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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. The perpetrators, twelfth grade (senior) students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, murdered 12 students and one teacher. Ten students were murdered in the library, where the pair subsequently died by suicide. At the time, it was the deadliest shooting at a high school in United States history. The crime has inspired several copycats, and "Columbine" has become a euphemism for a school shooting.
|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; 19 years ago (1999-04-20) |
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. The perpetrators, twelfth grade (senior) students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, murdered 12 students and one teacher. Ten students were murdered in the library, where the pair subsequently died by suicide. At the time, it was the deadliest shooting at a high school in United States history. The crime has inspired several copycats, and "Columbine" has become a euphemism for a school shooting.
They injured 21 additional people with gunshots, and exchanged gunfire with the police. Another three people were injured trying to escape the school. In addition to the shootings, the attack involved several homemade bombs. The largest of these were two placed in the cafeteria, 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 motive remains unclear, but the pair planned for about a year and wished for 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 "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.
In 1996, 15-year old Eric Harris created a private website on America Online (AOL). It was initially to host levels (WADs) Harris created for use in the first-person shooter video games Doom and Doom II, as well as Quake. On the site, Harris began a blog, which included jokes and his thoughts on parents, school, and friends. It also detailed Harris sneaking out of the house to cause mischief and vandalism, such as lighting fireworks with his friend Dylan Klebold and others. The mascot of Columbine High School (CHS) is the Rebels, and he called these "Rebel Missions". 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 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 murderous fantasies 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. 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.
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. 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. They were both caught by a police officer 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. 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.
Shortly after the court hearing for the van break-in, Harris reverted his website back to just posting user-created levels of Doom. He began to write his thoughts down in a journal instead. It shows a long period of methodical preparation for the massacre. Harris even wrote on his computer about escaping to a foreign country after the attack, or hijacking an aircraft at Denver International Airport and crashing it into New York City.
Harris and Klebold also foreshadowed the massacre with their schoolwork. They both displayed themes of violence in their creative writing projects. 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.
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. Harris's journals described several experimental bomb detonations.
Both Harris and Klebold were enrolled in video production classes, and kept five video tapes shot with school video equipment. Only two of these, Hitmen for Hire and Rampart Range, and part of a third have been released.
The remaining three tapes detail their plans and reasons for the massacre, including the ways they hid their weapons and deceived their parents. Most of these were shot in the Harris family basement, and are known as the Basement Tapes. 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 never did so.
When an economics class had Harris make an ad for a business, he and Klebold made a video called Hitmen for Hire on December 8, 1998, which was released in February 2004. It depicts them 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. They wore black trench coats on the day of the massacre, and the video seemed 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.
In the early morning hours before the massacre, Harris left a micro cassette labeled "Nixon" on the kitchen table. On it Harris said "It is less than nine hours now," placing the recording at some time around 2:30 a. m. 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 23 inches (0.58 m), a felony under the National Firearms Act.
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. 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. Three days before the shooting, Klebold attended the high school prom with Anderson.
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 at another gun show on January 23. Manes, Manes's girlfriend, and Duran are all in the Rampart Range video.
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 (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. They had 45 crickets, 8 of which detonated, and 9 Molotov cocktails, 2 of which functioned.
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.
Harris's website contained directions on making pipe bombs, including use of shrapnel. Harris's parents once discovered one of his pipe bombs. Harris's journal logged the creation of 25 pipe bombs. A total of 35 were used during the massacre, 14 of which detonated.
Klebold scared his coworkers by once bringing a pipe bomb into work. They would give names to their pipe bombs. After the massacre, two pipe bombs had been left in Klebold's bedroom, one named "Vengeance" and another "Atlanta", presumably after the Olympic Park bombing.
They had 8 propane tanks used for bombs. The weekend before the shootings, Harris and Klebold bought two propane tanks and other supplies from a hardware store for a few hundred dollars. They bought six propane tanks on the morning of the attack. Harris was caught on a Texaco gas station security camera at 9:12 a.m. buying a Blue Rhino propane tank. Each cafeteria bomb was made from one 20 pounds (9.1 kg) tank with a gallon gas can attached.
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.
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 sources claim the top of the staircase where the massacre began was their preferred spot to wait for the bombs to go off.
No witness recalled seeing the duffel bags being added to the 400 or so backpacks already in the cafeteria. The security staff at CHS did not observe the bags being placed in the cafeteria; a custodian was replacing the school security video tape around 11:14 a.m, when it may have happened. Some internet sleuths claim that the bomb placement can be seen on the security video around 10:58 a.m. Shortly after the massacre, police also investigated whether 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. Set to explode at 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.
Around 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 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 a longstanding series of disputes. According to Brown, who was in the parking lot smoking a cigarette, he was surprised to see Harris, whom he earlier noted had been absent from a 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.
The cafeteria bombs failed to explode. Had these bombs exploded with full power, they could have killed or severely wounded all of the 488 students in the cafeteria, and possibly made the ceiling collapse by destroying the pillars holding it up, dropping the library into the cafeteria.
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.
