Written by Liam Bird
Murder, the subject of today’s show; what does it mean? Murder could simply be taken in its legal definition as the unlawful killing of a human being with the intention to kill that human being or cause really serious harm to them. But does that really encompass the impact of murder though? Is the only impact of murder the life it so cruelly snubs?
Murders can have impacts far beyond the unfortunate demise of a victim, they can cast doubt on entire organisations such as resulted from Harold Shipman. They can ramp up paranoia across entire cityscapes such as happened with Charles Manson. They can spawn legends such as we saw from Jack the Ripper. Murders ruin lives, they ruin towns, they ruin that sense of safety you feel when you’re going around your ordinary everyday life.
Today’s topic of Casual Criminalist not only affected its victims, their families, or the town they lived in; but it has impacted an entire country. Even today its name is synonymous with a single horrific event…. Columbine.
The Bowling Alley
Unfortunately, we must start today’s episode with a content warning due to how traumatising the event was for so many people. Today’s episode will be discussing a school shooting, where the perpetrators were one child and one young adult and many of the victims were themselves children. We will be engaging with this event in a respectful way and we will not be engaging in any detail beyond the detail we need to establish to tell their story. Having said this, I’ve found that particularly when dealing with mass shootings a certain level of detail has to be included. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold not only ended their victims’ lives but they also took great joy in tormenting many of them before killing them. I felt it was best to note that here.
Now it’s time to set the scene. Littleton, Colorado is a rather small sunny town, the 20th most populous municipality in the State of Colorado. Like many towns in the local area, Littleton was founded on the hopes of intrepid gold-seekers of the Pike’s Peak Gold Rush back in 1859. In 1961, Littleton was twinned with Bega in Australia but this is where the innocent history ends for this small town.The remainder of the history written about Littleton are all dominated by today’s subject matter, Littleton has truly become a town that is a victim of its most infamous crime.
Eric David Harris was born in Wichita, Kansas on April 9th 1981. His family relocated often with his father being an Air Force transport pilot. In 1993, Eric’s family relocated from New York to Littleton on his father’s retirement. While in Littleton, Eric would live in rented accommodation with his family for the first three years and it was at this time that he would meet Dylan Klebold at Ken Caryl Middle School.
Dylan Bennet Klebold was born on September 11th 1981 in the nearby city of Lakewood where his parents were devoted members of the Lutheran church in which both Dylan and his older brother Byron attended confirmation classes. At the time, Dylan was noted by several friends as finding the transition to Middle School difficult and it was common knowledge by people who knew the pair that Dylan and Eric would never be found far from one another, often even wearing the same caps in the same style.
Now, it’d be far too simple for me to just tell you why most people think Dylan and Eric carried out the massacre. Instead, I am going to explore the different sources of evidence we have to their mindset, with you. We have quite a lot of information here as to what the criminals were thinking as time passed. After we explore all of this we will then cover the tragic events of that day before then exploring the consequences of that event, including reminding us all why the media is the worst invention humankind has ever come up with. So, let’s start by exploring the different sources of information we have.
Eric kept a blog online where he documented many of his misdeeds throughout his formative years. It would be on this blog that both he and Dylan would use to muse about their inner thoughts. There was also a set of journals kept by Eric and Dylan where they documented their planning for the upcoming attack and wrote about their role models from history. Included among this list of role models were prominent Nazis and Charles Manson. If you want to find out more as to how this was a massive blaring red flag then please go view our Casual Criminalist on Charles Manson. The final and by far most disturbing record of the pair’s inner thoughts are simply referred to as the “basement tapes.”
These tapes are referred to in this way as they were discovered in the Harris family basement after the massacre which also formed the background for most of them. Five videotapes were produced; two published by the press and three destroyed by the police. If you know where to look you can even find the two released videos and transcripts of the destroyed ones available online. I strongly recommend against this as they are very disturbing. Before destruction the three now extinct tapes were shown to the victim’s families and of course, the insidious press. The final, sixth tape is a separate variety, known as the “Nixon tape” that was recorded on the morning of the attack and discovered immediately after the attack. We will be going through the details of each of these disturbing windows into Eric and Dylan’s psyche before covering the actual events of April 20th 1999.
One Or Two Big Red Flags
Both Eric and Dylan had had encounters with the local police before starting in 1996. 15-year-old Eric had created a private website on the relic of the dark ages known as AOL. (If you don’t know what AOL is then imagine Microsoft Edge but worse…. In every single way) As would be hyper-focused upon by the media, this website had originally been created to host levels for the first-person shooter games Doom and Doom II. However, in time Eric would create a blog on the website where he would document his misdeeds.
