The Columbine High School massacre was a school shooting which occurred on April 20, 1999, at Columbine High School in Columbine USA.
Eric David Harris was born on April 9, 1981, in Wichita, Kansas. Harris’s parents were both born and raised in Colorado. His mother, Katherine Ann Poole, was a homemaker. His father, Wayne Harris, was working in the United States Air Force as a transport pilot, forcing the family to move around the country sporadically. In 1983, the family moved to Dayton, Ohio, when Harris was two years old. Six years later, the family relocated to Oscoda, Michigan. The Harris family moved to Plattsburgh, New York, in 1992, then to Colorado the next year when Wayne retired from the military. Kyle Ross, a former classmate of Harris, said, “He was just a typical kid“. On a 1997 English class assignment, Harris wrote about how difficult the move was from New York to Colorado. “It was the hardest moving from Plattsburgh. I have the most memories from there,” Harris continued. “When I left (his friends) I felt alone, lost and even agitated that I had spent so much time with them and now I have to go because of something I can’t stop.” Harris, in a basement tape, blamed his father for moving the family around, forcing Harris to “start out at the bottom of the ladder.” Harris also added that kids would often mock his appearance. The Harris family lived in rented accommodations for the first three years that they lived in the Littleton area. While Harris was in 7th grade, he met Klebold. In 1996, the Harris family purchased and settled at a house south of Columbine High School. Harris’ older brother, Kevin, attended college at the University of Colorado. Harris’ father took a job with Flight Safety Services Corporation and Harris’ mother, a former homemaker, became a caterer.
Harris entered Columbine High School in 1995 as a freshman. Columbine had just gone through a major renovation and expansion. From all accounts, he had many friends and was left forward and midfield on the Columbine soccer team for his freshman and sophomore year. According to one of his teammates, Josh Swanson, he said Harris was a “solid” soccer player, who enjoyed the sport a lot. Harris, during his freshman year, met Tiffany Typher, who was in his German class. Typher later recounted that Harris quickly wooed her. Harris asked her to homecoming and she accepted. After the event, it appeared that Typher was no longer interested in seeing Harris anymore, for reasons never disclosed. When Typher refused to socialize with Harris again, Harris staged a fake suicide, sprawling on the ground with fake blood splashed all over him. When Typher saw him she began to scream for help, at which point Harris and his friends began laughing, prompting Typher to storm off, shouting at Harris to get psychological help.
Dylan Bennet Klebold was born on September 11, 1981, in Lakewood, Colorado, to Thomas and Sue Klebold. On the day after the shooting, Klebold’s mother remembered that shortly after Klebold’s birth, she described what felt like a shadow had been cast over her, warning her that this child would bring her great sorrow. “I think I still make of it what I did at that time. It was a passing feeling that went over very quickly, like a shadow.” Sue said in an interview with Colorado Public Radio. Klebold was soon diagnosed with pyloric stenosis, a condition in which the opening between the stomach and small intestines thickens, causing severe vomiting during the first few months of life. Sue later assured herself that the feeling she had that her son would bring her immense sorrow, was that her son would be physically ill. Klebold’s parents had met when they were both studying art at Ohio State University. The two quickly became smitten. After they both graduated, they married in 1971, with their first child, Byron, being born in 1978. Thomas had initially worked as a sculptor, but then moved over to engineering to be more financially stable. Sue had worked in assistance services with disabled children. Furthermore, Klebold’s parents were pacifists and attended a Lutheran church with their children. Both Klebold and his older brother attended confirmation classes in accordance with the Lutheran tradition. As had been the case with his older brother, Klebold was named after a renowned poet, Dylan Thomas.
At the family home, the Klebold’s also observed some rituals in keeping with Klebold’s maternal grandfather’s Jewish heritage. Klebold attended Normandy Elementary School for first and second grade and then transferred to Governor’s Ranch Elementary School where he was part of the Challenging High Intellectual Potential Students program for gifted children. According to reports, Klebold was exceptionally bright as a young child, although he appeared somewhat sheltered in elementary school. When he transitioned to Ken Caryl Middle School, he found it difficult. Klebold’s parents were unconcerned with the fact that Klebold found the changing of schools uneasy, as they assumed it was just regular behaviour among young adolescents. During his earlier school years, Klebold played baseball, soccer and T-ball. Klebold was in Cub Scouts with friend Brooks Brown, whom he was friends with since the first grade. Brown lived near the house Harris’ parents had bought when they finally settled in Littleton, and rode the same bus as Harris. Shortly after, Klebold had met Harris and the pair quickly became best friends. Later, Harris introduced Klebold to his friend Nathan Dykeman, who also attended their middle school, and they all became a tight-knit group of friends.
Some described Harris as charismatic, and others described him as nice and likable. However, Harris also often bragged about his ability to deceive others, once stating in a tape that he could make anyone believe anything. By his junior year, Harris was also known to be quick to anger, and threatened people with bombs. Classmates also related that Harris was fascinated by war, and wrote out violent fantasies about killing people he didn’t like. Klebold was described by his peers and adults as painfully shy. He would often be fidgety whenever someone new talked to him, rarely opening up to people. Much of the information on Harris and Klebold’s friendship is unknown, on their interactions and conversations, aside from the Basement Tapes, of which only transcripts have been released. Harris and Klebold met at Ken Caryl Middle School during their seventh grade year. Over time, they became increasingly close, hanging out by often going out bowling, carpooling and playing the video game “Doom” over a private server they connected their personal computers to. By their junior year in high school, the boys were described as inseparable. Both Harris and Klebold worked together as cooks at a Blackjack Pizza, a mile south from Columbine High School. Harris was eventually promoted to shift leader. Chad Laughlin, a close friend of Harris and Klebold, said that they always sat alone together at lunch and often kept to themselves. A rumour eventually started that Harris and Klebold were gay and romantically involved, due to the time the pair spent together. It is unknown if they were aware of this rumour. Although, a friend of the pair, Chad Laughlin, reported that both Harris and Klebold died virgins. Judy Brown believed Harris was more emotionally dependent on Klebold, who was more liked by the broader student population. In his journals, however, Klebold wrote that he felt that he was not accepted or loved by anyone. Due to these feelings, Klebold possibly sought validation from Harris. Klebold’s mother believes Harris’ rage, intermingled with Klebold’s self-destructive personality, caused the boys to feed off of each other and enter in what eventually would become an infernal friendship.
At Columbine High School, Harris and Klebold were active in school play productions, operated video productions and became computer assistants, maintaining the school’s computer server. According to early accounts of the shooting, they were very unpopular students and targets of bullying. While sources do support accounts of bullying specifically directed toward Harris and Klebold, accounts of them being outcasts have been reported to be false, since both of them had a close knit group of friends. Harris and Klebold were initially reported to be members of a clique that was called the Trenchcoat Mafia, despite later confirmed that the pair had no connection to the group and furthermore did not appear in the group’s photo in Columbine High’s 1998 yearbook. Harris’ father erroneously stated that his son was “a member of what they call the Trenchcoat Mafia” in a 9-1-1 call he made on April 20, 1999. Klebold attended the high school prom three days before the shootings with a classmate named Robyn Anderson. Harris and Klebold linked their personal computers on a network and played video games over the Internet. Harris created a set of levels for the game “Doom” (which later became known as the ‘Harris levels’. The levels are downloadable over the internet through Doom WADs). Harris had a web presence under the handle “REB” (short for Rebel, a nod to the nickname of Columbine High’s sports teams) and other online aliases, including “Rebldomakr”, “Rebdoomer”, and “Rebdomine”. Klebold went by the names “VoDKa” and “VoDkA”, seemingly inspired by the alcoholic drink. Harris had various websites that hosted “Doom” and “Quake” files, as well as team information for those with whom he gamed online. The sites openly espoused hatred for people in their neighbourhood and the world in general. When the pair began experimenting with pipe bombs, they posted results of the explosions on the websites. The website was shut down by America Online after the shootings and was preserved for the FBI.
On January 30, 1998, Harris and Klebold broke into a locked van to steal computers and other electronic equipment. An officer pulled over the duo driving away. Harris shortly after admitted to the theft. They were later charged with mischief, breaking and entering, trespassing, and theft. They both left good impressions on juvenile officers, who offered to expunge their criminal records if they agreed to attend a diversionary program which included community service and psychiatric treatment. Harris was required to attend anger management classes where, again, he made a favourable impression. The boys’ probation officer discharged them from the program a few months ahead of schedule for good behaviour. Of Harris, it was remarked that he was “a very bright individual who is likely to succeed in life”, while Klebold was said to be intelligent, but “needs to understand that hard work is part of fulfilling a dream.” A couple of months later on April 30, Harris handed over the first version of a letter of apology he wrote to the owner of the van, which he completed the next month. In the letter, Harris expressed regret about his actions; however, in one of his journal entries dated April 12, he wrote: “Isn’t america supposed to be the land of the free? how come, If im free, I cant deprive some fucking dumbshit from his possessions If he leaves them sitting in the front seat of his fucking van in plain sight in the middle of fucking nowhere on a fri-fucking-day night? Natural selection. Fucker should be shot.” In December 1998, Harris and Klebold made “Hitmen For Hire”, a video for a school project in which they swore, yelled at the camera, made violent statements, and acted out shooting and killing students in the hallways of Columbine High School. Both also displayed themes of violence in their creative writing projects; of a Doom-based story written by Harris on January 17, 1999, Harris’ teacher said: “Yours is a unique approach and your writing works in a gruesome way — good details and mood setting.” Nearly a year before the massacre, Klebold wrote a message in Harris’s 1998 yearbook: “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 commons was another term for the school cafeteria.