A witness reported hearing "Go! Go!" before 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 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 were about to ascend the staircase directly below the shooters. All three were shot, and Rohrbough was killed. 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. 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. After shooting Kirklin, Klebold walked towards the cafeteria door. He 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. Anderson and Nielson ran back down the hall into the library, and Nielson alerted the students inside to the danger, telling them to get under desks and keep silent. She dialed 9-1-1 and hid under the library's administrative counter. Anderson fell to the floor bleeding from his injuries, and hid inside the magazine room adjacent to the library.
Harris removed his trench coat. 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. Gardner reported on his police radio, "Shots in the building. I need someone in the south lot with me." 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. 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.
As the shooting unfolded, Patti Nielson talked on the phone with emergency services, telling her story and urging students in the library to take cover beneath desks. According to transcripts, her call was received by a 9-1-1 operator at 11:25:05 a.m. In the library were a total of 52 students, two teachers and two librarians. Two bombs were thrown into the cafeteria, both of which exploded. Another bomb was thrown into the library hallway; it exploded and damaged several lockers. At 11:29 a.m., the gunmen entered the library. Harris yelled, "Get up!" so loudly that he can be heard on the 9-1-1 recording at 11:29:18 a.m. Klebold then shouted "Everybody get up, now!"
Harris 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. Klebold said "I've been waiting for this for a long time." 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.
The shooters put down their ammunition-filled duffel bags at the south—or lower—row of computers and reloaded their weapons. They walked between the computer rows, toward the windows facing the outside staircase. Klebold shouted "Everybody get up! We're gonna blow this library up!" One of the gunmen stated "This is our revenge" and "This is for all you put us through this last year." Klebold shouted "All jocks stand up!" When nobody stood up, Harris said to "get the guys in white hats." One of them said "Anybody with a white hat or a sports emblem on it is dead". Wearing a white baseball cap at Columbine was a tradition among sports team members. Several students tried to hide their white hats.
Noticing police evacuating students outside the school, Klebold said "Pigs are here" and 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. Klebold then removed his trench coat. He shouted: "Everyone with a white cap, stand up!" When no one stood up in response, he said, "Fine, I'll just start shooting!" and fired his shotgun at a nearby table, injuring three students: Patrick Ireland, Daniel Steepleton, and Makai Hall.
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. He 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."
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. Harris had been holding the shotgun with one hand at this point and the weapon hit his face in recoil, breaking his nose. He told Klebold he had shot his nose, and Klebold responded "Why'd you do that?"
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 table, where he discovered 18-year-old Isaiah Shoels, 16-year-old Matthew Kechter and 16-year-old Craig Scott (Rachel's younger brother), hiding underneath. Klebold called to Harris, "There's a nigger over here!" and tried to pull Shoels out from under the table.
Harris left Pasquale and joined him. According to witnesses, they taunted Shoels for a few seconds, making derogatory racial comments. The gunmen both fired under the table; Harris shot Shoels once in the chest, killing him, and Klebold shot and killed Kechter. Though Shoels was not shot in the head, Klebold said: "I didn't know black brains could fly that far." Meanwhile, Scott was uninjured; laying in the blood of his friends, feigning death. Harris then yelled; "Who's ready to die next?!" He turned and threw a "cricket" at the table where Hall, Steepleton, and Ireland were located. It landed on Steepleton's thigh, Hall quickly tossed it behind them, and it exploded 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 to the east area of the library. Harris walked from the bookcase, past the central area to meet Klebold. The latter shot at a display case 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, Lauren Townsend and Valeen Schnurr with the same shotgun blast. Klebold then moved toward the same table and fired several shots 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. Klebold then 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. He shot at the table behind Fleming, hitting Townsend, who was already dead, and Kreutz again, and wounding 18-year-old Jeanna Park. 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, one of the gunmen stated "This is what we've been waiting for all our lives." 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 crawled into the exterior break room, into which Klebold had earlier fired shots, and hid in a cupboard.
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 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 12:08 p.m., 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. Nielson said that she had never spoken with either of the writers of the article, and evidence suggests otherwise. Just before shooting himself, Klebold lit a Molotov cocktail on a nearby table, underneath which Patrick Ireland was laying, 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 lying on their backs, and the guns in seemingly curious locations, such as Klebold's right hand lying on his gun despite him being left-handed, and leading to speculation that Harris shot Klebold before killing himself. 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, and 12 rounds from his double-barreled shotgun. Law enforcement officers fired 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Several former students and teachers suffer from PTSD. Six months after the shootings, Anne Marie Hochhalter's mother killed herself. Greg Barnes, a student who witnessed Sanders get shot, died by suicide in May 2000.
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?"
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 kill himself, 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.
This theory has been 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.
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 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 bullying. Critics said this could have contributed to triggering the perpetrators' extreme violence. 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. Reportedly, they were regularly called "faggots".
Klebold is known to have remarked to his father of his hatred of the jocks at CHS, 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 ignored bullying and that whenever Harris and Klebold were bullied by the jocks at CHS, they would make statements such as: "Don't worry, man. It happens all the time!"