This began innocently enough with Eric documenting himself sneaking out the house to commit relatively simple acts of vandalism which normally involved nothing beyond lighting fireworks and aiming them at dustbins. Anybody who’s grown up in England and remembers a football match can imagine what this looks like. For any foreign listeners or viewers, it has been a long-established tradition in the United Kingdom that football fans celebrate a victory, loss, goal, penalty or entry into a football pitch by lighting a firework and aiming it at a dustbin, such was proclaimed by Henry the eighth or something like that.
Leaving the long-established British traditions aside, the important thing to note here is that even in this earliest of offending we can see the connections form. Eric’ first posts about sneaking out of the house to commit vandalism all mention that he did this alongside Dylan. At this point you may be thinking, “okay Liam fair enough they’ve committed crimes, but why would that be a massive red warning sign?” Well thank you Simon for your insightful and intelligent question, this is a warning sign as the vandalism isn’t what got them caught. In 1997, they began posting to the blog instructions on how to construct explosives, but our budding anarchist manifesto enthusiasts weren’t done there. Not long after this, Eric began posting murderous fantasies creatively entitled “all I want to do is kill and injure as many of you as I can, especially a few people. Like Brooks Brown.” For context, Brown was one of Eric’s classmates. Yes, there will be those that argue there was no way to see these things coming, but Eric literally made a post stating his exact intentions.
At this point, you might come back with “yes but Liam, you can’t expect the police to investigate every weirdo on the internet.” You’d be entirely correct, except for the fact that Brooks Brown’s family saw the post, reported the post and an official police investigation was carried out. A draft affidavit was even written to request a search warrant; unfortunately, this affidavit was never sent to a judge. If it had been, threats of death are highly likely to mean it would have been granted. It is debatable as to whether Eric and Dylan had begun planning the attack at this stage, but it couldn’t have hurt to check. This would unfortunately be only the first big red flag that was missed. Immediately after the attack, this site would become the focus of the media searching for any way to explain the carnage. All of the declarations of intent to kill would be completely ignored, instead focusing on the original intent of the site, being hosting levels of Doom. This singlehandedly led to the narrative that video games were responsible for the attack.
The second run-in with the police that both Eric and Dylan faced occurred in 1998. They were arrested for breaking into a white van and stealing tools and computer equipment which resulted in them later pleading guilty to felony theft. As a result of this, they were both placed on a juvenile diversion program, meaning they were allowed to continue attending school. While in this program, both were mandated to attend anger management classes which they were dismissed from early for good behaviour.
Eric and Dylan had learnt from this however, in both of the above scenarios they were caught thanks to the blog (they had posted about the theft on there). They would not make this mistake again.
After the theft prosecution, they continued using their website solely for hosting levels of Doom and instead began writing about their thoughts in journals, one of the earliest entries into Eric’s journal is most telling of their extremely disturbed mental state.
Early on, Eric detailed a plan for the massacre. In this plan he wrote that after escaping the massacre he and Dylan would escape to a foreign country or hijack a plane at Denver International Airport and crash it into New York City. Dylan kept notes even earlier than Eric however, starting back in March 1997. Most of these notes had been innocent up until just after the incident with the blog. His first mentions of a possible massacre were found in November of that year.
It was during this journal period that we got the deepest glimpse into the mind of a killer. I am not a qualified sociologist but I do have a history in Criminological research, one thing we often see with killers is the power fantasy element. Most clearly shown by somebody like Harold Shipman, they have the ultimate power over life and death, we also often see this as an almost sexual excitement for the killers. We see this in Eric, he wrote several times about his sexuality, namely his fantasy of kidnapping, raping, and cannibalizing random women. The first entries on this were made only a month after Eric began writing in his journal.
So, at this point Eric and Dylan have had their first run-in with the law, you may be worried dear viewer that they have grown a few brain cells and are no longer going to be publicising their intention… you’d be wrong.
Both Dylan and Eric were known to include their violent inclinations in their schoolwork, most notable in December 1997. Eric received a creative writing project that required him to write a poem about school life. The title of his poem was almost fittingly “Guns in School” which was a poem from the perspective of a bullet involved in a school shooting. Dylan similarly wrote a short story about a man killing students, an event that worried a teacher so much that she told his parents. It should be noted that Eric’s poem did not result in any sort of punishment or sanction. It is not known whether Dylan’s parents took any action but it is known that they did not report this to the police. After all, their son had only expressed the intention to kill a teammate three months ago. That can’t still be relevant right?
