Mark Manes gets six years in prison for supplying one of the weapons used in the Colorado high school massacre.
Seven months after the Columbine massacre, killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold finally got to thank the two young men who enabled them to pull it off. At a sentencing hearing for Mark Manes, who pleaded guilty to selling Klebold one of the guns used in the massacre, lead investigator Kate Battan read a brief transcript from a video the killers made for police.
“I’d like to make a thank you to Mark [Manes] and Phil [Duran],” Klebold said. “I hope you don’t get fucked.” Harris laughs, and Klebold continues: “We used them. They had no clue … Don’t blame them. And don’t fucking arrest them … Don’t arrest any of our friends, or family members or our co-workers. They had no fucking clue. Don’t arrest anyone, because they didn’t have a fucking clue.”
The video was made March 15, more than a month before the April 20 killings.
Hours after the video transcript was read, Manes received six years in prison for selling Klebold the TEC-9 semi-automatic handgun used in the massacre, and three concurrent years on a related charge. He could have received 18 years. Phil Duran is charged with assisting Manes with the gun sale. Both men also participated in training Harris and Klebold to use the weapons.
The video was clearly intended for police, who Harris and Klebold addressed repeatedly, often as “all you fucking cops.” Battan’s testimony offered the first glimpse at specific content of the video. Prosecutors had only announced its existence two days earlier, anticipating Friday’s sentencing hearing.
Last April, violent video games were vilified as a culprit behind the massacre. The game Doom was specifically cited as the means for Harris and Klebold to develop both their shooting skills and their passion for blood. But Friday, prosecutors portrayed the practice sessions with Manes and Duran as the breeding ground for their enthusiasm, allowing them to transform their fantasies into reality. It was the only known time they trained with weapons, according to prosecutors, and their success in those sessions fed their thrill.
Prosecutors also alluded to statements in the video in which the killers gleefully “speculated about the carnage to human beings.” Harris described shooting his weapon and exclaiming, “Imagine if that was someone’s fucking head!” In another section of the video, according to prosecutors, one of the killers said: “When you saw off shotguns and make them illegal, bad things happen.” He then spanked the shotgun, and said “Bad shotgun.”
Battan also revealed that Harris began pestering Manes to buy ammunition for the TEC-9 the Thursday before the massacre. He finally sold them 100 rounds the night before the massacre. Manes asked Harris if he was planning to go shooting that night, and Harris answered, “Maybe tomorrow.”
Manes’ sentencing hearing finally forced tight-lipped authorities to begin revealing fragments of interesting data about how Harris and Klebold planned and executed the attack, in advance of the highly anticipated final report on the massacre, expected to be completed in the next few months.
At the hearing, Battan disclosed details about the twin suicides, the number of victims killed by each shooter, and how they trained for the attack. Her testimony should close the lid on persistent rumors that Klebold was merely a follower of Harris, considered the leader and mastermind of the attack.
Investigators have denied this characterization for months, labeling them equal killers, but Battan finally revealed detailed evidence to support their contention Friday. Klebold, for instance, was the one who fired the TEC-9 55 times during the rampage, killing four and injuring two with that weapon alone.
Harris killed an equal number and injured seven more with a pump shotgun, firing just 25 times. That still leaves seven deaths unaccounted for, because each killer carried a second weapon unrelated to Manes’ sentencing. Investigators only revealed data specifically related to this case.
But other sources inside the investigation have confirmed for Salon News that the killings were nearly evenly split between Harris and Klebold. Various rumors have also persisted about the killers’ own deaths, including questions of whether one might have killed the other. But for the first time, Battan cited forensics evidence which confirms that Harris and Klebold each killed themselves with their own gun.
Both prosecution and defense tried to use the videotape to their advantage. “The only people the killers thanked for helping them were Mark Manes and Phil Duran,” the prosecutor said. He then quoted the video: “‘You helped us do what we needed to do.’”
Battan confirmed that in the mountain of writings, videotapes and personal testimony complied on the killers, the only other person they thanked was a man behind the corporation that manufactured one of the shotguns.
But the defense argued vehemently that Manes was completely oblivious to what the gun would be used for. Battan agreed that she’d uncovered no evidence to indicate otherwise.
Nine family members testified about the impact of the tragedy on their lives, repeatedly urging Judge Henry Nieto to send a message that gun laws would be enforced. Jensen echoed that message, calling Columbine “the worst case example of what can happen when this law is violated.” He urged the judge to base the punishment on the harm caused by the sale, to convince gun sellers that “You will lose big time” if someone is later killed or injured by that gun.
Dave Cullen is a Denver writer working on a memoir, "In a Boy's Dream." More Dave Cullen.
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