Harris and Klebold were unable to legally purchase firearms due to them both being underage at the time. Klebold then enlisted Robyn Anderson, an 18-year-old Columbine student and old friend of Klebold’s, to make a purchase of two shotguns and a Hi-Point carbine for the pair. In exchange for her cooperation with the investigation that followed the shootings, no charges were filed against Anderson. After illegally acquiring the weapons, Klebold sawed off his Savage 311-D 12-gauge double-barrel shotgun, shortening the overall length to approximately 23 inches (580mm). Meanwhile, Harris’s Savage-Springfield 12-gauge pump shotgun was sawn off to around 26 inches (660mm). The shooters also possessed a TEC-DC9 semi-automatic handgun, which had a long history. The manufacturer of the TEC-DC9 first sold it to Miami-based Navegar Incorporated. It was then sold to Zander’s Sporting Goods in Baldwin, Illinois, in 1994. The gun was later sold to Thornton, Colorado firearms dealer, Larry Russell. In violation of federal law, Russell failed to keep records of the sale, yet he determined that the purchaser of the gun was twenty-one years of age or older. Through Philip Duran, a co-worker, Klebold bought a TEC-9 handgun from Mark Manes for $500 at another gun show on January 23. Manes, Manes’ girlfriend, and Duran are all in the “Rampart Range” video. After the massacre, Manes and Duran were both prosecuted. Each was charged with supplying a handgun to a minor and possession of a sawed-off shotgun. Manes and Duran were sentenced to a total of six years and four-and-a-half years in prison, respectively. Using instructions obtained via the Internet and the Anarchist Cookbook, Harris and Klebold constructed a total of 99 bombs, these included pipe bombs, carbon dioxide cartridges filled with gunpowder (called crickets), Molotov cocktails, propane tanks converted to bombs, car bombs, and diversionary bombs. The bombs were primed with matches placed at one end. During the massacre, they carried lighters as well as match strikers taped to their forearms to light the pipe bombs and crickets. They had 45 crickets, 8 of which detonated, and 9 Molotov cocktails, 2 of which functioned. For ignition, they used model rocket igniters as well as timing devices built from clocks and batteries for the propane, car, and diversion bombs. Harris also attempted to make napalm, and envisioned a kind of backpack and flamethrower.
They both attempted to get another friend and co-worker Chris Morris, who was a part of the Trench Coat Mafia, to keep the napalm at his house, but he refused. Harris also tried to recruit him to be a third shooter, but would play it off as a joke when rebuked. They had 8 propane tanks used for bombs. The weekend before the shootings, Harris and Klebold bought two propane tanks and other supplies from a hardware store for a few hundred dollars. They bought six propane tanks on the morning of the attack. Harris was caught on a Texaco gas station security camera at 9:12a.m. buying a Blue Rhino propane tank. Each cafeteria bomb was made from one 20 pounds (9.1kg) tank with a gallon gas can attached. Several residents of the area claimed to have heard glass breaking and buzzing sounds from the Harris family’s garage, which later was concluded to indicate they were constructing pipe bombs. Harris’s website contained directions on making pipe bombs, including use of shrapnel. Harris’s parents once discovered one of his pipe bombs. Harris’s journal logged the creation of 25 pipe bombs. A total of 35 were used during the massacre, 14 of which detonated. Klebold scared his co-workers by once bringing a pipe bomb into work. They would give names to their pipe bombs. After the massacre, two pipe bombs had been left in Klebold’s bedroom, one named “Vengeance” and another “Atlanta”, presumably after the Olympic Park bombing. More complex bombs, such as the one that detonated on the corner of South Wadsworth Boulevard and Ken Caryl Avenue, had timers. The two largest bombs built were found in the school cafeteria and were made from small propane tanks. Only one of these bombs went off, only partially detonating. It was estimated that if any of the bombs placed in the cafeteria had detonated properly, the blast could have caused extensive structural damage to the school and would have resulted in hundreds of casualties. Each car bomb was made from pipe bombs and two 20-pound propane tanks, with gas cans and bottles set throughout. Eight pipe bombs were placed in Klebold’s car, and one in Harris’s. Harris and Klebold each carried two knives, which were never used during the massacre. Harris had one in a sheath taped to his ankle. Klebold had one that was a cobra knife; a curved blade and several spikes on its handle.
On Tuesday morning, April 20, 1999, just weeks before Harris and Klebold were both due to graduate, Harris and Klebold placed two duffel bags in the cafeteria. Each bag contained propane bombs, which were set to detonate at 11:17a.m., during the “A” lunch shift. No witness recalled seeing the duffel bags being added to the 400 or so backpacks that were already in the cafeteria. The security staff at CHS did not observe the bags being placed in the cafeteria; a custodian was replacing the school security videotape at around 11:14 a.m., which might have been the time that the duffel bags were dropped off. Some internet sleuths claimed that the bomb placement can be seen on the surveillance video at around 10:58a.m. Shortly after the massacre, police also investigated whether the bombs were placed during the after-prom party held the prior weekend. Jefferson County Sheriff’s Deputy Neil Gardner was assigned to the high school as a full-time school resource officer. Gardner usually ate lunch with students in the cafeteria, but on April 20 he was eating lunch in his patrol car at the northwest corner of the campus, watching students in the Smokers’ Pit in Clement Park, a meadow adjacent to the school. Two backpacks filled with pipe bombs, aerosol canisters, and small propane bombs were also placed in a field about 3 miles (4.8km) south of CHS, and 2 miles (3.2km) south of the fire station. Set to detonate at 11:14a.m., the bombs were intended as a diversion to draw firefighters and emergency personnel away from the school. Only the pipe bombs and one of the aerosol canisters detonated, causing a small fire, which was quickly extinguished by the fire department. It went off when moved. Bomb technicians immediately examined the bombs and relayed to police at the school the possibility of devices with motion activators. Around 11:10a.m., Harris and Klebold arrived separately at CHS. Harris parked his vehicle in the junior student parking lot, and Klebold parked in the adjoining senior student parking lot. The school cafeteria was their primary bomb target; the cafeteria had a long outside window-wall, ground-level doors, and was just north of the senior parking lot. The library was located above the cafeteria in the second-story of the window-wall. Each car contained bombs timed to detonate at 12:00p.m. As Harris pulled into the parking lot, he encountered classmate Brooks Brown, with whom he had recently patched up a longstanding series of disputes. According to Brown, who was smoking a cigarette, he was surprised to see Harris, whom he earlier noted had been absent from a class test. Brown confronted Harris about missing the test because Harris was always serious about schoolwork and being on time. Harris seemed unconcerned, commenting “It doesn’t matter anymore.” Harris went on: “Brooks, I like you now. Get out of here. Go home.” Brown, feeling uneasy, and already prepared to skip his next class, walked away down South Pierce Street. Meanwhile, Harris and Klebold armed themselves, using straps and webbing to conceal weapons beneath black trench coats. They lugged backpacks and duffel bags that were filled with pipe bombs and ammunition. Harris also had his shotgun in one of the bags. Beneath the trench coats, Harris wore a homemade bandolier and a white T-shirt that read “Natural selection” in black letters; Klebold wore a black T-shirt that read “Wrath” in red letters. The cafeteria bombs failed to detonate. Had these bombs exploded with full power, they could have killed or severely wounded all of the 488 students in the cafeteria, and possibly made the ceiling collapse by destroying the pillars holding it up, dropping the library into the cafeteria.
At 11:19a.m., 17-year-old Rachel Scott and her friend Richard Castaldo were having lunch and sitting on the grass next to the west entrance of the school. Klebold threw a pipe bomb towards the parking lot; the bomb only partially detonated, causing it to give off smoke. Castaldo thought it was no more than a crude senior prank. Likewise, several students during the incident first thought that they were watching a prank. A witness reported hearing “Go! Go!” before Klebold and Harris pulled their guns from beneath their trench coats and began shooting. Scott was killed instantly when she was hit four times with rounds fired from Harris’ carbine; one shot was to the left temple. Castaldo was shot eight times in the chest, arm, and abdomen; he fell unconscious to the ground and was left paralyzed below the chest. Harris aimed his carbine down the west staircase in the direction of three students: Daniel Rohrbough, Sean Graves, and Lance Kirklin. The students figured they were paintball guns, and were about to walk up the staircase directly below the shooters. Harris fired, killing Rohrbough, while injuring Graves and Kirklin. Dave Sanders, a teacher and coach at the school, was in the cafeteria when he heard the gunfire and began warning students. The shooters turned and began firing west in the direction of five students sitting on the grassy hillside adjacent to the steps and opposite the west entrance of the school: Michael Johnson was hit in the face, leg, and arm, but ran and escaped; Mark Taylor was shot in the chest, arms, and leg and fell to the ground, where he faked death; the other three escaped uninjured. Klebold walked down the steps toward the cafeteria. He came up to Lance Kirklin, who was already wounded and lying on the ground, weakly calling for help. Klebold said, “Sure. I’ll help you,” then shot Kirklin in the face with his shotgun. Although gravely injured, Kirklin would survive. Graves — paralyzed beneath the waist — had crawled into the doorway of the cafeteria’s west entrance and collapsed. He rubbed blood on his face and played dead. After shooting Kirklin, Klebold walked towards the cafeteria door. He then stepped over the injured Graves to enter the cafeteria. Graves remembers Klebold saying, “Sorry, dude.” Klebold only briefly entered the cafeteria and did not shoot at the several people still inside. Officials speculated that Klebold went to check on the propane bombs. Harris was still on top of the stairs shooting, and severely wounded and partially paralyzed 17-year-old Anne-Marie Hochhalter as she tried to flee. Klebold came out of the cafeteria and went back up the stairs to join Harris. They shot at students standing close to a soccer field but did not hit anyone. They walked toward the west entrance, throwing pipe bombs in several directions, including onto the roof; only a few of these pipe bombs detonated. Witnesses heard one of them say, “This is what we always wanted to do. This is awesome!”