Okay, at this point yes I may be a bit harsh to the parents. I do want to recognize that any parent is going to view their child with hope and it’s very understandable why parents in situations such as these don’t alert anybody. They are just hoping it’s nothing but it is still painful to see how close Dylan and Eric came to having this entire tragedy halted.
Even with that intermission, there were unfortunately even more warning signs in their other school projects. In history, Eric wrote a paper on the Nazis glorifying their ideas of selecting who would live and die and Dylan had written a paper on Charles Manson, glorifying the power he held over the people around him. Again, we can see the growing fascination with having power in both of these examples. The most damning warning sign however came in psychology; Eric was asked to write a paper about his dreams and aspirations. In response, Eric wrote a paper detailing his dream of going on a school shooting with Dylan. In this paper there would be frightening levels of similarity with the actual attack, including detailed descriptions of several experimental bomb detonations. This paper resulted in no action, neither did the paper on the Nazis or even Charles Manson.
The final public activities Dylan and Eric engaged in that could be construed as a warning sign was their yearbooks. For the 1998 yearbook, Dylan wrote a note for Eric “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 the slang term for the school cafeteria which would soon be a key location for the upcoming carnage. Again, this yearbook comment was widely seen by others in the school and yet again, no action was taken.
So far we’ve covered what Eric and Dylan posted online, in their schoolwork and in their private journals; now we shall cover the infamous basement tapes. Dear viewer, if you felt that what we saw previously was a warning sign, then this is a flare gun that’s already been fired twice, missed, and hit a pig that’s currently screaming into a megaphone.
There is however even more material that gives us a window into the minds of these two soon to be killers. Both Eric and Dylan were taking video production classes at school, during these classes a school owned camera would be loaned to students who could film anything. The school did not check what was recorded by students at all which resulted in the five “basement tapes.” The five tapes are “Hitmen for Hire”, “Rampart Range”, “Radioactive Clothing”, “Reb’s tape” and a tape only known as evidence item #265. The first two of these may be found in the darker parts of the internet, the first minutes of “Radioactive Clothing” may be found and the transcripts of both “Reb’s Tape” and evidence item #265 may be found online.
I am not going to be going into great detail over each of these tapes here for the sake of this post not lasting 2 hours. Instead, I will be going over each, briefly and letting you know the more important things from each.
The first relevant tape filmed by the pair was “Hitmen for hire.”. “Hitmen for Hire” was a fictional story that placed Dylan and Eric as hitmen working for the “Trench Coat Mafia.” In the video, they walked through the school in black trench coats with fake guns extorting money for protecting people from bullies. This video and its footage are especially chilling as they wore the same outfits on the day of the massacre. This video was produced by Eric and Dylan for a school assignment for business class in which they were tasked with making an ad for a small local business. Yet again it is amazing how nobody thought of reporting them to the police. If the police had been called and investigated at all then they would have discovered an already growing stockpile of guns.
The second tape which the pair filmed was “Rampart Range”. In this tape they went to a makeshift firing range and practised using the guns that would be used in the real massacre. Towards the end of this video, it cut to Eric’s home where Eric then forced Dylan to say a goodbye message to his family before he then ends the recording with “that’s it, sorry, goodbye.” At the end of this tape there is a second piece of footage spliced in which showed an image of the letters “CHS”, along with a bomb with a lit fuse. The word clue was written under this image in bold which later was determined by police that this last bit of footage was taken only about 30 minutes before the attack.
The third tape that was filmed was the tape only known as evidence item #265. This is the first of the tapes that the authorities destroyed rather than released. In the transcript of this tape, we can see that the pair discussed their plans, referring to it as their “masterpiece.” They also refer to individuals who helped them get their weapons as “John and Jane Doe” before discussing individual classmates who they hoped would be there when they launched their attack.
The final tape filmed before the attack was “Reb’s Tape,” “Reb” being the nickname for Eric. In this tape, they discuss how they had been planning the attack for just over eight months and say that they are on their way to get the rest of their “gear.” In this tape, Eric also shows his journal, which he refers to as the “Writings of God.” The tape ends with Eric showing the drawings he made at the end of his journal; these drawings have never been disclosed publicly but were referred to by the police as the “Doom drawings.”
The fifth tape is “Radioactive Clothing.” This tape has been released in part and is considered to be part of the basement tapes as it was found on the same tape as “Reb’s Tape.” Although I personally do not class it in the same category as it was only a school project from the year before. Interestingly, this tape showed that not every school project Dylan and Eric completed was a gore enthusiast wet dream. This tape told the story of a town being struck by a nuclear weapon and all the clothes in the town coming to life. The clothes would then interact with each other in a way to demonstrate how different cliches at school were separated by just their clothing. An example often pointed to is that the “jocks” at Columbine were known for wearing white caps.
