting.

The 2003 Gus Van Sant film Elephant depicts a fictional school shooting, though some of its details were based on the Columbine massacre, such as one scene in which one of the young killers walks into the evacuated school cafeteria and pauses to take a sip from a drink left behind, as Harris himself did during the shooting.[81][129] In the film, the killers are called "Alex and Eric" after the actors who portray them, Alex Frost and Eric Deulen.

In the 2003 Ben Coccio film Zero Day, which was inspired by the Columbine shooting, the two shooters are played by Andre Kriegman and Cal Gabriel and called "Andre and Calvin" after their actors.[130]

Also in 2003, the Uwe Boll film Heart of America: Home Room was released. The film's main plot focuses on two bullied students, Daniel Lynn and Barry Shultz, who plan to carry out a school shooting on the last day of school after being tortured by the school jocks. Barry, the main character, has second thoughts and quits at the last minute, while Daniel carries out the plan with a female accomplice, Dara McDermott. Barry is played by Michael Belyea, Daniel is played by Kett Turton, and Dara is played by Elisabeth Rosen. The film is believed to have been inspired by several shootings that are listed before the credits, Columbine being among them.[citation needed]

In 2004, the shooting was dramatized in the documentary Zero Hour, in which Harris and Klebold are played by Ben Johnson and Josh Young, respectively.

In 2007, the massacre was documented in an episode of the National Geographic Channel documentary series The Final Report.[131]

In the 2009 film April Showers, which was written and directed by Andrew Robinson, who was a senior at Columbine High School during the shooting,[132] the single shooter, Ben Harris, is played by Benjamin Chrystak.

The 2016 biographical film I'm Not Ashamed, based on the journals of Rachel Scott, includes glimpses of Eric Harris' and Dylan Klebold's lives and of interactions between them and other students at Columbine High School. Harris is played by David Errigo Jr. and Klebold is played by Cory Chapman.[133]

See also


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  1. ^ Harris killed eight victims, while Klebold killed the remaining five.
  2. ^ Harris and Klebold directly wounded 21 people by gunfire; three others received injuries related to the attack.
  3. ^ In 2012, sociologist Nathalie E. Paton of the National Center for Scientific Research in Paris analyzed the videos created by post-Columbine school shooting perpetrators. A recurring set of motifs was found, including 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.[113][115]

Further reading

External links