Meanwhile, art teacher Patti Nielson was inside the school; she had noticed the commotion and walked toward the west entrance with student Brian Anderson. Nielson had intended to walk outside to tell the two students, “Knock it off,” thinking they were either filming a video or pulling a student prank. As Anderson opened the first set of double doors, the gunmen shot out the windows, injuring him with flying glass; Nielson was hit in the shoulder with shrapnel. Anderson and Nielson ran back down the hall into the library, and Nielson alerted the students inside to the danger, telling them to get under desks and keep silent. She dialed 9-1-1 and hid under the library’s administrative counter. Anderson fell to the floor, bleeding from his injuries, then hid inside the magazine room adjacent to the library. At 11:22a.m., a custodian called Deputy Neil Gardner, the assigned resource officer to Columbine, on the school radio, requesting assistance in the senior parking lot. The only paved route took him around the school to the east and south on Pierce Street, where at 11:23a.m., he heard on his police radio that a female was down, and assumed she had been struck by a car. While exiting his patrol car in the senior lot at 11:24a.m., he heard another call on the school radio, “Neil, there’s a shooter in the school.” Deputies Paul Smoker and Paul Magor, motorcycle patrolmen for the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, were writing a traffic ticket north of the school when the “female down” call came in at 11:23a.m. Taking the shortest route, they drove their motorcycles over grass between the athletic fields and headed toward the west entrance. When they saw Deputies Scott Taborsky, Rick Searle, and Kevin Walker following them in their patrol car, they abandoned their motorcycles for the safety of the car. The six deputies had begun to rescue two wounded students near the ball fields when another gunfight broke out at 11:26a.m., as Harris returned to the double doors and again began shooting at Deputy Gardner, who returned fire. From the hilltop, Deputy Smoker fired three rounds from his pistol at Harris, who again retreated into the building. As before, no one was hit. Inside the school cafeteria, Dave Sanders and two custodians, Jon Curtis and Jay Gallatine, initially told students to get under the tables, then successfully evacuated students up the staircase leading to the second floor of the school. The stairs were located around the corner from the library hallway in the main south hallway. Sanders then tried to secure as much of the school as he could.
Harris, at the west entrance, immediately turned and fired ten shots from his carbine at Gardner, who was 60 yards (55m) away. As Harris reloaded his carbine, Gardner leaned over the top of his car and fired four rounds at Harris from his service pistol. Harris ducked back behind the building, and Gardner momentarily believed that he had hit him. Harris then re-emerged and fired at least four more rounds at Gardner (which missed and struck two parked cars), before retreating into the building. No one was hit during the exchange of gunfire. Gardner reported on his police radio, “Shots in the building. I need someone in the south lot with me.” By this point, Harris had shot 47 times, and Klebold just 5. The shooters then entered the school through the west entrance, moving along the main north hallway, throwing pipe bombs and shooting at anyone they encountered. Klebold shot Stephanie Munson in the ankle, but she was able to walk out of the school. The pair then shot out the windows to the east entrance of the school. After proceeding through the hall several times and shooting toward — and missing — any students they saw, they went toward the west entrance and turned into the library hallway. By now, Harris and Klebold were inside the main hallway. Sanders and another student were down at the end of the hallway, where he gestured for students in the library to stay. They encountered Harris and Klebold, who were approaching from the corner of the north hallway. Sanders and the student turned and ran in the opposite direction. Harris and Klebold shot at them both, with Harris hitting Sanders twice in the back and neck, hitting his teeth on exit, but missing the student. The latter ran into a science classroom and warned everyone to hide. Klebold walked over towards Sanders, who had collapsed, and tossed a pipe bomb, then returned to Harris up the library hallway. Sanders struggled toward the science area, and a teacher took him into a classroom where 30 students were located. Due to his knowledge of first aid, student Aaron Hancey was brought to the classroom from another by teachers despite the unfolding commotion. With the assistance of a fellow student named Kevin Starkey, and teacher Teresa Miller, Hancey administered first aid to Sanders for three hours, attempting to stem the blood loss using shirts from students in the room, and showing him pictures from his wallet to keep him talking. Using a phone in the room, Miller and several students maintained contact with police outside the school. As the shooting unfolded, pipe bombs were tossed in the hallways and down into the cafeteria. Patti Nielson in the library called 9-1-1, telling her story and urging students in the library to take cover beneath desks. According to transcripts, her call was received by a 9–1–1 operator at 11:25:18a.m.
At 11:29a.m., Harris and Klebold entered the library. Fifty-two students, two teachers and two librarians were inside. Harris fired his shotgun twice at a desk. Student Evan Todd had been standing near a pillar when the shooters entered the library and had just taken cover behind a copier. Todd was hit by wood splinters in the eye and lower back but was not seriously injured. He then hid behind the administrative counter. The gunmen walked into the library, towards the two rows of computers. Sitting at the north row was disabled student Kyle Velasquez. Klebold fired his shotgun, fatally hitting him in the head and back. They put down their ammunition-filled duffel bags at the south — or lower — row of computers and reloaded their weapons. They then walked between the computer rows, toward the windows facing the outside staircase. Throughout the massacre in the library, they ordered everybody to get up, saying that the library was going to explode. They stated how long they had been waiting for this, and seemed to be enjoying themselves, shouting things like, “Yahoo!” after shooting. While ordering the jocks to stand up, one of the two said, “Anybody with a white hat or a sports emblem on it is dead.” Wearing a white baseball cap at Columbine was a tradition among sports team members. Nobody stood up, and several students tried to hide their white hats. Windows were shot out in the direction of the recently arrived police. Officers returned fire, and the gunmen retreated from the windows; no one was injured. Klebold removed his trench coat. He then fired his shotgun at a nearby table, injuring three students: Patrick Ireland, Daniel Steepleton, and Makai Hall. Harris walked toward the lower row of computer desks with his shotgun and fired a single shot under the first desk, while down on one knee. He hit 14-year-old Steven Curnow with a mortal wound to the neck. He then moved to the adjacent computer desk, injuring 17-year-old Kacey Ruegsegger with a shot which passed completely through her right shoulder, also grazing her neck and severing a major artery. When she started gasping in pain, Harris stated “Quit your bitching.” Harris then walked to a table south of the lower computer table, with two students underneath: Cassie Bernall and Emily Wyant. Harris slapped the surface of the table twice as he knelt, and said “Peek-a-boo” before shooting Bernall once in the head with the shotgun, killing her. Harris had held the gun with one hand at this point; the weapon hit his face in recoil, injuring his nose. He told Klebold he had done so, and Klebold angrily responded “Why’d you do that?”
After fatally shooting Bernall, Harris turned toward the next table, where Bree Pasquale sat next to the table rather than under it. Harris’s nose was bleeding; witnesses later reported that he had blood around his mouth. Harris asked Pasquale if she wanted to die, and she responded with a plea for her life. Harris laughed and responded “Everyone’s gonna die.” When Klebold said “shoot her,” Harris responded “No, we’re gonna blow up the school anyway.” Klebold noticed Ireland trying to provide aid to Hall, who had suffered a wound to his knee. As Ireland tried to help Hall, his head rose above the table, Klebold shot him a second time, hitting him twice in the head and once in the foot. Ireland was knocked unconscious, but survived. Klebold then walked toward another table, where he discovered 18-year-old Isaiah Shoels, 16-year-old Matthew Kechter and 16-year-old Craig Scott (Rachel’s younger brother), hiding underneath. Klebold called out to Harris that he found a “nigger” and tried to pull Shoels out from under the table. Harris left Pasquale and joined him. According to witnesses, they taunted Shoels for a few seconds, making more derogatory racial comments. The gunmen both fired under the table; Harris shot Shoels once in the chest, killing him, and Klebold shot and killed Kechter. Though Shoels was not shot in the head, Klebold said: “I didn’t know black brains could fly that far.” Meanwhile, Scott was uninjured; lying in the blood of his friends, feigning death. Harris then yelled; “Who’s ready to die next?!” He turned and threw a cricket at the table where Hall, Steepleton, and Ireland were located. It landed on Steepleton’s thigh; Hall quickly noticed it and tossed it behind them, and it exploded in mid-air. Harris walked toward the bookcases between the west and centre section of tables in the library. He jumped on one and shook it, apparently attempting to topple it, then shot at the books which had fallen. Klebold walked to the east area of the library. Harris walked from the bookcase, past the central area to meet Klebold. The latter shot at a display case next to the door, then turned and shot toward the closest table, hitting and injuring 17-year-old Mark Kintgen in the head and shoulder. He then turned toward the table to his left and fired, injuring 18-year-olds Lisa Kreutz, Lauren Townsend, and Valeen Schnurr with the same shotgun blast. Klebold then moved toward the same table and fired several shots with the TEC-9, killing Townsend. At this point, the seriously injured Valeen Schnurr began screaming, “Oh my God, oh my God!” In response, Klebold asked Schnurr if she believed in the existence of God; when Schnurr replied she did, Klebold asked “Why?” and commented “God is gay.” Klebold reloaded but walked away from the table.