That ends our discussion of how we know the level of detail we do; I felt the need to place all of this information before the shooting for one simple fact. The Columbine massacre is one which countless people have guessed at Dylan and Eric’s reasoning, it is also one that people have said was sudden and out of the blue. I hope that showing all of this information can show how, at least in my view, these two were simply unhinged people who idealised power. Or that secondly, there were so many red flags that Lenin would be jealous. I also wanted to place this information first as I have seen lots of people discuss the “Basement tapes” but not engage with what you’ll find in them or what they tell us.
April 20th 1999
On the morning of April 20th 1999, Eric and Dylan loaded Eric’s car with a small arsenal of weapons. In the eight months before the attack they had gathered two 9mm firearms, two 12-gauge shotguns and had made a total of 99 separate explosives ranging from pipe bombs to Molotov cocktails. Eric had even attempted to create his own version of napalm for use in a homemade flamethrower which thankfully this failed. One of the 9mm rifles and both of the shotguns had been bought at a gun show for Dylan and Eric by a mutual friend, Robyn Anderson. Anderson would later claim that she only believed they wanted the guns for target shooting and despite buying the guns illegally for two (at the time) underaged individuals, she was not charged with a crime.
After loading their arsenal into Eric’s car, they then built a makeshift car bomb out of two 20-pound propane canisters. After finishing up at Eric’s house they then made their way to a nearby Texaco gas station. Here, they were seen at 9:12 am on a security camera purchasing more propane canisters.
From Texaco, it is believed that both Eric and Dylan made their way to the school and once there they placed several makeshift bombs around the grounds. Their car bomb was set on a makeshift timer and they placed their backpacks in the cafeteria with each having a timer detonated bomb in them and they also placed bombs in a field about 3 miles from the school. This final bomb was intended to start a fire and distract the emergency services.
When they finished placing their bombs they each changed clothes into the black duster coats that would gain such an unfortunate association that day. The next time we see either of them is at 11:15 am in the junior student parking lot where Eric had returned separately to Dylan after placing the bomb in the field. Upon return he would be spotted by classmate Brooks Brown, who you may remember was the same classmate Eric had threatened to kill two years before in 1997. Brooks made his way over to Eric’s car and asked why he had missed a test which he had sat that morning. It was then that Eric gave his harrowing response. Eric simply said “It doesn’t matter anymore. Brooks, I like you now. Get out of here. Go home.” Fortunately, Brooks and Eric had recently patched things together in the months leading up to the shooting.
On hearing Eric’s ominous statement Brooks did not need much convincing as he had already planned to skip the next class. As a result, Brooks left the school grounds immediately, as he was walking on foot though, he would be close enough to hear what was about to happen. By now, Dylan had arrived and made his way past Brown on the way to Eric. When they regrouped, each made their final preparations as they armed themselves by placing their guns in homemade holsters which were hidden under their duster coats. They also filled backpacks and duffel bags with more ammunition and pipe bombs. Finally, each made sure that their shirts were visible, with Eric’s saying “Natural selection” in black lettering and Dylan’s saying “Wrath” in red lettering. This was the no going back moment; the moment they had been building towards for 8 months.
The massacre’s start had luckily not gone to plan however as none of the bombs in the cafeteria had detonated. At that time there were 488 students in the packed cafeteria and an unknown amount in the library above. The bombs had been placed next to the support beams and it is highly likely that had they gone off they would have dropped the library onto the cafeteria. Thankfully it appeared that neither Eric nor Dylan paid enough attention in chemistry class.
Meanwhile, 17-year-old Rachel Scott and her friend Richard Castaldo (also 17) were having lunch on a stretch of grass not far from the west entrance to the school. While having their lunch they noticed what they thought was a prank. Dylan had thrown a pipe bomb towards the car park that had partially detonated causing a lot of smoke and, unfortunately, at this point in time nobody thought anything of it. Witness reports then state that Eric and Dylan were heard shouting “Go! Go!” at which point they pulled their guns from their coats and began shooting. Rachel Scott became the first victim of the massacre, being shot four times by Eric’s carbine. Castaldo was then shot eight times causing him to fall unconscious to the ground and has been left paralyzed below the chest ever since.
