Columbine report released

The long-delayed CD-ROM details the events of the massacre but fails to answer the central question: Why?

Topics: School Violence, Guns, Gun Control,

The investigators’ report of the
Columbine massacre fleshes out portraits
of the
killers and fills in many logistical
details of the attack, but concedes “it
cannot answer the most fundamental
question — WHY?” It was released Monday
on CD-ROM by the
Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department,
following six months of delays.
“Although no clear-cut answers were
found, there were clues,” the report

The central focus of the package is a
minute-by-minute timeline describing the
events of April 20, 1999, in great
detail. It dramatically collapses the
amount of time the massacre took to
unfold, claiming gunmen Eric Harris and
Dylan Klebold only spent seven and a
half minutes in the library, killing 10
and wounding 12. “They carried more than
enough ammunition to kill all 56 people
in the library,” it says, adding that
the 34 victims were killed or injured in
the first 16 minutes of the attack.
After the killing rampage, there were 33
minutes in which nobody was shot until
the gunmen killed themselves.

The report provides the most
comprehensive profiles yet of the
killers, offering newly disclosed
passages from a variety of sources,
school essays, journals kept by both
killers and interviews with the killers’
parents. While some information was
known about Harris because of his
Web site, and href="/news/feature/1999/09/23/journal/"
>passages from his journal published
by Salon, one of the biggest surprises
in the report is writings from
Klebold. Klebold’s newly revealed
journal depicts him as depressed,
outcast, paranoid and suicidal. “I swear
– like I’m an outcast, and everyone is
against me,” he wrote in 1997. He
mentions suicide repeatedly and in
November 1997 describes getting a gun
and going on a killing spree.

His tone changed only briefly in
1997, during a period where he describes
his “first love.” “It appeared that this
was an unrequited love,” the report
says. “Throughout his journal, Klebold
named several girls he ‘loves’ but he
did not indicate that he ever actually
spoke to any of them. He even went so
far as to write letters to one girl but
it appears he never sent them
because they remained in his journal.”

Harris’ journal doesn’t begin until the
spring of 1998. The report
describes it as expressing Harris’
hatred of mankind and love of his own
anger, though it omits the journal’s
opening line, which sets its tone: “I
hate the
fucking world.”

“There were also many common themes
throughout their writings. Harris and
Klebold both wrote of not fitting in,
not being accepted and their lack of
self-esteem. They reflected on natural
selection, self-awareness and their
feelings of superiority. They plotted
against all those persons who they
found offensive — jocks, girls that
said no, other outcasts or anybody they
thought did not accept them. Most of
those teens were unaware that they had
ever offended Harris or Klebold.”

Klebold’s journal provides evidence
confirming what investigators have been
saying for months: that Harris and
Klebold were both involved in the
planning of the attack. Shortly after
the shooting, media reports focused on
Harris as the mastermind, casting
Klebold as a somewhat reluctant
follower. The report also states that a
“hit list,” generally attributed to
Harris, was created by both killers, and
puts the final
figure of people whom they listed as
disliking for various reasons at 67. It
does not reveal the names, though in
September, lead investigator Kate Battan told
Salon News that the list included some
unusual names, including Tiger Woods.

Investigators had repeatedly said that
no one on the lists was killed or
injured, but the parents of Rachel Scott
strongly protested in December
that comments on the videotapes clearly
identified their daughter. The
report concedes that one person on the
list was “injured,” but that the person was a
male. “There is no evidence that he was
targeted,” the report says.

Investigators could not pinpoint exactly
when Harris and Klebold began
conspiring to commit the massacre, but
the earliest evidence of mutual
understanding occurred a year before the

In April 1998, Klebold made four entries
in Harris’ yearbook. One referred
to “the holy April morning of NBK
[Natural Born Killers].” Another
the lines “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 reports says investigators
believe the January incident
referred to their arrest for breaking
into a vehicle on Jan. 30, 1998.
The main bombs were set to go off in the
commons. The report says that those
bombs could have killed all 488 people
in the cafeteria. It also concludes that
the casualties were a fraction of the
intended chiefly because Harris and
Klebold were poor bomb makers.

Harris made similar entries in Klebold’s
1998 yearbook: “God I can’t wait
till they die. I can taste the blood now
- NBK” [Natural Born Killer] …
You know what I hate? … MANKIND!!!!
… kill everything … kill everything.”
He also drew a gunman standing amid a
sea of dead bodies with a caption:
“The only reason your [sic] still alive
is because someone has decided to
let you live.”

Investigators also retrieved eight pages
Klebold apparently wrote and drew
just a day before the attack, discovered
in his notebook along with his
math homework. “About 26.5 hours from
now the judgment will begin,” one
passage began. “Difficult but not
impossible, necessary, nervewracking and
What fun is life without a little death?
It’s interesting, when i’m in
my human form, knowing i’m going to die.
Everything has a touch of
triviality to it.”

The report also seems to downplay the
significance of the Trench Coat Mafia,
another focal point of many of the
stories just after the shooting. It
states: “Although the investigation
identified Harris and Klebold as being
‘members’ of the TCM, it appears that
the Trench Coat Mafia was a loose,
social affiliation of former and current
Columbine High School students with no
formal organizational structure,
leadership or purpose such as that
typically found in traditional juvenile
street gangs. Contrary to reports
following the Columbine shootings, there
is no evidence of affiliated Trench Coat
Mafia groups nationwide.”

Previously, investigators had minimized
the pair’s role in the group,
characterizing them as “fringe members.”
In an exclusive interview with
Salon in September, Battan repeatedly
scoffed at the notion of any significant
association: “They were outcasts in
that!” she said.

Some families were left unsatisfied and
angry after the report’s release,
accusing the sheriff’s office of
continuing to withhold crucial
information. Brian Rohrbough, whose son
Dan was killed in the attack,
characterized the report as full of lies
and contradictions in an interview on
the local CBS affiliate. “They want to
show it to be much more confusing than
it was,” he said. “And they want to
build in a lot of excuses.”

“Certainly they’re not going to tell the
truth,” said Judy Brown at an
impromptu press conference when the
report was distributed. “People are
going to be so outraged when they hear
the truth.” The Browns alerted
officials to Harris’ death threats and
Web site months before the attack,
and play a key role in several of the
families’ lawsuits. They have begun
the process for a recall of Sheriff
John Stone. Brown’s son escaped unharmed from
the school the day of the assault.

“If you’re preparing for a lawsuit, one
of the most major lawsuits in the
United States, and you have all the
information, do you think you’re going
to give everything out?” Brown’s husband,
Randy, added. “I think you’re going to
release the best version of this that’s
going to do best for your lawsuit.”

The report reiterated several statements
repeated frequently by
investigators: It ruled out a third
gunman or conspirator, said Harris and
Klebold hoped to kill hundreds and
concluded that a failed bomb outside the
school was
intended to divert police longer. “The
failure of the cafeteria bombs to
detonate and the arrival of responding
officers apparently caused the gunmen
to reevaluate their planned attack,
since they had never listed the school
library as a destination point,” it

It explained the third-gunman confusion
as coming both from Harris’ removing
his trench coat quickly and the sighting
of a “shooter” on the roof who
turned out to be an air-conditioning

Sheriff’s officials refused to comment
on the report, citing the pending
litigation brought by several families.
Copies of the report will be available
to the public, beginning Tuesday, for
$12 plus tax and shipping. They can be
ordered by phone at (720) 317-1131, fax
at (720) 449-7553 or e-mail at

Dave Cullen is a Denver writer working on a memoir, "In a Boy's Dream."

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