Dave Cullen disputes the theory of "revenge for bullying" as a motivation. While acknowledging the pervasiveness of bullying in high schools including CHS, he has claimed they were not victims of bullying. He said Harris was more often the perpetrator than victim of bullying.
During junior year, both Harris and Klebold had been confronted by a group of students at CHS—all members of the football team—who sprayed them with ketchup and mustard while referring to them 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." According to Laughlin, it 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's 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 was to trigger a revolution of outcast students and the dispossessed; "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 only increasingly linked to terrorism after the September 11 attacks.
On the Basement Tapes, Harris claimed they would "kick-start a revolution". Klebold wore a Soviet Union pin on his boots during the massacre.
The attack occurred on April 20, Adolf Hitler's birthday, which led to speculation in the media that the attack was political. Some people, such as Robyn Anderson, stated that the pair were not obsessed with National Socialism 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, praising them often in his journal. Harris was enrolled in German class.
The original date for the massacre may have been April 19, the same as the Oklahoma City Bombing. Harris needed more ammunition from Mark Manes, for which one had to be 21 years old to get from K-Mart, and Manes did not get it for him until the evening of the 19th. 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. Brooks Brown said he did.
The majority of blame for the shootings 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 the immediate aftermath, the band canceled the remaining North American dates of their Rock Is Dead Tour out of respect for the victims. Manson maintained that music, movies, books or video games were not to blame:
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.
Under mounting pressure in the days after Columbine Manson published an op-ed piece on the May 1, 1999 edition of Rolling Stone magazine, titled "Columbine: Whose Fault Is It?", where he castigated America's gun culture, the political influence of the National Rifle Association, and the media's irresponsible coverage, which he said facilitated the placing of blame on a scapegoat, instead of debating more relevant societal issues. He rebuked the "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." The 2000 album Holy Wood was written by the band as a reaction and expanded rebuttal against the allegation made by politicians, religious and civic leaders and news organizations that the group inspired the perpetrators to commit the school shooting.
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."
Blame for the shootings was also directed at other metal or 'dark music' bands. Both Harris and Klebold were fans of the German rock bands KMFDM and Rammstein. Harris's 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: "I'll just go to some downtown area...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.
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.
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 envisioned a massacre with a girl like in the film, writing "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." In Harris's last journal entry, he wrote "Everything I see and I hear I incorporate into NBK somehow...feels like a Goddamn movie sometimes."
Both Harris and Klebold were fans of shooter video games such as Doom, Quake, Duke Nukem 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."
They were avid 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".
Harris named his shotgun Arlene after a character in the Doom novels. Harris said the shotgun was "straight out of Doom". The Doom novels and Harris both reference an AB-10 several times, which is like the TEC-9 which Klebold used.
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.
Some schools renewed existing anti-bullying policies. Rachel's Challenge was started by Rachel Scott's parents, and lectures schools about bullying and suicide.
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 Dave Sanders was not dismissed due to the police preventing paramedics from going to his aid for hours after they knew the gunmen 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 Harris, Klebold, Manes, and 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 victim Shoels, 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 Fleming, Kechter, Rohrbough, Townsend, and Velasquez received undisclosed settlements in a wrongful death suit against the Harrises and Klebolds.
In 2000, youth advocate Melissa Helmbrecht organized a remembrance event in Denver featuring two surviving students, called "A Call to Hope." The library where most of the massacre took place was removed and replaced with an atrium. In 2001, a new library, the HOPE memorial library, was built next to the west entrance.
On February 26, 2004, thousands of pieces of evidence from the massacre were put on display at the Jeffco fairgrounds in Golden.
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.
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. Frank Lautenberg introduced a proposal to close the gun show loophole in federal law. It was passed in the Senate, but did not pass in the House.
Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine focuses heavily on a perceived American obsession with handguns, its grip on Jeffco, and its role in the shooting.
The 2016 biographical film I'm Not Ashamed, based on the journals of Rachel Scott, includes glimpses of Harris's 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.
The first documentary on the massacre 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, a number of whose plots mention it, and which in some cases, led to the closing of entire school districts. One arrested student boasted he could "outdo" the number of casualties of the Columbine shooting.
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. A month after the massacre, Heritage High School in Conyers, Georgia had a shooting which Attorney General Janet Reno called a Columbine "copycat". A friend of Harris and Klebold, Eric Veik, was arrested after threatening to "finish the job" at CHS in October 1999.
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. 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.
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 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".
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. In the recording, he wore a backwards baseball cap and 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 perpetrator of the Emsdetten school shooting praised Harris in his diary.
In November 2007, Pekka-Eric Auvinen imitated Columbine with a shooting in Jokela in Tuusula, Finland. He wore a shirt saying "Humanity is Overrated". The perpetrator of the Dawson College shooting wrote a note praising Harris and Klebold. 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 in England were charged with conspiracy to murder after becoming infatuated with the crime and "hero-worshipping" Harris and Klebold.
Ralph Larkin wrote the Columbine massacre established a script for school shootings. 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." Larkin wrote "Numerous post-Columbine rampage shooters referred directly to Columbine as their inspiration; others attempted to supersede the Columbine shootings in body count."
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.
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."
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