Columbine High School massacre

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Recent History

The Columbine High School massacre occurred on Tuesday, April 20, 1999, at Columbine High School in unincorporated Jefferson County, Colorado, near Denver and Littleton. Two teenage students, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, carried out a shooting rampage, killing 12 fellow students and a teacher, as well as wounding 24 others, before committing suicide. It is considered to be the deadliest school shooting, and the second deadliest attack on a school in United States history after the Bath School disaster.

The massacre provoked debate regarding gun control laws, the availability of firearms in the United States, and gun violence involving youths. Much discussion also centered on the nature of high school cliques and bullying, as well as the role of violent movies and video games in American society. Several of the victims who were portrayed as having been killed for their religious beliefs became a source of inspiration to others, and many lamented the decline of religion in public education and society in general, often blaming the tragedy on insufficient government endorsement of religion. The shooting also resulted in an increased emphasis on school security, and a moral panic aimed at goth culture, heavy metal music, social pariahs, the use of pharmaceutical anti-depressants by teenagers, violent films and violent video games.

Warning signs

In 1996, Eric Harris created a private website on America Online. The original site was set up to host Doom levels that he and Klebold had created, mainly for friends. Harris began a primitive blog on the site, which included jokes and small journal entries concerning his thoughts on parents, school, and friends. By the end of the year, the site contained instructions on how to cause mischief, as well as instructions on how to make explosives, and logs of the mischief he and Klebold were causing. Beginning in early 1997, the blog postings began to show the first signs of Harris' ever-growing anger against society.

Harris' site had few visitors, and did not become an issue until late 1997, when Jefferson County Sheriff's Office investigator Michael Guerra was notified of the site after the parents of Harris' former friend, Brooks Brown, discovered that Harris was posting death threats aimed at their son. Guerra discovered the website also contained violent threats directed at the students and teachers who attended Columbine High School. Other material included blurbs Harris had written concerning his hatred of society in general and his desire to kill those who annoyed him. As the date of the shooting neared, Harris also began noting the completion of pipe bombs on his site, as well as a gun count and "hit list" of individuals he wished to target, although it never mentioned his overall plot. As Harris had admitted to having explosives, Guerra decided to write a draft affidavit for a search warrant of the Harris household, but it was never filed. The existence of the affidavit was concealed by Jefferson County, and not revealed to the public until September 2001, as the direct result of an investigation by the television show 60 Minutes.

After the release of the affidavit, a series of grand jury investigations were launched into the cover-up activities of the Jefferson County officials. The investigation revealed that high-ranking officials of Jefferson County had come together a few days after the massacre to discuss the release of the affidavit to the public. It was decided that because the affidavit's contents lacked the necessary probable cause to have supported the issuance of a search warrant for the Harris household by a judge, it would be best not to disclose the affidavit's existence at an upcoming press conference, although the actual conversations and points of discussion were never revealed to anyone other than the Grand Jury members. Following the press conference, the original Guerra documents disappeared. In September 1999, a Jefferson County 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 Jefferson County archives. The documents were reconstructed and released to the public in September 2001, but the original documents are still missing. The final grand jury investigation was released in September 2004.

Crime, punishment, and retaliation

On January 30, 1998, both Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were caught with computer equipment that had been stolen from a parked van near Littleton, Colorado. Both were arrested and attended a joint court hearing where a judge decided, based on their lack of moral judgment, that the two needed psychiatric help. Harris and Klebold avoided prosecution for the burglary by participating in a "diversion program" that involved counseling and community service at a local youth recreation centre. Both feigned regret in order to obtain an early release, but Harris had relished the opportunity to perform. He wrote an ingratiating letter to his victim offering empathy, rather than just apologies. During this time he would often boast about faking remorse, and applauded himself at his deception in journal entries. It is believed that shortly after being released from psychiatric care in April 1998, Harris and Klebold began to plot the attacks as a form of retaliation.

During his evaluation by doctors at the program, Harris was prescribed the anti-depressant Luvox. Some analysts have argued that this medication may have contributed to Harris' actions, and claimed that side-effects of these drugs include increased aggression and loss of empathy. A correlation is claimed between "school shooters" whose medical history has been made public and the use or recent discontinuation of such medications. Other researchers have pointed out that such claims are not based upon scientific testing.

Shortly after his and Klebold's court hearing, Harris' blog disappeared and his website was reverted to its original purpose of posting user-created levels for the game Doom. It is speculated Harris did this because the mother of Brooks Brown had gotten him into trouble with his parents after her ordeal with the site. It was at this time that Harris began to write out his thoughts and plans in a paper journal. Despite this, Harris still dedicated a section of his website to posting his progress on the collection of guns and the building of the bombs used in the attack. After its existence was released to the public, AOL permanently deleted the website from its servers.