Harris approached another table where two girls were hiding. He bent down to look at them and dismissed them as “pathetic”. Harris then moved to another table where he fired twice, injuring 16-year-olds Nicole Nowlen and John Tomlin. Tomlin moved out from under the table. Klebold shot him repeatedly, killing him. Harris then walked back over to the other side of the table where Townsend lay dead. Behind the table, a 16-year-old girl named Kelly Fleming had, like Bree Pasquale, sat next to the table rather than beneath it due to a lack of space. Harris shot Fleming with his shotgun, hitting her in the back and killing her. He shot at the table behind Fleming, hitting Townsend, who was already dead, Kreutz again, and wounding 18-year-old Jeanna Park. The shooters moved to the centre of the library, where they reloaded their weapons at a table. Harris then pointed his carbine under a table, but the student he was aiming at moved out of the way. Harris turned his gun back on the student and told him to identify himself. It was John Savage, an acquaintance of Klebold’s. He asked Klebold what they were doing, to which he shrugged and answered, “killing people.” Savage asked if they were going to kill him. Possibly because of a fire alarm, Klebold said, “What?” Savage asked again whether they were going to kill him. Klebold said no, and told him to run. Savage fled, escaping through the library’s main entrance. After Savage left, Harris turned and fired his carbine at the table directly north of where he had been, hitting the ear and hand of 15-year-old Daniel Mauser. Mauser reacted by either shoving a chair at Harris or grabbing at his leg; Harris fired again and hit Mauser in the centre of the face at close range, killing him. Both shooters moved south and fired randomly under another table, critically injuring two 17-year-olds, Jennifer Doyle and Austin Eubanks, and fatally wounding 17-year-old Corey DePooter, at 11:35a.m. There were no further victims. They had killed 10 people in the library and wounded 12.
At this point, Klebold was quoted as saying they might start knifing people, though they never did. They headed towards the library’s main counter. Harris threw a Molotov cocktail toward the southwestern end of the library, but it failed to explode. They converged close to where Todd had moved after having been wounded. Klebold pulled the chair out from the desk, then he pointed his TEC-9 at Todd, who was wearing a white hat. Klebold asked if he was a jock, and when Todd said no Klebold responded “Well, that’s good. We don’t like jocks.” Klebold then demanded to see his face; Todd partly lifted his hat so his face would remain obscured. When Klebold asked Todd to give him one reason why he should not kill him, Todd said: “I don’t want trouble.” Klebold responded back angrily “Trouble? You don’t even know what…trouble is!” Todd tried to correct himself: “That’s not what I meant! I mean, I don’t have a problem with you guys. I never will and I never did.” Klebold then told Harris he was going to let Todd live, but that Harris could kill him if he wanted. Harris seemed to pay little attention and said: “Let’s go to the commons.” Klebold fired a single shot into an open library staff break room, hitting a small television. While Harris was walking away, Klebold said, “One more thing!,” then picked up the chair beside the library counter under which Patti Nielson was hiding, and slammed the chair down on top of the computer terminal and library counter. Klebold joined Harris at the library entrance. The two walked out of the library at 11:36a.m. Cautiously, fearing the shooters’ return, 10 injured and 29 uninjured survivors began to evacuate the library through the north emergency exit door, which led to the sidewalk adjacent to the west entrance. Kacey Ruegsegger was evacuated from the library by Craig Scott. Had she not been evacuated at this point, Ruegsegger would likely have bled to death from her injuries. Patrick Ireland, unconscious, and Lisa Kreutz, unable to move, remained in the building. Patti Nielson crawled into the exterior break room, into which Klebold had earlier fired shots, and hid in a cupboard.
After leaving the library, Harris and Klebold entered the science area, where they caused a fire in an empty storage closet. It was extinguished by a teacher who had hidden in an adjacent room. The gunmen then proceeded toward the south hallway, where they shot into an empty science room. At 11:44a.m., they were captured on the school security cameras as they re-entered the cafeteria. The recording shows Harris kneeling on the landing and firing a single shot toward one of the propane bombs left in the cafeteria, in an unsuccessful attempt to detonate it. As Klebold approached the propane bomb and examined it, Harris took a drink from one of the cups left behind. Klebold lit a Molotov cocktail and threw it at the propane bomb. About a minute later, the gallon of fuel attached to the bomb ignited, causing a fire that was extinguished by the fire sprinklers a few minutes later. They left the cafeteria at 11:46a.m.
After leaving the cafeteria, they returned to the main north and south hallways of the school and fired several shots into walls and ceilings as students and teachers hid in rooms. They walked through the south hallway into the main office before returning to the north hallway. At 11:56a.m., they returned to the cafeteria, and briefly entered the school kitchen. They returned up the staircase and into the south hallway at 12:00p.m. They re-entered the library, which was empty of survivors except for the unconscious Patrick Ireland and the injured Lisa Kreutz. Once inside, at 12:02p.m., police were shot at again through the library windows and returned fire. Nobody was injured in the exchange. By 12:05p.m., all gunfire from the school had ceased. By 12:08p.m., both gunmen had killed themselves. Harris sat down with his back to a bookshelf and fired his shotgun through the roof of his mouth; Klebold went down on his knees and shot himself in the left temple with his TEC-9. An article by The Rocky Mountain News stated that Patti Nielson overheard them shout “One! Two! Three!” in unison, just before a loud boom, however Nielson claimed that she had never spoken with either of the writers of the article. In 2002, the National Enquirer published two post-mortem photos of Harris and Klebold in the library. Klebold’s gun was underneath his body and so unseen in the photo, leading to speculation that Harris shot Klebold before killing himself. However, some of Klebold’s blood was on Harris’ legs. Also, just before shooting himself, Klebold lit a Molotov cocktail on a nearby table, underneath which Patrick Ireland was laying, which caused the table top to momentarily catch fire. Underneath the scorched film of material was a piece of Harris’ brain matter, suggesting Harris had shot himself by this point.
By 12:00p.m., SWAT teams were stationed outside the school, and ambulances started taking the wounded to local hospitals. A call for additional ammunition for police officers in case of a shootout came at 12:20p.m. Authorities reported pipe bombs by 1:00p.m., and two SWAT teams entered the school at 1:09p.m., moving from classroom to classroom, discovering hidden students and faculty. They entered at the end of the school opposite the library, hampered by old maps and unaware a new wing had recently been added. They were also hampered by the sound of the fire alarms. Meanwhile, families of students and staff were asked to gather at nearby Leawood Elementary School to await information. All students, teachers, and school employees were taken away, questioned, and offered medical care in small holding areas before being bussed to meet with their family members at Leawood Elementary. Some of the victims’ families were told to wait on one final school bus that never came. Patrick Ireland had regained and lost consciousness several times after being shot by Klebold. Paralyzed on his right side, he crawled to the library windows where, on live television, at 2:38p.m., he stretched out the window, intending to fall into the arms of two SWAT team members standing on the roof of an emergency vehicle, but instead falling directly onto the vehicle’s roof in a pool of blood. He became known as ‘the boy in the window.’ The team members, Donn Kraemer and John Ramoniec, were later criticized for allowing Ireland to drop more than seven feet to the ground while doing nothing to try to ensure he could be lowered to the ground safely or break his fall.
At 2:15p.m., students placed a sign in the window: “1 bleeding to death,” in order to alert police and medical personnel of Dave Sanders’ location in the science room. Police initially feared it was a ruse by the shooters. A shirt was also tied to the doorknob. At 2:30p.m., this was spotted, and by 2:40p.m., SWAT officers evacuated the room of students and called for a paramedic. Hancey and Starkey were reluctant to leave Sanders behind. By 3:00p.m., the SWAT officers had moved Sanders to a storage room, which was more easily accessible. As they did so, a paramedic arrived and found Sanders had no pulse. He had died of his injuries in the storage room before he could receive medical care. He was the only teacher to die in the shooting. Lisa Kreutz, shot in the shoulder, arms, hand, and thigh, remained laying in the library. She had tried to move but became light-headed. Kreutz kept track of time by the sound of the school’s bells until police arrived. Kreutz was finally evacuated at 3:22p.m., along with Patti Nielson, Brian Anderson, and the three library staff who had hidden in the rooms adjacent to the library. Officials found the bodies in the library by 3:30p.m.. By 4:00p.m., Sheriff John P. Stone made an initial estimate of 25 dead students and teachers, fifty wounded, and referred to the massacre as a “suicide mission.” President Bill Clinton later issued a statement. Stone said that police officers were searching the bodies of the gunmen. They feared they had used their pipe bombs to booby-trap corpses, including their own. At 4:30p.m., the school was declared safe. At 5:30p.m., additional officers were called in, as more explosives were found in the parking lot and on the roof. By 6:15p.m., officials had found a bomb in Klebold’s car in the parking lot, set to detonate the gas tank. Stone then marked the entire school as a crime scene. At 10:40p.m., a member of the bomb squad, who was attempting to dispose of an un-detonated pipe bomb, accidentally lit a striking match attached to the bomb by brushing it against the wall of the ordnance disposal trailer. The bomb detonated inside the trailer but no one was injured. The bomb squad disrupted the car bomb. Klebold’s car was repaired and, in 2006, put up for auction.
