A reader's guide to the Columbine report

We point you to the highlights in a true-crime chronology of the high school killing spree


Daryl Lindsey
May 17, 2000 8:00PM (UTC)

At 545 megabytes, the CD-ROM report on
the Columbine High School killings
contains as much data as some electronic
encyclopedias. Much of the info smog in
the report is the result of enormous
photo, video and audio formats (which
have kept readers with slow Internet
connections from accessing it online)
chosen by the Jefferson County
(Colo.) Sheriff's
Office.

But there's plenty of macabre, riveting
true-crime fodder to keep your eyes
glued to the monitor for hours,
including previously unreported
information and references to important
stages in the investigation that Salon
has been following since the day of the
massacre.

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You won't find lurid videos of the
carnage, images of the deceased or the
video message from Dylan
Klebold and Eric Harris made before
their shooting spree. But the photos of
evidence, diagrams and painstaking
timelines of the 16-minute killing spree
in the report leave very little to the
imagination.

"Glimpses of Klebold and Harris," offers
snippets from the would-be Holden
Caulfields-cum-Natural Born Killers'
diaries, yearbooks, other ephemera and
interviews with scores of friends,
teachers and family. In some passages,
the writing takes on the tone of a
tabloid. At one point, the report quotes
friends and teachers of Klebold
describing him as a "nice, normal
teenager." But, the report continues,
"there was another darker side." A
darker side that included Klebold's
entry in Harris' 1998 yearbook, in which
he refers to the "holy April morning of
NBK (Natural Born Killer)."

Most of the video clips provided in the Columbine Report come from local
Denver stations, who broadcasted footage from the high school during the
immediate aftermath. But the report does include a single foggy video, from
surveillance cameras, of Klebold and Harris pacing, guns in hand, from
table to table in the school cafeteria. The video also shows an explosion
and Klebold lobbing a small bomb. You can also listen to the 911 call
placed by teacher Patricia Nielson from the school library, where most of
the victims were killed, in which she screams to the children to get under
the tables.

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A chilling chronology offers a minute-by-minute,
step-by-step account of the tragedy,
from the moment (11:10 a.m.) Harris and
Klebold stepped out of their cars to the
time (4:45 p.m.) police had finished
searching and clearing Columbine High
School.

The question of Cassie Bernall's supposed martyrdom has
been at the center of Columbine media
coverage for months. The book, "She Said
Yes," by mother Misty Bernall was a
bestseller. But Salon and other media
outlets questioned the veracity of
popular accounts of her killing.
According to the sheriff's report, there
were no pronouncements of faith at the
time of her murder. And the report only
devotes a single paragraph to Bernall's
death, which you can read, along with
accounts of the other nine killings that
took place in the school library, in the
"Findings of
library events
."

Though teacher Dave Sanders was alive
when SWAT team officers got to him, he
had been bleeding for more than two and
a half hours. He died within 30 minutes
of when he was found. The final minutes
leading up to Sanders' death are
accounted for in "SWAT
activity
."

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"SWAT team
movement
," offers diagrams of the
path officers took to secure the
building and a partial explanation of
why it took so long to get to Sanders.
"Searching the school," the report
notes, "could be compared to searching
100 homes that are 2,500 square feet in
size."

The report also devotes an entire
section to the "Trench Coat
Mafia
," a loosely knit group of
Columbine students and graduates who
were part of Klebold and Harris' circle
and became the focus of media and
investigators' scrutiny immediately
after the rampage. The report's
conclusion on the Mafia? It "appears to
have had cliques or small subgroups, not
much different than most other social
groups in a high school setting."

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The same section also provides details
about Robyn Anderson and Mark Manes, who
purchased the guns the killers used that
fateful day. Manes is serving a six-year
sentence on felony charges, but
Anderson, who supplied the teens with
rifles, went unprosecuted because there
are no laws on the books
regulating the sale of shotguns from
non-licensed dealers.


Daryl Lindsey

Daryl Lindsey is associate editor of Salon News and an Arthur Burns fellow. He currently lives in Berlin and writes for Salon and Die Welt.

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