Journals and videos

Both shooters began keeping journals of their progress soon after their release from the psychiatric centre. The pair also documented their arsenal with video tapes which were kept secret.

Journal entries revealed that the pair had an elaborate plan for a major bombing rivaling that of Oklahoma City. The entries contained blurbs about ways to escape to Mexico, hijacking an aircraft at Denver International Airport and crashing into a building in New York City, as well as details about the attacks. The pair hoped that after setting off bombs in the cafeteria, they would rampage through the school and shoot any survivors, then continue their attack on surrounding houses as neighbors came out to see the commotion; this original plan failed when their main explosives did not detonate.

The pair also kept videos that were used mainly as documentation of explosives, ammunition, and weapons they had acquired illegally. In these videos, the shooters also revealed all the elaborate and creative ways the two had thought up to hide their arsenals in their own homes, as well as the ways they would deceive their parents about their activities. Some videos contained footage of the pair during target practice in nearby foothills, and shots of the areas of the high school they planned to attack. A few days before the shootings, a final video had the pair apologizing to their families and boasting about how they would soon be remembered infamously.


In the months prior to the attacks, Harris and Klebold acquired two 9 mm firearms and two 12-gauge shotguns. A rifle and the two shotguns were bought in a straw purchase in December 1998 by a friend, Robyn Anderson. Harris and Klebold later bought a handgun from a friend, Mark Manes. Manes was jailed after the massacre for the offense of selling a handgun to a minor, as was Philip Duran, who had introduced the duo to Manes.

With instructions from the Internet, they also built 99 improvised explosive devices of various designs and sizes. They also sawed the barrels and butts off their shotguns in order to make them easier to conceal. The two perpetrators committed numerous felony violations of state and federal law, including the National Firearms Act and the Gun Control Act of 1968, even before the massacre began.

Eric Harris

  • 12 gauge Savage-Springfield 67H pump-action shotgun Serial No.: ..A232432
  • Hi-Point 995 Carbine 9 mm semi-automatic rifle with 10 round magazines
  • The shotgun was the primary weapon used by Harris and was fired a total of 25 times
  • Harris committed suicide with the shotgun

Dylan Klebold

  • 9 mm Intratec Tec-9 Semi-automatic handgun manufactured by Navegar, Inc. with 32 round magazines
  • 12 gauge Stevens 311D double barreled sawed-off shotgun Serial No.: ..A077513
  • The Tec-9 handgun was the weapon primarily used by Klebold and was fired a total of 55 times.
  • Klebold committed suicide with the Tec-9


  • Numerous knives in their belts
  • 9 mm magazines in their pockets
  • Pouches on their belts full of 12-gauge rounds

April 20, 1999: shooting at Columbine High

Note: All times are in Mountain Daylight Time, UTC-6

At 11:10 a.m. on Tuesday, April 20, 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold arrived at Columbine High School in separate cars. Harris parked in the Junior student parking lot and Klebold in the Senior student parking lot at spaces not assigned to them. From these spots, both of them had excellent views of the cafeteria's side entrance and each one was covering a main exit of the school. Shortly before arriving at Columbine, Harris and Klebold had set up a small fire bomb in a field half a mile away from the school. The bomb was set to detonate at 11:14 a.m., and is thought to have been placed there as a diversion for emergency personnel. The bomb did partially detonate, and caused a small fire that was extinguished by the fire department, though it only merited a response from one fire engine.

At Columbine, the pair met near Harris' car and armed two 20 pound (9 kg) propane bombs before entering the cafeteria a few minutes before the "A" lunch shift began and placing the duffel bags carrying the bombs inside; each bomb was set to explode at approximately 11:17 a.m. At the moment they entered the cafeteria, a custodian removed the security camera video tape, rewound it, and placed a new tape in the slot, so the act of placing the bombs was not recorded. However, once the new tape was started the bags could be seen clearly. The bombs had enough explosive power to destroy the entire cafeteria and bring the library above crashing down. Each shooter then returned to his car to wait until the bombs exploded. They intended to open fire on students fleeing the school through the main entrances once the cafeteria bombs detonated. As they returned to their cars, Harris encountered Brooks Brown in the parking lot. Having recently patched up their friendship, Brown approached Harris and scolded him for having missed a test. Harris replied to him by saying "Um, Brooks, I like you, I like you. Now go home, get out of here", before continuing on his way. Several minutes later, students departing Columbine for lunch noticed Brooks Brown heading down South Pierce Street away from the school. Meanwhile, Harris and Klebold armed themselves by their cars and waited for the bombs to explode.