On the morning of April 21, bomb squads combed the high school. By 8:30a.m., the official death toll of 15 was released. The earlier estimate was ten over the true death toll count, but close to the total count of wounded students. The total count of deaths was 12 students (14 including the shooters) and one teacher; 20 students and one teacher were injured as a result of the shootings. Three more victims were injured indirectly as they tried to escape the school. It was then the worst school shooting in U.S. history. At 10:00a.m., the bomb squad declared the building safe for officials to enter. By 11:30a.m., a spokesman of the sheriff declared the investigation underway. Thirteen of the bodies were still inside the high school as investigators photographed the building. At 2:30p.m., a press conference was held by Jeffco District Attorney David Thomas and Sheriff John Stone, at which they said that they suspected others had helped plan the shooting. Formal identification of the dead had not yet taken place, but families of the children thought to have been killed had been notified. Throughout the late afternoon and early evening, the bodies were gradually removed from the school and taken to the Jeffco Coroner’s Office to be identified and autopsied. By 5:00p.m., the names of many of the dead were known. An official statement was released, naming the 15 confirmed deaths and 27 injuries related to the massacre. On April 22, the cafeteria bombs were discovered. In the days following the shootings, Rachel Scott’s car and John Tomlin’s truck became memorials, and impromptu memorials were held in Clement Park. There was controversy over whether Harris and Klebold should be memorialized. Some were opposed, saying that it glorified murderers, while others argued that Harris and Klebold were also victims. On April 30, carpenter Greg Zanis, atop a hill near Columbine High School, erected fifteen 6-foot-tall wooden crosses to honour those who had died at the school. Daniel Rohrbough’s father cut down the two meant for the gunmen, saying that murderers should not be memorialized in the same place as victims. There were also fifteen trees planted, and he cut down two of those as well. Also on April 30, high-ranking officials of Jefferson County (Jeffco) and the Jeffco Sheriff’s Office met to decide if they should reveal that Michael Guerra had drafted an affidavit for a search warrant of Harris’s residence more than a year before the shootings, based on his previous investigation of Harris’s website and activities. Since the affidavit’s contents lacked the necessary probable cause, they decided not to disclose this information at a press conference held on April 30, nor did they mention it in any other way. Over the next two years, Guerra’s original draft and investigative file documents were lost. In September 1999, a Jeffco 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 Jeffco archives. Their loss was termed “troubling” by a grand jury convened after the file’s existence was reported in April 2001. It was concealed by the Jeffco Sheriff’s Office and not revealed until September 2001, resulting from an investigation by the TV show “60 Minutes”. The documents were reconstructed and released to the public, but the original documents are still missing. The final grand-jury investigation was released in September 2004.
In the wake of the shooting, victims Rachel Scott and Cassie Bernall came to be regarded as Christian martyrs by Evangelical Christians. Christian churches used the martyr narrative of Scott’s and Bernall’s deaths to promote themselves and recruit members. The closest living witness to Scott’s death, Richard Castaldo, has stated Harris asked Scott if she believed in God, and murdered her after she answered “You know I do,” but this has been questioned and Castaldo later stated he was not sure. Considerable media attention focused upon Bernall, who had been killed by Harris in the library and who Harris was reported to have asked, “Do you believe in God?” immediately prior to her murder. Bernall was reported to have responded “Yes” to this question before her murder. Emily Wyant, the closest living witness to Bernall’s death, denied that Bernall and Harris had such an exchange. Joshua Lapp thought Bernall had been queried about her belief, but was unable to correctly point out where Bernall was located, and was closer to survivor Valeen Schnurr during the shootings. Likewise, another witness, Craig Scott, claimed the discussion was with Bernall. However, when asked to indicate where the conversation had been coming from, he pointed to where Schnurr was shot. Schnurr herself claims that she was the one questioned as to her belief in God. Six months after the shootings, Anne Marie Hochhalter’s mother killed herself. Several former students and teachers suffer from PTSD. Greg Barnes, a 17-year-old student who had witnessed Sanders’ shooting, committed suicide in May 2000. Survivor Austin Eubanks, who was injured during the shooting, became heavily medicated, developing an opioid addiction. Eventually overcoming and later speaking publicly about the addiction, Eubanks died from an accidental overdose in 2019 at the age of 37. The shooting was planned as a terrorist attack that would cause “the most deaths in U.S. history”, but the motive has never been ascertained with any degree of certainty. Soon after the massacre, it was thought Harris and Klebold targeted jocks, blacks, and Christians. Both sought to provide answers in the journals and videotapes, but investigators found them lacking. In a letter provided with the May 15 report on the Columbine attack, Sheriff John Stone and Undersheriff John A. Dunaway wrote they “cannot answer the most fundamental question — why?” On May 3, 1999, an issue of Newsweek was dedicated to the massacre, with the cover asking “Why?” in large print.
The FBI concluded that the killers were victims of mental illness, that Harris was a clinical psychopath, and Klebold was depressive. Dr. Dwayne Fuselier, the supervisor in charge of the Columbine investigation, would later remark: “I believe Eric went to the school to kill and didn’t care if he died, while Dylan wanted to die and didn’t care if others died as well.” By far the most prevalent theme in Klebold’s journals is his wish for suicide and private despair at his lack of success with women, which he refers to as an “infinite sadness.” Klebold had repeatedly documented his desires to kill himself, and his final remark in the Basement Tapes, shortly before the attack, is a resigned statement made as he glances away from the camera: “Just know I’m going to a better place. I didn’t like life too much.” The FBI’s theory was used by Dave Cullen for his 2009 book “Columbine”. Harris was depicted as the mastermind, having a messianic-level superiority complex and hoping to demonstrate his superiority to the world. Klebold was a follower who primarily participated in the massacre as a means to simply end his life. This theory has been met with criticism. Critics cite the fact that Klebold, not Harris, was the first to mention a killing spree in his journal. They also cite evidence that Harris was depressed as well, such as his prescription for antidepressants. There have been other attempts to diagnose Harris and Klebold with mental illness. Peter Langman believes Harris was a psychopath and Klebold was schizotypal. Professor Aubrey Immelman published a personality profile of Harris, based on journal entries and personal communication, and believes the materials suggested behaviour patterns consistent with a “malignant narcissism…pathological narcissistic personality disorder with borderline and antisocial features, along with some paranoid traits, and unconstrained aggression.” Opponents of contemporary psychiatry like Peter Breggin claim that the psychiatric medications prescribed to Harris may have exacerbated his aggressiveness. Toxicology reports confirmed that Harris had Luvox in his bloodstream at the time of the shootings, whereas Klebold had no medications in his system. Also as a part of diversion, Harris began therapy with a psychologist and a psychiatrist. In one scheduled meeting with his appointed psychiatrist, Harris had complained of depression, anger, and suicidal thoughts, for which he was prescribed the antidepressant Zoloft. However, after complaining of feeling restless and having trouble concentrating, his doctor switched him to Luvox, a similar selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI).
Harris also wanted to join the United States Marine Corps, but his application was rejected shortly before the shootings because he had taken Luvox. According to the recruiting officer, Harris did not know about this rejection, though Brooks Brown said that he did. Harris continued his scheduled meetings with his psychologist until a few months before the massacre. Harris and Klebold wrote some about how they would carry out the massacre, and less about why. Klebold penned a rough outline of plans to follow on April 20, and another slightly different one in a journal found in Harris’s bedroom. In one entry on his computer, Harris referenced the Oklahoma City bombing, and they mentioned their wish to outdo it by causing the most deaths in US history. They also mentioned how they would like to leave a lasting impression on the world with this kind of violence. Much speculation occurred over the date chosen for their attack. The original intended date of the attack may have been April 19; Harris required more ammunition from Mark Manes, who did not deliver it until the evening of April 19.
The attack occurred on Hitler’s birthday, which led to speculation in the media. Some people, such as Robyn Anderson, who knew the perpetrators, stated that the pair were not obsessed with Nazism nor did they worship or admire Hitler in any way. Anderson stated, in retrospect, that there were many things the pair did not tell friends. In his journal, Harris mentioned his admiration of what he imagined to be natural selection, did revere the Nazis, and wrote that he would like to put everyone in a super “Doom” game and see to it that the weak die and the strong live. On the day of the massacre. At the end of Harris’ last journal entry, he wrote:
“I hate you people for leaving me out of so many fun things. And no don’t … say, ‘Well that’s your fault,’ because it isn’t, you people had my phone number, and I asked and all, but no. No no no don’t let the weird-looking Eric KID come along, ooh fucking nooo.”
Klebold said on the Basement Tapes, “You’ve been giving us shit for years. You’re fucking gonna pay for all the shit! We don’t give a shit. Because we’re gonna die doing it.”
Early stories following the massacre charged that school administrators and teachers at Columbine had long condoned bullying by jocks and this explained the motive. The link between bullying and school violence has attracted increasing attention since. Accounts from various parents and school staffers describe bullying at the school as “rampant.” Nathan Vanderau, a friend of Klebold, and Alisa Owen, Harris’s eighth-grade science partner, reported that Harris and Klebold were constantly picked on. Vanderau noted that a “cup of fecal matter” was thrown at them. “People surrounded them in the commons and squirted ketchup packets all over them, laughing at them, calling them faggots,” Brooks Brown says. “That happened while teachers watched. They couldn’t fight back. They wore the ketchup all day and went home covered with it.” In his book, “No Easy Answers: The Truth Behind Death at Columbine”, Brown wrote that Harris was born with mild chest indent. This made him reluctant to take his shirt off in gym class, and other students would laugh at him.
“A lot of the tension in the school came from the class above us,” Chad Laughlin states. “There were people fearful of walking by a table where you knew you didn’t belong, stuff like that. Certain groups certainly got preferential treatment across the board. I caught the tail end of one really horrible incident, and I know Dylan told his mother that it was the worst day of his life.” That incident, according to Laughlin, involved seniors pelting Klebold with “ketchup-covered tampons” in the commons. However, other commentators have disputed the theory that bullying was the motivating factor.
A year after the massacre, an analysis by officials at the U.S. Secret Service of 37 premeditated school shootings found that bullying, which some of the shooters described “in terms that approached torment”, played the major role in more than two-thirds of the attacks. A similar theory was expounded by Brooks Brown in his book; he noted that teachers commonly ignored bullying and that whenever Harris and Klebold were bullied by the jocks at CHS, they would make statements such as: “Don’t worry, man. It happens all the time!” Cullen and others dispute the theory of “revenge for bullying” as a motivation. While acknowledging the pervasiveness of bullying in high schools including CHS, Cullen claimed they were not victims of bullying. He noted Harris was more often the perpetrator than victim of bullying. In a fact check published on April 19, 2019, on the eve of the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the massacre, Gillian Brockell in The Washington Post underscored that, contrary to the popular view, their attack was not revenge for being bullied. During and after the initial investigations, rejection was also highlighted as a cause. Social cliques within high schools such as the Trench Coat Mafia were widely discussed. One perception formed was that Harris and Klebold were both outcasts who had been isolated from their classmates, prompting feelings of helplessness, insecurity, and depression, as well as a strong need for power and attention. Klebold wrote in his journal, “The lonely man strikes with absolute rage.” In an interview, Brown described them as the school’s worst outcasts, “the losers of the losers.” This concept too has been questioned, as both Harris and Klebold had a close circle of friends and a wider informal social group. Cullen and Brockell both also say they were not in the Trench Coat Mafia and were not isolated outcasts or loners.