Next, Eric aimed at a nearby outdoors staircase to the west that three students, Daniel Rohrbough (15), Sean Graves (15), and Lance Kirklin (16), were currently using. They believed that the gunshots were part of a prank involving paintballs and so they remained on the staircase directly below the shooters. Eric opened fire and instantly killed Daniel Rohrbough, leaving Kirklin and Graves seriously injured. It was now that the alarm went up where at the same time William David Sanders (47) who heard the shooting, was in the cafeteria, and instantly began warning and evacuating students. Whereas most people’s initial reaction would have been to flee, Sanders’ was not, his heroic actions would save the lives of around 100 students that day.
The shooters now turned their attention to a hill opposite them to the west where five students sat. As they fired upon the sitting students, they ended up hitting two of the students, Michael Johnson (15) and Mark Taylor (16). Johnson was hit in the face but managed to run away and Taylor was hit several times in the chest, falling to the ground where he faked death for the remainder of the massacre. Dylan now made his way towards the cafeteria, down the stairs. On the steps, he came up to Lance Kirklin again where Kirklin was reported to ask for help and in response Dylan said “Sure. I’ll help you.” He then shot Kirklin in the face with his shotgun which would lead Kirklin to have a catastrophic injury to his jaw but would fortunately survive this execution-style shot. Graves, one of the boys from the stairwell that was injured, had crawled to the entrance to the cafeteria where he had covered his face in blood to play dead. He recalled that Dylan stepped over him to get into the cafeteria and that when he did this he heard Dylan say “sorry dude.”
When Dylan entered the cafeteria he did not shoot any of the students still in the cafeteria which was later speculated upon that he only went there to check on the bombs whilst not under Eric’s watchful gaze. Meanwhile, Eric, who stayed at the top of the stairs, shot and wounded Anne-Marie Hochhalter (17) as she attempted to flee which left her paralyzed. After that, Dylan reunited with Eric as they attempted to shoot at students in a nearby soccer field where they failed to hit anybody. Witnesses report at this stage that the pair were heard saying “This is what we always wanted to do. This is awesome!”
Inside the school, art teacher Patti Nielson (35) and student Brian Anderson (17) were making their way to the entrance. They believed some prank was taking place or that the two perpetrators were filming some video and intended to tell them to “knock it off.” Despite their hopeful thoughts, as Anderson opened the first set of double doors, the two gunmen shot in his direction. The shattered glass injured both him and Nielson leading them to both run for the library. When they eventually got to the end of the hall and entered the library, Nielson dialled 911 and Anderson hid in a nearby magazine room collapsing from his injuries. After dialling 911, Nielson hid under a library desk and hoped the gunmen would not follow.
The time was now 11:22 am. The police had been alerted and the school’s custodian, Deputy Neil Gardner, had now also been alerted to what was going on. From there, Gardner made his way to the senior parking lot where he arrived at 11:24 am. He spotted Eric at the front entrance and took cover behind his car to open fire. He fired four rounds before Eric fired ten back and after returning fire, Eric could not be seen and Gardener believed he had hit him. In reality, Eric was reloading and soon fired another four rounds at Gardner, forcing him to retreat. It was now that Gardner reported on the police radio that shooters had entered the school and that he needed backup.
Now, Eric and Dylan made their way into the school; Eric had shot 47 times and Dylan only 5. Again, the power dynamic of the pair, with Eric being the leader, was on full display. While making their way through the north hallway of the school, they shot at anybody they saw and threw numerous pipe bombs. They missed every student they shot at except for Stephanie Munson (17), who was shot in the ankle but was able to walk out of the school. After this, they noticed that numerous students had made their way towards the library so they now also made their way to the library which is where the bloodiest part of this massacre would take place.
At this point, Dave Sanders and two custodians were in the school cafeteria evacuating students. After the cafeteria was evacuated, Sanders made his way up to some stairs to the library hallway. His personal mission was to try to evacuate as much of the school as he could. Whilst making his way to the library, he encountered an unnamed student nearby and he gestured for the students in the library to stay where they were. However, as Sanders and the unnamed student left the library they then encountered Eric and Dylan as they approached the library from the north. Both instantly turned to run but Eric and Dylan shot at them. Eric hit Sanders twice in the back and neck but both narrowly missed the student who then ran into a nearby science room and warned everyone to hide. Sanders however collapsed from his injuries in the same hallway he was shot in. Dylan walked over to Sanders and tossed a pipe bomb at him which failed to detonate before returning to Eric
As Dylan and Eric made their way along the library hallway, Sanders would be dragged into the nearby science classroom and first aid would be attempted on him. The students and teachers in the classroom reportedly tried everything to keep Sanders speaking but they sadly could only do so much. Sanders would succumb to his injuries sometime before the end of the massacre.