Shooting begins

When the cafeteria bombs failed, Harris and Klebold met near Harris' car, armed themselves with two sawed-off shotguns, a 9 mm Hi-Point carbine, and a 9 mm TEC-9 semi-automatic pistol (all placed in a duffel bag and backpack), and walked toward the cafeteria. They went to the top of the West Entrance steps, the highest point on campus. From this vantage point, the cafeteria's side entrance was at the bottom of the staircase, the school's main West Entrance was to their left, and the athletic fields to their right (See the lead photograph at the top of this page for an image of the staircase in question).

Injuries and deaths in initial incident
1. Rachel Scott killed by shots to the head and chest on a grassy area next to the West Entrance of the school.
2. Richard Castaldo shot in the arm, chest, back and abdomen on the same grassy area.
3. Daniel Rohrbough killed by a shot to the chest on the West Staircase.
4. Sean Graves shot in the back and abdomen on the West Staircase.
5. Lance Kirklin shot with wounds to the leg, neck and jaw on the West Staircase.
6. Michael Johnson escaped from the grassy knoll with wounds to his face, arm and leg.
7. Mark Taylor shot in the chest, arms and leg on the grassy knoll.
8. Anne-Marie Hochhalter shot in the chest, arm, abdomen, back, and left leg near the cafeteria's entrance.
9. Brian Anderson injured near the West Entrance by flying glass.
10. Patti Nielson hit in the shoulder by shrapnel near the West Entrance.
11. Stephanie Munson shot in the ankle inside the North Hallway.
12. Dave Sanders died of blood loss after being shot in the neck and back inside the South Hallway.

At 11:19 a.m., a witness heard Eric Harris yell "Go! Go!" At that moment the gunmen pulled out their shotguns and began shooting at Rachel Scott and Richard Castaldo, who were sitting on a grassy knoll to their left (next to the West Entrance of the school), eating lunch. Both were hit and critically injured. After the initial shots, one of the shooters shot Scott again, killing her. It is unclear who shot first and who killed Scott.

Next, Harris took off his trench coat and took out his 9 mm semi-automatic carbine, aiming it down the West Staircase. Daniel Rohrbough and his two friends, Sean Graves and Lance Kirklin, were walking up the staircase directly below the shooters. Kirklin reported seeing them standing at the top, when suddenly they began shooting at him. Shot in the chest, Rohrbough fell back onto Graves; a bullet pierced Graves's foot. The shooters then turned their guns on Kirklin, standing across from them. All three students fell wounded. Harris and Klebold then turned and began shooting south (away from the school) at five students sitting on the grassy knoll adjacent to the steps, opposite the West Entrance of the school. Michael Johnson was hit but kept running and escaped. Mark Taylor fell to the ground, crippled, and played dead. The other three escaped uninjured. As the shooting continued, Sean Graves stood up and limped down the staircase into the cafeteria's side entrance, where he collapsed in front of the door. Klebold began walking down the steps heading toward the cafeteria. As he descended, he shot Lance Kirklin once more in the face, wounding him critically. Daniel Rohrbough began to struggle down the steps towards the bottom of the staircase. Seeing this, Klebold walked up to him and shot him in the back at close range, killing him. He then continued down the staircase and stepped inside the cafeteria, walking over the injured Sean Graves, who lay at the cafeteria entrance. It is speculated that Klebold did this because he was checking to see why the propane bombs had failed to explode. As Klebold stepped into the cafeteria, Harris began to shoot down the steps at several students sitting near the cafeteria's entrance, wounding Anne-Marie Hochhalter as she attempted to flee. After a few seconds, Klebold returned back up the staircase to meet with Harris at the top.

The two then attempted to shoot at students standing near the soccer field a few yards away, but did not hit anyone. They then threw pipe bombs at the parking lot, roof, and hillside to the east; none of which detonated. Inside the campus, teacher Patti Nielson, seeing the commotion, walked towards the West Entrance with student Brian Anderson. She wanted to walk outside and tell the two students to "knock it off", as she thought they were shooting a video or pulling a prank. As Anderson opened the first set of double doors, Harris and Klebold shot out the windows. Anderson was injured by flying glass and Nielson was hit in the shoulder by shrapnel. Reacting in fear, she quickly stood up and ran down the hall into the library where she began to alert students inside, demanding they duck beneath desks and remain silent. She then dialed 9-1-1 and concealed herself beneath the library's administrative counter. Brian Anderson remained behind, caught between the exterior and interior doors.

Meanwhile, a police deputy sheriff arrived at the scene and began shooting at Harris and Klebold, distracting them from the injured Brian Anderson. Anderson staggered out of the area and made it into the library where he ran into an open staff break room, remaining there until the ordeal ended. Harris fired ten shots at the officer, who then radioed in a Code 33 (officer in need of emergency assistance). When his gun jammed, Harris ran inside the school with Klebold. The pair then proceeded down the main North Hallway shooting at anyone they saw and throwing pipe bombs. While doing so, they shot student Stephanie Munson in the ankle. She was able to walk out of the school and make it to a house across the street. The pair then proceeded to shoot out the windows to the East Entrance of the school. After going through the hall several more times, shooting at any students they saw (but not injuring any), they headed back towards the West Entrance and turned to the Library Hallway.

