Eventually he lowered his sights a bit. He fantasized about destroying his metro area on his Web site: “I live in Denver, and dammit, I would love to kill almost all of its residents.” Finally he settled on Columbine High, and hatched a plan to take out the entire school.
Harris’ infamous “diary” was actually more of an occasional journal. He didn’t confide in it every day. Sometimes a month or two would pass before he returned to scribble more tortured rants. Sometimes just a few lines, others up to a page or two. Often the cursive scrawl grows almost illegible. There were only about a dozen entries over the course of a year. In between he pounded out diatribes on his computer, leaving behind a huge trail of notes, essays, printouts, computer files and a Web site.
Very little has been divulged about the Harris texts, particularly the diary. “That diary has been seen by so few people,” said lead investigator Kate Battan. “So few people. There’s been one copy made of it. The original is in the evidence vault, and the one copy is in my briefcase.”
Sources close to the investigation shared material from a variety of Harris’ written sources. In most cases, they read them aloud, so that punctuation and superficial transcription errors may have occurred. The texts are filled with vitriol. “After I mow down a whole area full of you snotty ass rich mother-fucker high strung God-like-attitude-having worthless pieces of shit whores, I don’t care if I live or die,” read one entry.
Harris railed against just about every conceivable minority, right alongside their majority counterparts: “We hate niggers, spicks … and let’s not forget you white P.O.S. [pieces of shit] also. We hate you.”
“They didn’t like rich white people; they didn’t like poor white people,” said division chief John Kiekbusch, the ranking officer overseeing the case. “What you have is an almost nondiscriminating hate,” another source said. Harris “goes out of his way to indicate it’s all-inclusive. What he writes about hating is everybody.”
Racists, in fact, rank high in the Harris hate pantheon: “You know what I hate? Racism. Anyone who hates Asians, Mexicans, or people of any race because they’re different.”
Many of Harris’ passages get downright comical, railing against “all you fitness fuckheads,” people who think they’re martial arts experts, and people who try to impress others by bragging about their cars.
“You know what I hate? Star Wars fans: get a friggin life, you boring geeks. You know what I hate? People who mispronounce words, like ‘acrost,’ and ‘pacific’ for ‘specific,’ and ‘expresso’ instead of ‘espresso.’ You know what I hate? People who drive slow in the fast lane, God these people do not know how to drive. You know what I hate? The WB network!!!! Oh Jesus, Mary Mother of God Almighty, I hate that channel with all my heart and soul.”
“I think a lot of 14-, 15-year-olds, 16-year-olds talk about stuff like that,” a key investigator said. “That part is typical teenage. This kid took it a step further, a giant step further, and actually acted on this indiscriminate hate. It was a suicide mission. They just wanted to achieve notoriety and hurt as many people as they could — and show how terribly they thought they had been treated.”
“The thing that really strikes me about Harris and Klebold,” Battan said, “is that sometimes, in the different evidence that we’ve found, they’re so childlike and immature — which is a teenager — and other times they’re almost adult-like, which is also a teenager. Sometimes they want to be adult-like and say, ‘It’s because we’re above all you people,’ and other times it’s ‘You shouldn’t have picked on me.’ Those are the writings and talkings of kids that are trying to become adults. And they’re not being very successful at it.”
Many of Harris’ writings convey his expectation that his words would be discovered after the murders. Some read like an extended suicide note: “Don’t blame the school,” one entry said. “Don’t fucking put cops all over the place. Just because we went on a killing spree doesn’t mean everybody else will. The admin. is doing a fine job as it is. I don’t know who will be left after we kill, but dammit, don’t change any policy just because of us. It would be stupid. If there’s any way in this fucked up universe we can come back as ghosts, we’ll haunt the life of any one who blames anyone besides me and V [vodka].”
That passage was among the evidence investigators shared with Columbine faculty and administrators last month. Attendees divulged that Kiekbusch and FBI supervisory Special Agent Dwayne Fuselier delivered a secret presentation at the school Aug. 12, four days before students “took back the school.” Families of the victims have also been briefed, and key administrators attended an FBI summit in Virginia on the series of school shootings this summer. School board members, who recently approved new security measures, will be briefed in the near future.