Silence In the Library
At 11:29 am, Eric and Dylan entered the library. At this point, four members of staff and fifty-two students were in the library. Eric fired his shotgun immediately upon entry at a nearby desk, splinters from this desk injured student Evan Todd (16) who had recently taken cover there as Dylan and Eric approached. After this, they made their way to the two rows of computers in the library where Kyle Velasquez (16) was sitting. Velasquez was disabled and unable to move to even try to escape Dylan’s shotgun which was then fired at point-blank range executing Velasquez. They then placed down their ammunition bags and reloaded their weapons, before walking among the computer rows hunting for victims.
At this point, there was a lull in the shooting for the two deranged killers to reveal some of their plans. They called for everybody in the library to stand up, warning them that the library was going to blow up soon. Dylan also declared that anybody in a white cap “was dead.” As we saw earlier in the basement tape, “Radioactive Clothing”, wearing a white cap was a tradition for the Columbine sports team’s members. It was reported that many wearing these caps began to try and hide them after Dylan’s declaration but none of the students stood up.
At this point, Dylan and Eric again fired at the recently arrived police through the library windows, the police then returned fire, nobody was injured in this exchange. From there, Dylan removed his coat and fired his shotgun at a nearby table, injuring Patrick Ireland (16), Daniel Steepleton (15) and Makai Hall (16). Eric was now patrolling the lower row of computer desks and found Steven Curnow (14). After finding this young teen, Eric got on one knee and fired a single shot with his shotgun, mortally wounding Curnow. At the adjacent computer desk, he fired a shot at Kacey Ruegsegger (17), the shot passed through her right shoulder and severed a major artery. When she gasped in pain, Eric said, “Quit your bitching.”
Eric then made his way to another table where Cassie Bernal (17) and Emily Wyant (17) were hiding. A quick “Peek-a-boo” was said by Eric before he shotBernal dead with his shotgun but because of how he had held the shotgun one-handed,the recoil meant the shotgun hit his face and broke his nose. Next, Eric made his way towards a desk where Bree Pasquale was sitting (17), she had not hidden under the desk but had remained in her seat. Eric asked her if she wanted to die which prompted her to beg for her life, Eric reportedly responded that “Everyone’s gonna die.” When Dylan told Eric to shoot her he responded “No, we’re gonna blow the school up anyway.”
It was at this point that Eric noticed Patrick Ireland, one of the boys hiding under the table Eric had shot at after shooting at the Police, giving aid to Makai Hall, Ireland’s head had risen above the table giving Dylan the perfect chance to shoot him, hitting him twice in the head. Ireland was knocked unconscious but miraculously survived. Dylan then made his way towards another table where he found Isaiah Shoels (18), Matthew Ketcher (16) and Craig Scott (16) the younger brother of Rachel Scott. Upon finding them, Dylan called to Eric that he had “Found a N-word.” (He did not use the phrase “N-word”). He then began to try and pull Shoels out from under the table. The two taunted Shoels for a few seconds before both firing at him and under the table, they killed Shoels and Ketcher but Scott managed to survive by hiding in the blood of his friends and feigning death. Eric then yelled to the rest of the library; “Who’s ready to die next?!”
He then threw a pipe bomb towards where Hall, Steepleton and the now unconscious Ireland had taken cover. For a moment, it had landed on Steepleton’s thigh but Hall quickly managed to throw it a safer distance away. Dylan and Eric then made their way to the far end of the library, attempting to topple a bookshelf on the way. Eric then shot towards the closest table to him and injured Mark Kingten (17), he then turned and fired his shotgun at a table. This table happened to be hiding Lisa Kreutz (18), Laura Townsend (18) and Valeen Schnurr (18) where he injured all three before Dylan fired several shots with his automatic pistol, killing Townsend.
At this point, Valeen Schnurr began screaming “Oh my God”, to which Dylan asked if she believed in God. After this strange interaction, Dylan then commented that “God is gay” before reloading and walking away. Eric meanwhile had made his way to another table and fired twice, injuring Nicole Nowlen (16) and John Tomlin (16). As Tomlin crawled out from under the desk Eric shot him repeatedly, killing him.
Eric now doubled back on himself and returned to where Townsend lay dead, Kelly Fleming (16) had also sat at a table similar to Pasquale due to a lack of space. Eric shot her once without uttering a word, killing her. He then fired again at Townsend’s body, injuring Kreutz again and wounding Jeanna Park (18), the two shooters then returned to the centre of the library where they reloaded.