Moments earlier, Coach William "Dave" Sanders had evacuated the cafeteria through a staircase leading up to the second floor. The staircase was around the corner from the Library Hallway in the main South Hallway. He and a student turned the corner and were walking down the Library Hallway when they saw the shooters coming around the corner from the North Hallway. The two quickly turned around and ran the other way (it is believed, but not confirmed, that Sanders was heading for the library to help evacuate the students there). The shooters came around the corner and shot at both of them, hitting Dave Sanders in the chest as he reached the South Hallway but missing the student. The student ran into science classroom SCI-1 and alerted the teacher inside. Meanwhile, the shooters returned back up the North Hallway. Sanders struggled over to the science area where the teacher took him into an empty science classroom SCI-3. Two students administered first aid there and attempted to contact police outside. However, Sanders died at approximately 3:00 p.m.

The library massacre

As the shooting unfolded, Patti Nielson was on the phone with the emergency services, recounting her experience, and trying to get students to take cover under desks. According to transcripts, her call was received by the 9-1-1 operator at 11:25:05 a.m. The time period between when the call was answered and when the shooters entered the library was four minutes and ten seconds. Before entering, the shooters threw two pipe bombs into the cafeteria from the staircase in the South Hallway, both of which exploded (one of which can be seen on the security tapes). They then threw another in the Library Hallway which also exploded, damaging some lockers. At 11:29 a.m., the pair walked through the heavy doors of the library where 52 students, three library staff, and Ms. Nielson were hiding under desks and inside exterior break rooms.

Injuries and deaths in the library
13. Evan Todd sustained minor injuries from the splintering of a desk he was hiding under.
14. Kyle Velasquez killed by gunshot wounds to the head and back.
15. Patrick Ireland shot in the arm, leg, head, and foot.
16. Daniel Steepleton shot in the thigh.
17. Makai Hall shot in the knee.
18. Steven Curnow killed by a shot to the neck.
19. Kasey Ruegsegger shot in the hand, arm and shoulder.
20. Cassie Bernall killed by a shot to the head.
21. Isaiah Shoels killed by a shot to the chest.
22. Matthew Kechter killed by a shot to the chest.
23. Lisa Kreutz shot in the shoulder, hand and arms.
24. Valeen Schnurr injured with wounds to the chest, arms and abdomen.
25. Mark Kintgen shot in the head and shoulder.
26. Lauren Townsend killed by multiple gunshot wounds to the head, chest and lower body.
27. Nicole Nowlen shot in the abdomen.
28. John Tomlin killed by multiple shots to the head and neck.
29. Kelly Fleming killed by a shot to the back.
30. Jeanna Park shot in the knee, shoulder and foot.
31. Daniel Mauser killed by a shot to the face.
32. Jennifer Doyle shot in the hand, leg and shoulder.
33. Austin Eubanks shot in the head and knee.
34. Corey DePooter killed by shots to the chest and neck.

As he entered, Harris shot out a display case at the opposite end of the administrative counter, injuring student Evan Todd who was hiding under a copier adjacent to the display case. Harris then yelled for everyone to "Get up!" so loudly that he can be heard on the 9-1-1 recording (at 11:29:18) . Staff and students hiding in the library exterior rooms said they heard the gunmen utter things such as "Everyone with a white cap or baseball cap, stand up!" and "All jocks stand up! We'll get the guys in white hats!" (wearing a white baseball cap at Columbine was a tradition amongst sports team members). When no one stood up, Eric was heard to say: "Fine, I'll start shooting anyway!" The two then made their way down to the opposite side of the library, to two rows of computers. Evan Todd used the time to conceal himself behind the administrative counter. Kyle Velasquez was sitting at the north (or upper) row of computers; he had not ducked down below the desk. Klebold shot him first, hitting him in the head and back, killing him. The shooters then set down their duffel bags, filled with ammunition, at the south (or lower) row of computers and began reloading their weapons. They walked to the windows facing the outside staircase where they had just been a moment ago. Noticing police evacuating students, they began to shoot out the windows; police returned fire.

After a few seconds, Klebold turned away from the windows and fired his shotgun at a nearby table, injuring Patrick Ireland, Daniel Steepleton, and Makai Hall, then took off his trench coat. Harris grabbed his shotgun and walked over to the lower row of computer desks, firing his gun underneath the first desk in the row without looking to see who was under it. The shot killed Steven Curnow, who was hiding underneath it. He then shot under the next computer desk, injuring Kasey Ruegsegger.