Some still have argued that the attacks were meant to be revolutionary. On the Basement Tapes, Harris claimed they would “kick-start a revolution,” and Klebold wore a Soviet Union pin on his boots during the massacre. Sociologist Ralph Larkin has theorized that the massacre was to trigger a revolution of outcast students and the dispossessed:
“[A]s an overtly political act in the name of oppressed students victimized by their peers.… The Columbine shootings redefined such acts not merely as revenge but as a means of protest of bullying, intimidation, social isolation, and public rituals of humiliation.”
Author Nick Turse likewise suggests that the massacre was a revolutionary act:
“Who would not concede that terrorizing the American machine, at the very site where it exerts its most powerful influence, is a truly revolutionary task?… [D]on’t dare disregard these modern radicals as anything less than the latest incarnation of disaffected insurgents waging the ongoing American revolution.”
In contrast with the theory that the attack was political, one author argues Columbine was only increasingly linked to terrorism after the September 11 attacks.
In his journal, Klebold wrote about his view that he and Harris were “god-like” and more highly evolved than every other human being, but his secret journal records self-loathing and suicidal intentions. Page after page was covered in hearts, as he was secretly in love with a Columbine student. Although both had difficulty controlling their anger, Klebold’s anger had led to his being more prone to serious trouble than Harris. After their arrest, which both recorded as the most traumatic thing they had ever experienced, Klebold wrote a letter to Harris, saying how they would have so much fun getting revenge and killing police, and how his wrath from the January arrest would be “god-like”. On the day of the massacre, Klebold wore a black T-shirt which had the word “WRATH” printed in red. It was speculated that revenge for the arrest was a possible motive for the attack, and that the pair planned on having a massive gun battle with police during the shooting. Klebold wrote that life was no fun without a little death, and that he would like to spend the last moments of his life in nerve-wracking twists of murder and bloodshed. He concluded by saying that he would kill himself afterward in order to leave the world that he hated and go to a better place. Klebold was described as being “hotheaded, but depressive and suicidal.” Some of the home-recorded videos, The Basement Tapes, have reportedly been destroyed by police. Harris and Klebold reportedly discussed their motives for the attacks in these videos and gave instructions in bomb making. Police cite the reason for withholding these tapes as an effort to prevent them from becoming “call-to-arms” and “how-to” videos that could inspire copycat killers. Some people have argued that releasing the tapes would be helpful, in terms of allowing psychologists to study them, which in turn could possibly help identify characteristics of future killers.
Initially, early reports described the members of the Trench Coat Mafia as also wearing German slogans and swastikas on their clothes. Additional media reports described the Trench Coat Mafia as a cult with ties to the Neo-Nazi movement which fuelled a media stigma and bias against the Trench Coat Mafia. The Trench Coat Mafia was a group of friends who hung out together, wore black trench coats, and prided themselves on being different from the ‘jocks’ who had been bullying the members and who also coined the name Trench Coat Mafia. The trench coat inadvertently became the members’ uniform after a mother of one of the members bought it as an inexpensive present. Investigation revealed that Harris and Klebold were only friends with one member of the group, Kristin Thiebault, and that most of the primary members of the Trench Coat Mafia had left the school by the time that Harris and Klebold committed the massacre. Most did not know the shooters, apart from their association with Thiebault, and none were considered suspects in the shootings or were charged with any involvement in the incident.
In the late 1990s, Marilyn Manson and his band established themselves as a household name, and as one of the most controversial rock acts in music history. Their two album releases prior to the massacre were both critical and commercial successes, and by the time of their Rock Is Dead Tour in 1999, the frontman had become a rallying icon for alienated youth. As their popularity increased, the confrontational nature of the group’s music and imagery outraged social conservatives. Numerous politicians lobbied to have their performances banned, citing false and exaggerated claims that they contained animal sacrifices, bestiality and rape. Their concerts were routinely picketed by religious advocates and parent groups, who asserted that their music had a corrupting influence on youth culture by inciting “rape, murder, blasphemy and suicide.” Immediately after the massacre, a significant portion of blame was directed at the band and, specifically, at its outspoken frontman. Early media reports alleged that the shooters were fans, and were wearing the group’s T-shirts during the massacre. Although these claims were later proven to be false, news outlets continued to run sensationalist stories with headlines such as “Killers Worshipped Rock Freak Manson” and “Devil-Worshipping Maniac Told Kids To Kill.”
Speculation in national media and among the public led many to believe that Manson’s music and imagery were the shooter’s sole motivation, despite reports that revealed that the two were not big fans. Despite this, Marilyn Manson were widely criticized by religious, political, and entertainment-industry figures. Under mounting pressure in the days after Columbine, the group postponed their last five North American tour dates out of respect for the victims and their families. On April 29, ten US senators (led by Sam Brownback of Kansas) sent a letter to Edgar Bronfman Jr. — the president of Seagram (the owner of Interscope) — requesting a voluntary halt to his company’s distribution to children of “music that glorifies violence.” The letter named Marilyn Manson for producing songs which “eerily reflect” the actions of Harris and Klebold. Later that day, the band cancelled their remaining North American shows. Two days later, Manson published his response to these accusations in a piece for Rolling Stone, titled “Columbine: Whose Fault Is It?”, in which he castigated America’s gun culture, the political influence of the National Rifle Association, and the media’s irresponsible coverage, which he said facilitated the placing of blame on a scapegoat, instead of debating more relevant societal issues.
On May 4, a hearing on the marketing and distribution of violent content to minors by the television, music, film and video-game industries was held by the United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. The committee heard testimony from former Secretary of Education (and co-founder of conservative violent entertainment watchdog group Empower America) William Bennett, the Archbishop of Denver Charles J. Chaput, professors and mental-health professionals. Speakers criticized the band and its label-mate Nine Inch Nails for their alleged contribution to a cultural environment enabling violence such as the Columbine shootings. The committee requested that the Federal Trade Commission and the United States Department of Justice investigate the entertainment industry’s marketing practices to minors. After concluding the European and Japanese legs of their tour on August 8, the band withdrew from public view to work on their next album, 2000’s “Holy Wood (In the Shadow of the Valley of Death)” as an artistic rebuttal to the allegations levelled against them. Manson appeared on an April 2001 episode of “The O’Reilly Factor”, where he once again denied that the band’s music was responsible for Columbine. Bill O’Reilly argued that “disturbed kids” without direction from responsible parents could misinterpret the message of his music as endorsing the belief that “when I’m dead everybody’s going to know me.” Manson responded:
“Well, I think that’s a very valid point and I think that it’s a reflection of, not necessarily this programme but of television in general, that if you die and enough people are watching you become a martyr, you become a hero, you become well known. So when you have these things like Columbine, and you have these kids who are angry and they have something to say and no one’s listening, the media sends a message that says if you do something loud enough and it gets our attention then you will be famous for it. Those kids ended up on the cover of Time magazine twice, the media gave them exactly what they wanted. That’s why I never did any interviews around that time when I was being blamed for it because I didn’t want to contribute to something that I found to be reprehensible.”
During the supporting tour for “Holy Wood”, Manson appeared in Michael Moore’s 2002 documentary, “Bowling for Columbine”; his appearance was filmed during the band’s first show in Denver since the shooting. When Moore asked Manson what he would have said to the students at Columbine he replied, “I wouldn’t say a single word to them. I would listen to what they have to say and that’s what no one did.”
Harris and Klebold were both big fans of the German bands KMFDM and Rammstein. Harris’s website contained lyrics from both artists, such as KMFDM’s “Son of a Gun”, “Stray Bullet”, and “Waste”, as well as translations for the songs done in German. In the same blog post which threatened Brown, Harris wrote: “I’ll just go to some downtown area…and blow up and shoot everything I can. Feel no remorse, no sense of shame.” The last sentence is a quote from the KMFDM song “Anarchy”. Klebold wrote in Harris’s yearbook “My wrath for January’s incident will be godlike,” and he wore a shirt saying “Wrath” during the massacre. “Wrath” and “Godlike” are songs by KMFDM. On April 20, 1999 KMFDM released the album “Adios”. Harris noted the coincidence of the album’s title and release date in his journal “a subliminal final ‘Adios’ tribute to Reb and Vodka. Thanks, KMFDM… I ripped the hell outa [sic] the system,” quoting “Godlike”. KMFDM’s frontman Sascha Konietzko responded to the controversy with a statement:
“First and foremost, KMFDM would like to express their deep and heartfelt sympathy for the parents, families and friends of the murdered and injured children in Littleton. We are sick and appalled, as is the rest of the nation, by what took place in Colorado yesterday. KMFDM are an art form — not a political party. From the beginning, our music has been a statement against war, oppression, fascism and violence against others. While some of the former band members are German as reported in the media, none of us condone any Nazi beliefs whatsoever.”
An April 22, 1999 Washington Post article described Harris and Klebold:
“They hated jocks, admired Nazis and scorned normalcy. They fancied themselves devotees of the Gothic subculture, even though they thrilled to the violence denounced by much of that fantasy world. They were white supremacists, but loved music by anti-racist rock bands.”