After reloading, Eric pointed his gun below the table but the student he was aiming at had moved and as such he had to aim again, at this point he said, “Identify yourself.” At which point John Savage (17), a friend of Dylan’s, identified himself. Savage asked Dylan what they were doing to which Dylan responded “Oh, just killing people.” Savage then asked if they were going to kill him, at which point Dylan said no, and told him to run. Savage promptly did, at which point Eric shot Daniel Mauser (15) who had been hiding at the same table. After injuring Mauser he then grabbed Eric’s leg and attempted to pull him to the ground. Eric shot him once more and killed him.
They now both moved throughout the library, shooting randomly, they injured Jennifer Doyle (17) and Austin Eubanks (17) before fatally wounding Corey DePooter (17) at 11:35. DePooter would be the final victim of the massacre; 10 people had died in the library and 12 had been wounded. After this, they cornered Evan Todd, who was wearing a white cap. Dylan asked if he was a jock, to which Todd replied no, Dylan then responded that they don’t like jocks. Dylan continued this interrogation before asking if Eric wanted to kill him, Eric seemed to be paying little attention and told Dylan it was time to head to the commons.
At 11:36 Dylan and Eric left the library, over the course of 17 minutes they had killed 13 people and injured 24. From there, they made their way back to the cafeteria where the most famous still image of the event was taken, which was of Eric as he fired at a propane tank in an attempt to ignite it. Over the next 30 minutes, they would patrol the corridors firing wildly into the barricaded rooms that surrounded them; at noon they re-entered the library, which had now been evacuated. They made their way to the window and began firing at the police, the police returned fire and again nobody was injured in this exchange. At 12:08, both Eric and Dylan sat with their backs to a bookshelf and killed themselves; Eric with a single shot from his shotgun and Dylan from his automatic pistol. Their journals indicated that they had originally wanted to go out in that final shootout.
The Columbine High School Massacre was finally over…
The Blame Game
Columbine is a word that no longer refers to a place; it refers to an atrocity. Columbine conquered the memory of both its school and town. There was, however, one other major impact of Columbine which was people trying to work out why. Why did this terrible event occur? Throughout the next coming years, even up to today, people have debated as to what inspired Dylan and Eric. No story of Columbine would be complete without speaking about this. To this extent I will give you each possibility, as neutrally as possible, I will only give my opinion on the two most ridiculous theories.
We will start with the most ridiculous theory of what led to Columbine. This is a theory that emerged soon after the massacre, thanks to the wonderful media. That is the theory that Eric and Dylan murdered 13 of their classmates and injured another 24 because they played video games, which themselves had violent elements. This theory seems entirely predicated on the fact that the website which hosted the threats of death against Brooks Brown also hosted levels of Doom. This theory gained massive popularity when now disbarred lawyer and scumbag Jack Thompson appeared on 60 Minutes, an American TV show which discusses political questions. Thompson attempted to sue several video games companies over numerous school shootings as they happened throughout the years. On 60 Minutes he even said that playing a first-person shooter would make children into the next “Dylan or Eric.” Some may ask why I am being so harsh on this view, to this I simply state that the vast majority of behavioural psychologists agree that violent video games do not lead to violence. On the contrary, the evidence states that violent video games give an outlet for violence and have no part in causing violence and that Jack Thompson was an individual who preyed on families’ loss to gain a reputation. I class him alongside those quacks who offer to contact bereaving families who lost loved ones just to make a quick buck. I will also mention that Eric was reported to have compared the massacre to Doom at one point but he also compared the massacre to the LA riots, Oklahoma bombing, World War Two and the Vietnam War, in the same statement, and I don’t see anybody saying those caused the violence.
The second theory that emerged, which I will happily refer to as utterly ridiculous, was the theory that the massacre was caused by Marilyn Manson which, as always,, we can thank the media for this. The media made claims immediately after the massacre that Dylan and Eric were wearing t-shirts during the massacre which depicted Manson, this was a plain old lie. They further ran headlines such as “Killers Worshipped Rock Freak Manson” and “Devil-Worshipping Maniac Told Kids to Kill.” Speculation among the media reportedly even led to some people believing that Manson was the sole inspiration for the attack. This led to Manson being heavily criticised by individuals ranging from Lynyrd Skynyrd to Michigan State Senator Dale Shugars and several religious figures. This is despite the fact that friends of Dylan and Eric have said they weren’t even major fans of Manson. For Manson’s part, he replied in an op-ed in Rolling Stone magazine where he defended both himself and video games and blamed the political influence of the National Rifle Association but also said that the issue wasn’t anything political. When asked what he’d say to the killers he replied, “I wouldn’t say anything, I’d just listen,” Manson would go on to say that in his view the primary cause here was two disturbed individuals, nothing else.