Official reports state that Harris then walked over to the table across from the lower computer row, slapped the top twice with his hand, knelt down, and said "peek-a-boo" before shooting Cassie Bernall in the head. The recoil from the weapon hit his face, breaking his nose. Although it is popularly believed that Bernall was the individual who was asked "Do you believe in God?", the official investigation has attributed this remark not to Bernall but to a surviving student, Valeen Schnurr (see below). Three students who witnessed Bernall's death, including the person who was hiding under the table with her, have testified the exchange did not occur. Nevertheless, others who were in the library asserted the exchange occurred, though none of these students physically witnessed it. They may instead have heard the later exchange between Klebold and Schnurr and been misled by news reports attributing the words to Bernall. This misunderstanding sparked much debate as to whether the official investigation thoroughly assessed all possibilities.

Harris then turned to the next table, where student Bree Pasquale sat next to the table rather than beneath it (she had not hidden underneath as there was not enough room to hide). Harris asked her if she wanted to die to which Pasquale responded with a plea for her life. Witnesses report that Harris was disoriented as this occurred, possibly from the wound to his face, which was bleeding heavily. As Harris taunted Pasquale, Patrick Ireland began to administer first aid to one of the two injured near him; seeing this, Klebold shot at him, hitting him twice in the head and once in the foot. The shot to his foot blew his shoe off. He was knocked unconscious, but remarkably survived.

Next, Klebold proceeded to walk toward another set of tables, discovering Isaiah Shoels, Matthew Kechter, and Craig Scott (all popular athletes at the school, the last of whom was Rachel Scott's brother) hiding under one. He attempted to pull Isaiah out from underneath the table, but was unsuccessful. He then called to Harris, who left Bree Pasquale and joined him. Klebold and Harris taunted Shoels for a few seconds; witnesses claim Klebold made a racial comment towards him. Harris then knelt down and shot him in the chest at close range, killing him. Klebold also knelt down and opened fire, hitting and killing Matthew Kechter. Remarkably, Craig Scott remained uninjured as he lay in the blood of his friends, pretending to be dead. Harris then turned and threw a CO2 bomb at the table where Hall, Steepleton, and Ireland were. Makai threw the bomb back out where it exploded farther south (away from the shooters).

Harris walked to the book cases between the west and centre section of tables in the library. He jumped on one of the book cases and shook it, then shot at something in that general area (it is not known what he shot at, since no one could see him at this point). Klebold walked through the main area past the first set of bookcases, the central desk area, and a second set of bookcases into the east area. Harris walked past the central area meeting up with him there. Klebold proceeded to shoot out a display case next to the door, then turned and shot at the closest table to him, injuring Mark Kintgen. He then turned to the table to his left (east) and shot at it, injuring Lisa Kreutz and Val Schnurr with the same bullet. He then approached the table and fired again, killing Lauren Townsend.

Harris, in the meantime, went over to another table where two girls were hiding, bent down and looked at them, and dismissed them as "pathetic". The pair then went over to an empty table and began to reload their weapons. Schnurr, who had been hurt badly, began to cry out at that point, "Oh, God help me!" Klebold went back to her and asked her if she believed in God. She floundered in her answer, saying no and then yes, trying to get the answer "right". He asked her why; she said it was because it was what her family believed. He taunted her then walked away. This incident eventually led to the Cassie Bernall controversy, as some believe the eyewitnesses who continue to back the Bernall claim may have wrongfully attributed the Schnurr/Klebold remark to Bernall due to possible similarlities in voice and appearance.

Harris then moved to another table and shot twice underneath it, injuring both Nicole Nowlen and John Tomlin. When Tomlin tried to crawl out, Klebold came around the corner and kicked him. Harris taunted his attempt at escape and then Klebold shot him repeatedly, killing him. Harris walked back over to the other side of the table where Lauren Townsend lay. Behind it, Kelly Fleming, like Bree Pasquale, sat next to the table rather than beneath it. Harris shot at her with his rifle, hitting her in the back, and killing her instantly. He continued to shoot at the table behind her, hitting Townsend and Kreutz again, and wounding Jeanna Park (an autopsy revealed that Townsend had already been killed by the first shot).

At 11:37 a.m., the shooters moved to the centre of the library, where they continued to reload their weapons at a table midway across the room. Klebold noticed a student nearby and asked him to identify himself. The student was John Savage, an acquaintance of Klebold's. Savage asked Klebold what they were doing, to which Klebold replied, "Oh, just killing people." Savage then asked if they were going to kill him. Klebold hesitated, and then asked him to leave the library. Savage fled immediately, making a safe escape through the library's main entrance.

After Savage was gone, Harris turned and fired his carbine at the table directly north of where they'd been, hitting Daniel Mauser in the face at close range, killing him. Both shooters then moved south from there and fired randomly under another table, critically injuring Jennifer Doyle and Austin Eubanks, and fatally wounding Corey DePooter. DePooter, the last victim of the massacre, was said to have been instrumental in keeping his friends calm during the ordeal.

At this point, several witnesses heard Harris and Klebold comment on how they no longer found a thrill in shooting their victims. Klebold was quoted to have said "Maybe we should start knifing people, that might be more fun." Both shooters then moved away from the table and began heading toward the library's main counter. Harris threw a Molotov cocktail toward the southwestern end of the library as he went, but it failed to explode. He then came around the east side of the counter and Klebold joined him from the west, both converging near where Evan Todd had moved to after the copier incident. The shooters made fun of Todd but did not kill him, they only threatend and abused him. Klebold then turned and fired a shot into an open library staff break room, hitting a small television while he was taunting Evan Todd. Klebold slammed a chair down on top of the computer terminal that was on the library counter, directly above the bureau Patti Nielson was hiding under. The two then walked out of the library at 11:42 a.m., ending the brutal massacre.

Almost immediately after the shooters left the library at 11:42 a.m., 34 uninjured and 10 injured students evacuated the room through the north door, which led out to the sidewalk adjacent the west entrance where the rampage had begun. Patrick Ireland, who had been knocked unconscious, and Lisa Kreutz, who was unable to move, remained in the building. Patti Nielson ran into the exterior break room Klebold had shot into earlier, joining Brian Anderson and the three library staff already inside; they locked themselves in and remained there until they were freed at approximately 3:30 p.m.

Suicide of the shooters

After leaving the library, the pair went into the science area and threw a small fire bomb into an empty storage closet. When the bomb exploded, they ran off. A teacher in the adjacent room put out the fire. They then proceeded towards the South Hallway, stopped, and began shooting into an empty science room (SCI-8) at the end of the hall. Next, they went down the staircase into the cafeteria where they were first caught by the security cameras. The recording shows Harris attempting to detonate one of the failed propane bombs, without success; he then took a sip from one of the drinks left behind by fleeing students. Another Molotov cocktail was thrown, but it too failed. The two then left the cafeteria and went back up the stairs. As they did so, the cocktail exploded (this can be seen in the security tapes) causing a fire that was extinguished by the fire sprinklers; they left the cafeteria at around 11:50 a.m. Once back on the upper level, they walked around the main North and South Hallways of the school without any direction, shooting aimlessly. They walked through the South Hallway, past the Social Studies section, and into the main office before proceeding back onto the North Hallway. Several times they looked through the small windows on the classroom doors and even made eye contact with students, but never attempted to enter the rooms. After leaving the main office, the pair went up to a bathroom entrance and began taunting students inside, saying such things as "we know you're in there" and "let's kill anyone we find in here", but never actually entering the bathroom. At 11:55 a.m., the two returned to the cafeteria and entered the kitchen briefly, only to return back up the staircase, and into the South Hallway, at 11:58 a.m.

Deaths of the shooters
35. Eric Harris (gunman) committed suicide by a single shot to the head.
36. Dylan Klebold (gunman) committed suicide by a single shot to the head.

At 12:05 p.m. the shooters entered the library again, but it was empty of all living students except for the unconscious Patrick Ireland and Lisa Kreutz (who played dead). It is not known what they did between the time they left the cafeteria and the time they re-entered the library. Once inside, they attempted to shoot out the windows at policemen, without success. They then moved over to the table next to where Matthew Kechter and Isaiah Shoels lay; there, they shot themselves, committing suicide. At 2:38 p.m., Patrick Ireland regained consciousness and crawled over to the windows, where he attempted to exit. He was then taken out of the school through the library windows by SWAT team members, in a famously televised scene. Lisa Kreutz remained injured in the library until police entered the scene at 3:25 p.m.; she was then removed, along with Ms. Nielson, Brian Anderson, and the three staff.

The shooting ends

By noon, SWAT teams were stationed outside the school and ambulances started taking the wounded to local hospitals. Meanwhile, families of students and staff at the school were asked to gather at nearby Leawood Elementary School to await information.

A call for additional ammunition to police officers in case of a shootout came at 12:20 p.m. However, the killers had ceased shooting just minutes earlier. SWAT teams began to thoroughly check every room in the high school examining desks and backpacks by 12:45. Authorities reported pipe bombs by 1:00 p.m., and SWAT teams started to free hidden students by 2:30 p.m. All students, teachers, and school employees were taken away, questioned, and then offered medical care in small holding areas before being bussed to meet with their family members at Leawood Elementary. Officials found bodies in the library by 3:30 p.m.

By 4:00 p.m. the sheriff made an initial estimate of 25 dead students and teachers; his estimate was 10 over the true count but closer to the total count of wounded students. He also stated that police officers were searching the bodies of Harris and Klebold in the library. At 4:30 p.m. the school was declared safe; however, at 5:30 p.m. additional officers were called in as more explosives were found in the parking lot and roof. By 6:15 p.m., officials had found a bomb in a car in the parking lot. The sheriff then decided to mark the entire school as a crime scene; 13 of the dead, including the shooters, were still inside the school at the time. At 10:45 p.m., the car bomb detonated when an officer tried to defuse it. None were injured, but the car was damaged.


In the end, twelve students and one teacher were killed and twenty-four other students were injured as a direct result of the massacre; three more were injured indirectly as they attempted to escape the school. Harris and Klebold are thought to have committed suicide about forty-five minutes after the massacre began.

Aftermath and the search for rationale

In the aftermath, there was a great deal of debate about what motivated the killers and whether anything could have been done to prevent the crime. Unlike most other school shootings, the fact that both shooters committed suicide made this one particularly haunting, as answers would be slow in coming, and there would be no arrests or trial through which the victims could vent their outrage. The reality of social cliques in high schools was a frequent topic of discussion. Many argued that the pair's isolation from the rest of their classmates prompted feelings of helplessness, insecurity and depression, as well as a strong desire for attention. Some schools also began programs to expose and stop school bullying, which many charged had fueled anger and resentment within Harris and Klebold.

In the weeks following the shootings, media reports about the two killers portrayed them as part of a "goth cult" and outcast " nerds". Later, such characterizations were found to be untrue as both Harris and Klebold are documented to have had a close circle of friends and a wider informal social group, although by no means were they isolated. It was also reported that homophobic remarks were frequently directed at them. As for claims of their ties to "goth cult", Harris and Klebold were for a time thought to be part of an informal school club called the Trenchcoat Mafia; this allegation was later proven false, although they were friends with some of its members. A backlash against the " Goth" subculture resulted from both students and administrators across the country.

Due to the uncertainty and ambiguity in their planning, many theories still exist about the choice of date. One theory states that the original date chosen was April 19 because it was a date on which Robyn Anderson, one of the people who purchased the guns and a close friend of Klebold, would not be present. Due to delays in the making of the propane bombs, the date was moved to April 20. Some analysts noted that the date of the shooting coincided with Adolf Hitler's birthday and was one day after the anniversary of the Oklahoma City Bombing and the immolation of the Branch Davidians in Waco, further strengthening the theory that the original intended date was set for April 19, as both shooters mentioned in videos that they had hoped to outdo both these events. It is also believed that the shootings were perhaps plotted for these days because of their proximity to the end of the year activities.

Both Harris and Klebold were fans of violent video games such as Doom and Wolfenstein 3D. Harris often created levels for Doom that were widely distributed, and can still occasionally be found on the Internet as the Harris levels. Rumors that the layout of these levels resembled that of Columbine High School circulated but have been debunked. Some analysts argued that part of the killers' problem may have been a result of their constant exposure to violent imagery in such video games, as well as music and movies, theorizing that their obsession with these forms of media may have led them to have difficulty telling the difference between reality and fantasy. American media compared the massacre to a fantasy sequence from the 1995 film The Basketball Diaries in which protagonist Leonardo DiCaprio wears a black trench coat and shoots six classmates in his school's hallways. Some eyewitnesses at the school compared the events to scenes from the 1999 film The Matrix. Several unsuccessful lawsuits against video game manufacturers were filed as a result by parents of some of the victims.

Blame for the shootings was also directed at Marilyn Manson and other rock music groups. However, a review of Harris' website showed both shooters disliked Manson and most other mainstream music. This claim was also backed up by close friends of the pair who testified that they were fans of German industrial music bands, such as Rammstein (an industrial metal group). Upon release of this information, Rammstein came under heavy criticism from conservative and Christian groups in the United States, who claimed (among other things) that lead vocalist Till Lindemann's rolling Teutonic Rs were an imitation of Adolf Hitler's diction. In response, the band issued this statement:

"The members of Rammstein express their condolences and sympathy to all affected by the recent tragic events in Denver. They wish to make it clear that they have no lyrical content or political beliefs that could have possibly influenced such behaviour. Additionally, members of Rammstein have children of their own, in whom they continually strive to instill healthy and non-violent values."

German industrial rock band KMFDM received similar criticism. Harris' website featured lyrics to KMFDM songs and the shooting occurred on the release date of their album Adios. KMFDM frontman Sascha Konietzko released a statement to the press the day following the shooting, expressing his own grief at the shooting, and emphasised their music is "a statement against war, oppression, fascism and violence against others" and that "while some of the former band members are German as reported in the media, none of us condone any Nazi beliefs whatsoever."

Marilyn Manson continued to voice his concerns over the media connecting the massacre to the entertainment industry. He contributed a column to Rolling Stone magazine and was an interviewee in Michael Moore's film Bowling for Columbine. The blame by the media and parents for the shooting was the inspiration, in part, for Manson's fifth album, Holy Wood (In the Shadow of the Valley of Death). Some also blame the film Natural Born Killers, which the shooters were said to have watched many times.

In July 1999, the FBI organized a major summit on school shooters in Leesburg, Virginia. They brought in many of the world's leading psychologists and psychiatrists, and representatives from each of the recent school shootings, including a large Columbine contingent. Attorney General Janet Reno was also in attendance. The FBI eventually published a major report on school shooters, though it steered clear of causes on any individual case. However, on the fifth anniversary of Columbine, the FBI's lead Columbine investigator and other top psychiatrists went public with their conclusions in a Slate story entitled The Depressive and the Psychopath. They diagnosed Harris as a clinical psychopath and Klebold as a depressive, and saw that the plan was masterminded by Harris. He had a messianic-level superiority complex, and hoped to illustrate his massive superiority to the world.

A thorough study of all U.S. school shootings by the U.S. Secret Service warned against the belief that a certain "type" of student would be a perpetrator. Any "profile" would fit too many students to be useful, and may not fit the potential perpetrators. "The researchers found that killers do not 'snap.' They plan. They acquire weapons. They tell others what they are planning. These children take a long, planned, public path toward violence. And there is no profile. Some lived with both parents in 'an ideal, All-American family.' Some were children of divorce, or lived in foster homes. A few were loners, but most had close friends." Instead of looking for traits, the Secret Service urges adults to ask about behaviour: "What has this child said? Does he have grievances? What do his friends know? Does he have access to weapons? Is he depressed or despondent?"

Long-term impact

The HOPE Columbine Memorial Library now stands as a memorial at the High School. Partially built at the site where the massacre began, it replaced the older library where most of the massacre unfolded.
The HOPE Columbine Memorial Library now stands as a memorial at the High School. Partially built at the site where the massacre began, it replaced the older library where most of the massacre unfolded.

In response to concerns over the causes of Columbine and other school massacres, many schools instituted new anti- bully policies as well as so-called " zero tolerance" approaches to weapons and threatening behaviour. Despite the horrific nature of the Columbine incident, some social science experts feel the zero tolerance in schools has gone overboard. In the months following the shooting, considerable attention was focused on Cassie Bernall, who was reported to have been asked "Do you believe in God?" by one of the shooters, and to have responded "Yes" before being killed. However, Valeen Schnurr claims that this exchange was with her, and Emily Wyant, the only witness to Bernall's death, confirms that Bernall did not have this discussion. Both Bernall and Rachel Scott were regarded as Christian martyrs by many. The official investigation attributed the statement to survivor Valeen Schnurr. Despite this conclusion, student witness Joshua Lapp maintains that it was Cassie Bernall who was asked about her beliefs and responded 'yes' before being shot, although Lapp was unable to correctly point out the table or location where Bernall was located and was himself closer to Schnurr during the shootings. Another witness, Craig Scott, whose sister Rachel Scott was also portrayed as a Christian martyr, claimed that the discussion was with Cassie Bernall, but when asked to point to where he heard the conversation coming from, pointed to where Schnurr was shot.

Since the shooting, "Columbine" has become a household name for a school shooting. 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. Many foiled school shooting plots mentioned Columbine and the desire to "outdo Harris and Klebold."

Since the Columbine shooting, schools across the United States have been instituting new security measures such as see-through backpacks, metal detectors, and security guards. Several schools throughout the country resorted to requiring students to wear computer-generated IDs. At the same time, police departments began to reassess their tactics and train for Columbine-like situations after criticism over the slow response and progress of the SWAT teams during the shooting.

However, in its study of all U.S. school shootings, the U.S. Secret Service found that schools were taking false hope in physical security, when they should be paying more attention to the pre-attack behaviors of students. Zero-tolerance policies and metal detectors "are unlikely to be helpful," the Secret Service researchers found. Why rely on SWAT teams, they ask, when most attacks are over before police arrive? Why focus on which kids fit a profile or show warning signs, when there is no profile that fits all those who kill? Why expel students immediately for the most minor infractions, when expulsion was just the spark that pushed some students to come right back to school with a gun? Why buy software to evaluate threats, when the killers rarely make direct threats, and the software isn't based on a study of school shootings? Why rely on metal detectors and police officers in schools, when the shooters often make no effort to conceal their weapons?

The shooting also resulted in calls for more gun control measures. In 2000, federal and state legislations were 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 children, there was considerable controversy over legislation pertaining to background checks at gun shows. There was concern amongst the gun lobby over the further erosion of Second Amendment rights in the U.S.

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