Parents of some of the victims filed several unsuccessful lawsuits against film companies, over films such as “The Basketball Diaries”, which includes a dream sequence with a student shooting his classmates in a trench coat. In the Basement Tapes, they debate on whether or not Steven Spielberg or Quentin Tarantino are appropriate choices to direct films about the massacre. Their home videos also show inspiration taken from “Pulp Fiction”. Both were fans of the film “Lost Highway”. “Apocalypse Now” was found in Harris’s VCR. They were avid fans of the movie “Natural Born Killers”, and used the film’s acronym, NBK, as a code for the massacre. In February 1998, Klebold envisioned a massacre with a girl like in the film, writing “Soon…either ill commit suicide, or I’ll get w. [redacted girl’s name] & it will be NBK for us.” In April 1998, Harris wrote “When I go NBK and people say things like “oh it was tragic” or “oh he is crazy!” or “It was so bloody.” I think, so…what you think that’s a bad thing?” In Harris’s yearbook Klebold wrote “the holy April morning of NBK.” Around February 1999, he wrote “maybe going “NBK” (gawd) w. eric is the way to break free.” In Harris’s last journal entry, he wrote “Everything I see and I hear I incorporate into NBK somehow…feels like a…movie sometimes.”
Violent video games were also blamed. Parents of some of the victims filed several unsuccessful lawsuits against video game manufacturers. Jerald Block believes their immersion in a virtual world best explains the massacre. While Brooks Brown disagrees that video games caused the massacre, he agrees elements of their plan came from video games. Harris and Klebold were both fans of shooter video games such as “Doom”, “Quake”, “Duke Nukem 3D” and “Postal”. A file on Harris’s computer read the massacre will “be like the LA riots, the Oklahoma bombing, WWII, Vietnam, Duke and Doom all mixed together.” In his last journal entry, Harris wished to “Get a few extra frags on the scoreboard.” After the massacre, it was alleged Harris created “Duke Nukem 3D” levels resembling CHS, but these were never found. They were avid fans of “Doom” especially. Harris said of the massacre, “It’s going to be like…Doom.” He also wrote “I must not be sidetracked by my feelings of sympathy…so I will force myself to believe that everyone is just another monster from Doom.” In Harris’s yearbook, Klebold wrote “I find a similarity between people and Doom zombies.” Harris named his shotgun Arlene after a character in the “Doom” novels. Harris said the shotgun was “straight out of Doom.” The TEC-9 Klebold used resembled an AB-10, a weapon from the “Doom” novels that Harris referenced several times. Harris spent a great deal of time creating a large WAD, named Tier (German for ‘animal’, and a song by Rammstein), calling it his “life’s work.” The WAD was uploaded to the Columbine school computer and to AOL shortly before the attack. The other game mentioned specifically by Harris for what the massacre would be like was “Duke Nukem 3D”. The game has pipe bombs and one of the enemies is the “pig cop.” Brooks Brown wrote that pipe bombs were set in the halls of the school with the intention of causing a chain reaction, because that’s what happens in “Duke Nukem 3D”. Brown also wrote they shot wildly because it works in “Duke Nukem 3D”.
Following the Columbine shooting, schools across the United States instituted new security measures such as see-through backpacks, metal detectors, school uniforms, and security guards. Some schools implemented the numbering of school doors in order to improve public safety response. Several schools throughout the country resorted to requiring students to wear computer-generated IDs. Schools also adopted a zero tolerance approach to possession of weapons and threatening behaviour by students. Despite the effort, several social science experts feel the zero tolerance approach adopted in schools has been implemented too harshly, with unintended consequences creating other problems. Despite the safety measures that were implemented in the wake of the tragedy at Columbine, school shootings continued to take place in the United States, including shootings at Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook Elementary School, and Stoneman Douglas High School. Some schools renewed existing anti-bullying policies. Rachel’s Challenge was started by Rachel Scott’s parents, and lectures schools about bullying and suicide. Police departments reassessed their tactics and now train for Columbine-like situations after criticism over the slow response and progress of the SWAT teams during the shooting. Police followed a traditional tactic at Columbine: surround the building, set up a perimeter, and contain the damage. That approach has been replaced by a tactic known as the Immediate Action Rapid Deployment tactic. This tactic calls for a four-person team to advance into the site of any ongoing shooting, optimally a diamond-shaped wedge, but even with just a single officer if more are not available. Police officers using this tactic are trained to move toward the sound of gunfire and neutralize the shooter as quickly as possible. Their goal is to stop the shooter at all costs; they are to walk past wounded victims, as the aim is to prevent the shooter from killing or wounding more. Dave Cullen has stated: “The active protocol has proved successful at numerous shootings… At Virginia Tech alone, it probably saved dozens of lives.”
In 2000, youth advocate Melissa Helmbrecht organized a remembrance event in Denver featuring two surviving students, called “A Call to Hope.” The library where most of the massacre took place was removed and replaced with an atrium. In 2001, a new library, the HOPE memorial library, was built next to the west entrance. On February 26, 2004, thousands of pieces of evidence from the massacre were put on display at the Jeffco fairgrounds in Golden. A permanent memorial “to honour and remember the victims of the April 20, 1999 shootings at Columbine High School” began planning in June 1999, and was dedicated on September 21, 2007, in Clement Park. The memorial fund raised $1.5 million in donations over eight years of planning. Designing took three and a half years and included feedback from victims’ families, survivors, the high school’s students and staff, and the community. Soon after the massacre, music students at CU Boulder raised money to commission a piece of music to honour Columbine. The university band turned to Frank Ticheli, who responded by composing the wind ensemble work “An American Elegy”. The following year, the Columbine band premiered the piece at CU Boulder’s concert hall. As of 2019, Ticheli’s sheet music publisher estimates “An American Elegy” has been performed 10,000 times.
The shooting resulted in calls for more gun control measures. The gun show loophole and background checks became a focus of a national debate. It was the deadliest mass shooting during the era of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban. Victim Daniel Mauser’s father Tom Mauser has become a gun control advocate. In 2000, federal and state legislation was 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 minors, there was considerable controversy over legislation pertaining to background checks at gun shows. There was concern in the gun lobby over restrictions on Second Amendment rights in the United States. Frank Lautenberg introduced a proposal to close the gun show loophole in federal law. It was passed in the Senate, but did not pass in the House. In 2019, the MyLastShot Project was launched as a student-led gun violence prevention resource. The campaign was created by students from Columbine High School, and involves students placing stickers on their driver’s licenses, student ID’s, or phones that states their wishes to have the graphic photos of their bodies publicized if they die in a shooting.
The Columbine shootings influenced subsequent school shootings, with several such plots mentioning it. Fear of copycats has sometimes led to the closing of entire school districts. Since Columbine, over 74 copycat cases have been reported, 21 of which resulted in attacks, while the rest were thwarted by law enforcement. In many of them, the perpetrators cited Harris and Klebold as heroes or martyrs. Harris and Klebold have become what the Napa Valley Register have called “cultural icons” for troubled youth. According to psychiatrist E. Fuller Torrey of the Treatment Advocacy Center, a legacy of the Columbine shootings is its “allure to disaffected youth.” Sociologist Ralph Larkin examined twelve major school shootings in the US in the following eight years and found that in eight of those, “the shooters made explicit reference to Harris and Klebold.” Larkin wrote that the Columbine massacre established a “script” for shootings. “Numerous post-Columbine rampage shooters referred directly to Columbine as their inspiration; others attempted to supersede the Columbine shootings in body count.” A 2015 investigation by CNN identified “more than 40 people…charged with Columbine-style plots.” A 2014 investigation by ABC News identified “at least 17 attacks and another 36 alleged plots or serious threats against schools since the assault on Columbine High School that can be tied to the 1999 massacre.” Ties identified by ABC News included online research by the perpetrators into the Columbine shooting, clipping news coverage and images of Columbine, explicit statements of admiration of Harris and Klebold, such as writings in journals and on social media, in video posts, and in police interviews, timing planned to an anniversary of Columbine, plans to exceed the Columbine victim counts, and other ties. In 2015, journalist Malcolm Gladwell writing in “The New Yorker” magazine proposed a threshold model of school shootings in which Harris and Klebold were the triggering actors in “a slow-motion, ever-evolving riot, in which each new participant’s action makes sense in reaction to and in combination with those who came before.”
The first copycat may have been the W. R. Myers High School shooting, just eight days after Columbine, when a 14-year-old Canadian student went into his school at lunchtime with a sawed-off .22 rifle under his dark blue trench coat, and opened fire, killing one student. A month after the massacre, Heritage High School in Conyers, Georgia had a shooting which Attorney General Janet Reno called a Columbine “copycat”. A friend of Harris and Klebold, Eric Veik, was arrested after threatening to “finish the job” at CHS in October 1999. In 2001, 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 and played it off as a joke. In 2005, Jeff Weise, a teenager wearing a trench coat, killed his grandfather, who was a police officer, and his girlfriend. He took his grandfather’s weapon and his squad car, and drove to his former high school in Red Lake and murdered several students before killing himself. In an apparent reference to Columbine, he asked one student if they believed in God. The perpetrator of the Dawson College shooting wrote a note praising Harris and Klebold. Convicted students Brian Draper and Torey Adamcik of Pocatello High School in Idaho, who murdered their classmate Cassie Jo Stoddart, mentioned Harris and Klebold in their homemade videos, and were reportedly planning a “Columbine-like” shooting. The perpetrator of the Emsdetten school shooting praised Harris in his diary. In November 2007, Pekka-Eric Auvinen imitated Columbine with a shooting in Jokela in Tuusula, Finland. He wore a shirt that said “Humanity is Overrated” and attempted to start a fire inside the school but failed. In December 2007, a man killed two at a Youth With A Mission centre in Arvada, Colorado and another two at the New Life Church in Colorado Springs before killing himself. He quoted Harris prior to the attack under the heading “Christianity is YOUR Columbine”. In a self-made video recording sent to the news media by Seung-Hui Cho prior to his committing the Virginia Tech shootings, he referred to the Columbine massacre as an apparent motivation. In the recording, he wore a backwards baseball cap and referred to Harris and Klebold as “martyrs.” Adam Lanza, the perpetrator of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, had “an obsession with mass murders, in particular, the April 1999 shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado.” The Tumblr fandom of the Columbine shooters gained widespread media attention in February 2015 after three of its members conspired to commit a mass shooting at a Halifax mall on Valentine’s Day. In 2017, two 15-year-old school boys from Northallerton in England were charged with conspiracy to murder after becoming infatuated with the crime and “hero-worshipping” Harris and Klebold. The Santa Fe High School shooting, in which ten people were killed, strongly resembled the Columbine massacre; the perpetrator, Dimitrios Pagourtzis, used a pump-action shotgun and homemade explosives, wore similar clothing as Harris and Klebold (including a black trench coat and combat boots) and reportedly yelled “Surprise!” to a victim during the shooting, a possible reference to the library massacre at Columbine. The Kerch Polytechnic College massacre appears to be a copycat crime. The shooter wore a white shirt which said “Hatred” (in Russian), one fingerless glove, planted bombs, and committed suicide with a shotgun in the library.