Teachers and administrators found the revelations difficult to hear, even while finding some relief, said school district spokesman Rick Kaufman. “It did dispel quite a few myths or embellishments of certain stories that have taken on a life of their own in the community.”
But it was unsettling for faculty to learn the brutal details of the plan hatched by two high-achieving students, and to see the extent of the façade Harris and Klebold foisted upon them. “These are people that knew the two killers as well as those who were killed,” Kaufman said. “It’s a sense that you know in some way how they were killed, and perhaps the tragic circumstances that went behind their deaths.”
The texts offer extensive details about the assault plan, tremendous insight into Harris’ torturous state of mind and no clear indication as to why they converted their fantasy into reality. They do offer some clues, but Kiekbusch says his team will avoid drawing any conclusions from them.
“We deal with facts; we present facts,” Kiekbusch said. The final report will likely run a few hundred pages and contain “a fair amount” of Harris’ texts, but few if any theories, he said. “We’ll make a diligent effort not to include a bunch of conclusions. Here are the facts: You read it and make your own conclusions.”
But individual investigators are drawing conclusions, and not all of them agree. Some sources focused on the killers’ belief in their own superiority, as though they constituted a two-man master race. Some point to the fact that as the killing began, Harris tore off his trench coat to expose a white T-shirt reading “Natural Selection.” Their writings stress their bond, including statements like “We’re the only two who have self-awareness,” “Nobody else is like us” and “We’re the only two people who seem to understand the meaning of life.”
“They do consider the human race beneath them,” one investigator said. Harris “talks a lot about natural selection and that kind of leads into his admiration of Hitler and Nazism and their ‘final solution’ — that we, the human race have interrupted or disrupted natural selection by inventing vaccines and stuff like that. In one of his writings, he talks about that: ‘It would be great if there were no vaccines, because people who should have died would have died, and we wouldn’t be perpetuating this kind of stuff.’”
Following the tragedy, students widely reported Harris’ fascination with Hitler and Nazism. But sources said that Harris adopted Hitler’s concept of a master race in a general sense, without his particular distaste for Jews or blacks. To Harris, the master race seems to have consisted only of himself and Klebold, though they set out to kill themselves in the attack as well. He stated explicitly that while Hitler’s “final solution” was to kill the Jews, his was to kill all mankind.
Kiekbusch would not comment on any superiority or master-race theories, but said the writings showed “they put themselves above everyone else.” And while Battan acknowledges that superiority themes appeared in Harris’ writings, she does not consider those ideas central to his motive for the killings. “A lot of it is just ramblings,” she said. “It’s just ranting of kids. And they contradict themselves. So what is real? What do they really feel? Who knows.”
One thread running consistently through the texts is the desire for glory, the expectation of fame. “Like many of the school shooters, they seem to be expecting some sort of notoriety, in addition to wanting the vengeance,” one source said. “Because they felt they have been mistreated by a number of people, they’re going to strike back at the human race.
“But they also kind of expect notoriety.” Harris’ writings contain statements like “When you [the media] write about this … When you read about this … We were planning this before the kids in Jonesboro, and we’re going to die in there,” the source said.
Battan actually believes fame was the single biggest reason Harris and Klebold ultimately went through with the plan. “That’s my personal opinion,” she said. “And all the rest of the justifications are just smoke.” Other key investigators backed that assessment.
The texts were littered with comments about their expected glory, Battan said. “They certainly wanted the media to write stories about them every day. And they wanted cult followings. They’re going to become superstars by getting rid of bad people. And you know, it worked. They’re famous.”
And investigators say that’s a troubling lesson the Columbine killers left for other disturbed teens. “Right now, somebody in some little town or big city is planning to outdo Harris and Klebold,” Battan said. The thousands of annual teen suicides represent a potential powder keg. “When we were kids, if you’re that unhappy with your life, you kill yourself,” she said. “Well, that’s become a bit passi. So now you take out as many people as you can with you.”