I will also mention now that, as for the gun control vs NRA debate, they have never been blamed for Columbine. Instead, people tend to argue that they enabled a state of affairs that led to Columbine, as such I won’t be opening that can of worms here where we are speaking only about what people have said is to blame.
There are two other primary theories as to what to blame, the first being medication. Certain opponents of modern psychiatry have said that Eric’s medication may have been what led to the shooting. In his autopsy, they found a large amount of Luvox in his bloodstream which is an antidepressant that was prescribed to him. The claim is that in essence, these excessive medications led to the shootings, however opponents of this simply point out that thousands are medicated and they don’t generally go on mass murder rampages.
The final suggested blame comes from the FBI. The FBI posited the view that Eric was the person to blame, I know shock horror, you mean to tell me the murderer might be to blame!! What upside-down world do we live in?
Specifically, the FBI identified Eric as a typical psychopath, he felt joy by exerting power and dominance over others and felt a lack of emotions. He was heavily medicated for depression as stated but the FBI viewed this as more evidence to his mindset. The FBI’s view, and the view of a majority of commentators is that Eric was the leader who dragged Dylan with him. On this, we do see that Dylan shot far fewer people than Eric, the clearest example being when he entered the cafeteria and shot nobody. The FBI’s explanation for Dylan’s involvement is to say that he went along with the idea as a way of killing himself.
There have been opponents to this idea though, the clearest opposition being the fact that Dylan had been the first to write about the massacre in their journals. Despite this many people still believe that Eric was the leader and Dylan the follower, in truth, from viewing all the evidence myself I have just come to the view that the only people to blame for Columbine are Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. They were two disturbed individuals who hated society and took that out in the most hateful way they could think of. There were plenty of warning signs, all of which were missed, and because they were missed these two scumbags did the unthinkable.
There we have it, that’s all folks. The Columbine High School Massacre is the atrocity that made celebrities out of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. I only have one request for everyone watching or reading this, I have included a list of the victims in the first appendix, everybody knows the names of the murderers but would struggle to name the victims. I think that is wrong, please reframe Columbine, no longer think of Eric and Dylan but instead think of the victims. Think of the 12 young people who lost their lives and the teacher who died protecting them and think of the 24 others who have lived with the injuries ever since.
At this point I will list all the victims of the massacre in the order in which they died. I also wanted to mention that some true crime podcasts list the perpetrators here as they killed themselves. I will not, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold are not victims, they are murderers, and they should be remembered as such.
Rachel Scott (17)
Daniel Rohrbough (15)
William David Sanders (47)
Kyle Velasquez (16)
Steven Curnow (14)
Cassie Bernall (17)
Isaiah Shoels (18)
Matthew Kechter (16)
Lauren Townsend (18)
John Tomlin (16)
Kelly Fleming (16)
Daniel Mauser (15)
Corey DePooter (17)
One of the reasons I have railed so hard against remembering the perpetrators here is we have seen a deadly effect from beyond the grave. There are numerous examples of killers who have said they were inspired by Eric and Dylan, including the recent school shootings committed by Dimitrios Pagourtzis in 2018 that resulted in 10 dead. This effect has become so recognized that it has been coined by Sociologists as “The Columbine Effect”. If anybody wants to read more on it there is a Wikipedia page that lists all of the killings inspired by Columbine, on the page if you were to count how many victims have died from shootings caused by the effect, you’d find 269 dead.
Many have associated the song “Pumped Up Kicks” released by Foster The People in 2010 with the Columbine Shooting. This is in part due to similarity with the music video and a simulated school shooting and secondly as the bassist’s cousin was actually in the library at Columbine when the massacre occurred. This association has led to people misreporting the white hats as white trainers, which are referenced by the song. The band has however gone on record to say that this association was never intentional.
To anybody who wants to learn more about the Columbine High School Massacre, there is no shortage of sources online. Ranging from the award-winning “Bowling for Columbine” by Michael Moore (which I personally think is overrated and has a few inaccuracies) to an array of TED talks given by Sue Klebold, mother of Dylan. I would warn however, there are graphic images on the internet reporting to be of this shooting. To my knowledge, no pictures of the interiors of the school survived and they are fakes, but this does not make them any less harrowing. Also, having viewed the “Basement Tapes” to make the segment on them accurate, I strongly advise avoiding them at all costs.