Although early media reports attributed the shootings to a desire for revenge on the part of Harris and Klebold for bullying that they received, subsequent psychological analysis indicated Harris and Klebold harboured serious psychological problems. Harris and Klebold were never diagnosed with any mental disorders, which is overwhelmingly uncommon in mass shooters. According to Supervisory Special Agent Dwayne Fuselier, the FBI’s lead Columbine investigator and a clinical psychologist, Harris exhibited a pattern of grandiosity, contempt, and lack of empathy or remorse, distinctive traits of psychopaths that Harris concealed through deception. Fuselier adds that Harris engaged in mendacity not merely to protect himself, as Harris rationalized in his journal, but also for pleasure, as seen when Harris expressed his thoughts in his journal regarding how he and Klebold avoided prosecution for breaking into a van. Other leading psychiatrists concur that Harris was a psychopath. According to psychologist Peter Langman, Klebold displayed signs of schizotypal personality disorder – he struck many people as odd due to his shy nature, appeared to have had disturbed thought processes and constantly misused language in unusual ways as evidenced by his journal. He appeared to have been delusional, viewed himself as “god-like”, and wrote that he was “made a human without the possibility of BEING human.” He was also convinced that others hated him and felt like he was being conspired against, even though according to many reports, Klebold was loved by his family and friends.
After the massacre, many survivors and relatives of deceased victims filed lawsuits. Under Colorado state law at the time, the maximum a family could receive in a lawsuit against a government agency was $600,000. Most cases against the Jeffco police department and school district were dismissed by the federal court on the grounds of government immunity. The case against the sheriff’s office regarding the death of Dave Sanders was not dismissed due to the police preventing paramedics from going to his aid for hours after they knew the gunmen were dead. The case was settled out of court in August 2002 for $1,500,000. In April 2001, the families of more than 30 victims received a $2,538,000 settlement in their case against the families of Harris, Klebold, Manes, and Duran. Under the terms of the settlement, the Harrises and the Klebolds contributed $1,568,000 through their homeowners’ policies, with another $32,000 set aside for future claims; the Manes contributed $720,000, with another $80,000 set aside for future claims; and the Durans contributed $250,000, with an additional $50,000 available for future claims. The family of victim Shoels rejected this settlement, but in June 2003 were ordered by a judge to accept a $366,000 settlement in their $250-million lawsuit against the shooters’ families. In August 2003, the families of victims Fleming, Kechter, Rohrbough, Townsend, and Velasquez received undisclosed settlements in a wrongful death suit against the Harrises and Klebolds.
Sue Klebold, mother of Klebold, initially was in denial about Klebold’s involvement in the massacre, believing he was tricked by Harris into doing it, among other things. Six months later, she saw the Basement Tapes made by Harris and Klebold, and acknowledged that Klebold was equally responsible for the killings. She spoke about the Columbine High School massacre publicly for the first time in an essay that appeared in the October 2009 issue of “O: The Oprah Magazine”. In the piece, Klebold wrote: “For the rest of my life, I will be haunted by the horror and anguish Dylan caused”, and “Dylan changed everything I believed about myself, about God, about family, and about love.” Stating that she had no clue of her son’s intentions, she said, “Once I saw his journals, it was clear to me that Dylan entered the school with the intention of dying there.” In Andrew Solomon’s 2012 book “Far from the Tree”, she acknowledged that on the day of the massacre, when she discovered that Klebold was one of the shooters, she prayed he would kill himself. “I had a sudden vision of what he might be doing. And so while every other mother in Littleton was praying that her child was safe, I had to pray that mine would die before he hurt anyone else.”
In February 2016, Klebold published a memoir, titled “A Mother’s Reckoning”, about her experiences before and after the massacre. It was co-written by Laura Tucker and included an introduction by National Book Award winner Andrew Solomon. It received very favourable reviews, including from the New York Times Book Review. It peaked at No. 2 on the New York Times bestseller list. On February 2, 2017, Klebold posted a TED Talk titled, “My Son Was A Columbine Shooter. This Is My Story.” As of March 2021, the video has over 11.5 million views. The site listed Klebold’s occupation as “activist”, and stated: “Sue Klebold has become a passionate agent working to advance mental health awareness and intervention.”
ITV describes the legacy of Harris and Klebold as deadly, as they have inspired several instances of mass killings in the United States. Author of Columbine, Dave Cullen, called Harris and Klebold the fathers of the movement for disenfranchised youth. Harris and Klebold have also, as CNN referred to, left their inevitable mark on pop culture. The Columbine shooting influenced several subsequent school shootings, with many praising Harris and Klebold, referring to them as martyrs, heroes or Gods. A 2015 investigation by CNN identified “more than 40 people…charged with Columbine-style plots.” A 2014 investigation by ABC News identified “at least 17 attacks and another 36 alleged plots or serious threats against schools since the assault on Columbine High School that can be tied to the 1999 massacre.” Ties identified by ABC News included online research by the perpetrators into the Columbine shooting, clipping news coverage and images of Columbine, explicit statements of admiration of Harris and Klebold, such as writings in journals and on social media, in video posts, and in police interviews, timing planned to an anniversary of Columbine, plans to exceed the Columbine victim counts, and other ties. 60 mass shootings have been carried out, where the perpetrators had made at least a single reference to Harris and Klebold. In 2015, journalist Malcolm Gladwell writing in “The New Yorker” magazine proposed a threshold model of school shootings in which Harris and Klebold were the triggering actors in “a slow-motion, ever-evolving riot, in which each new participant’s action makes sense in reaction to and in combination with those who came before.”
Harris and Klebold have also spawned a fandom who call themselves “Columbiners,”. While some just have a scholarly interest in the pair or the event, the vast majority of these individuals, mostly young women, express a sympathetic, or sometimes even sexual interest, in Harris and Klebold. There has been homoerotic art drawn of the two, fan fiction created on the pair’s future together had they not gone through with the shooting and costumes created on the outfits Harris and Klebold sported the day of the shootings. “I relate to their feelings of hopelessness, being angry and not being able to change it, and wanting to be accepted and appreciated,” an 18 year old Tumblr user wrote on Harris and Klebold. “No one noticed they were struggling, and no one took their suffering seriously,” added another user. News site, “All That’s Interesting” said on the fandom, “Many of these Columbiners have no positive feelings about the massacre, but are instead focused on the troubled inner lives of its perpetrators because they see themselves in them.” The fandom has received much criticism, by allegedly inspiring shooting plots by heroizing Harris and Klebold, such as the Halifax mass shooting plot. An article published in 2015 in the Journal of Transformative Works, a scholarly journal which focuses on the sociology of fandoms, noted that Columbiners were not fundamentally functionally different from more mainstream fandoms. Columbiners create fan art and fan fiction, even cosplaying the pair, and have a scholarly interest in the shooting.
“Columbine” has since become a euphemism for a school shooting, rather like “going postal” is for workplace violence. Columbine students Jonathan and Stephen Cohen wrote a song called “Friend of Mine (Columbine)”, which briefly received airplay in the US after being performed at a memorial service broadcast on nationwide television. The song was pressed to CD, with the proceeds benefiting families affected by the massacre, and over 10,000 copies were ordered. Shortly following the release of the CD single, the song was also featured on the “Lullaby for Columbine” CD.
In the 2003 Ben Coccio film “Zero Day”, which was inspired by the Columbine shooting, the two shooters are played by Andre Kriegman and Cal Gabriel and called “Andre and Calvin” after their actors. In 2005, game designer Danny Ledonne created a role-playing video game where the player assumes the role of Harris and Klebold during the massacre, entitled “Super Columbine Massacre RPG!”. The game received substantial media backlash for allegedly glorifying the pair’s actions. The father of one victim remarked to the press that the game “disgusts me. You trivialize the actions of two murderers and the lives of the innocent.”
“Hey mom. Gotta go. It’s about a half an hour before our little judgment day. I just wanted to apologize to you guys for any crap this might instigate as far as (inaudible) or something. Just know I’m going to a better place. I didn’t like life too much and I know I’ll be happy wherever the fuck I go. So I’m gone. Good-bye. Reb…” – Dylan Klebold
“Yea… Everyone I love, I’m really sorry about all this. I know my mom and dad will be just like.. just fucking shocked beyond belief. I’m sorry, all right. I can’t help it.” – Eric Harris
If you want to watch a documentary on the Columbine High School Massacre then just check out the video below: