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Columbine High School massacre
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Columbine High School massacre
Staff and students evacuate Columbine
High School during the shooting.
Location Columbine, Colorado, United States
Date April 20, 1999
11:19 am – 12:08 pm (UTC-6)
Target Students and faculty at Columbine High School.
Attack type School shooting, mass murder, massacre, murder-suicide, suicide attack,
Weapon(s) Intratec TEC-DC9, Hi-Point 995 Carbine, Savage 67H pump-action shotgun, Stevens
311D double barreled sawed-off shotgun
Death(s) 15 (including the 2 perpetrators)
Perpetrator(s) Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold
The Columbine High School massacre occurred on Tuesday, April 20, 1999, at Columbine High
School in Columbine, an unincorporated area of Jefferson County, Colorado, United States,
near Denver and Littleton. Two senior students, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, embarked on
a massacre, killing 12 students and one teacher. They also injured 21 other students
directly, and three people were injured while attempting to escape. The pair then
committed suicide. It is the fourth-deadliest school massacre in United States history,
after the 1927 Bath School disaster, 2007 Virginia Tech massacre and the 1966 University
of Texas massacre, and the deadliest for an American high school.
The massacre provoked debate regarding gun control laws, the availability of firearms in
the United States, and gun violence involving youths. Much discussion also centered on the
nature of high school clique, subcultures and bullying, as well as the role of violent
movies and video games in American society. The shooting also resulted in an increased
emphasis on school security, and a moral panic aimed at goth culture, social outcasts, the
gun culture, the use of pharmaceutical anti-depressants by teenagers, violent films and
music, teenage internet use, and violent video games.
* 1 Preliminary activities and intent
o 1.1 Medication
o 1.2 Journals and videos
o 1.3 Firearms
* 2 April 20, 1999: The Massacre
o 2.1 Shooting begins
o 2.2 The library massacre
o 2.3 Suicide of the shooters
o 2.4 Shooting ends
* 3 Immediate aftermath
* 4 The search for rationale
o 4.1 Psychopathy and depression
o 4.2 Video games
o 4.3 Factors explored
+ 4.3.1 Social climate
+ 4.3.2 Bullying
+ 4.3.3 Goth subculture
+ 4.3.4 Music
+ 4.3.5 Choice of date
* 5 Impact on school policies
o 5.1 Secret Service report on school shootings
o 5.2 School security
o 5.3 Anti-bullying policies
* 6 Long-term results
o 6.1 Police tactics
o 6.2 Gun control
o 6.3 Memorials
o 6.4 Becoming part of the vernacular
* 7 See also
* 8 References
o 8.1 Specific
o 8.2 General
* 9 Further reading
* 10 External links
Preliminary activities and intent
Eric Harris (left) and Dylan Klebold (right)
Early warning signs began to surface in 1996, when Eric Harris first created a private
website on America Online. The original site was set up to host Doom levels that he and
Dylan Klebold had created, mainly for friends. Harris also began a blog on the site, which
included jokes and small journal entries concerning his thoughts on parents, school, and
friends. By the end of the year, the site contained instructions on how to cause mischief,
as well as instructions on how to make explosives, and logs of the trouble he and Klebold
were causing. Beginning in early 1997, the blog postings began to show the first signs of
Harris's ever-growing anger against society.
Harris's site had few visitors, and caused no concern until late 1997, when Dylan Klebold
gave the address to Brooks Brown, Harris's former friend. Brown's mother had filed
numerous complaints with the Jefferson County Sheriff's office about Eric Harris,
believing him to be dangerous. The website was filled with death threats towards Brooks,
and Dylan knew that if Brooks had the address, it would make its way to his mother and
possibly result in problems for Harris. Indeed, Brooks Brown's parents contacted the
Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, and investigator Michael Guerra was notified of the
site. Guerra discovered the website also contained violent threats directed at the
students and teachers of Columbine High School. Other material included blurbs Harris had
written concerning his hatred of society in general and his desire to kill those who
annoyed him. As the date of the shooting neared, Harris also began noting the completion
of pipe bombs on his site, as well as a gun count and hit list of individuals he wished to
target, although it never mentioned his overall plot. As Harris had admitted to having
explosives, Guerra decided to write a draft affidavit for a search warrant of the Harris
household, but it was never filed.
On January 30, 1998, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were caught with tools and equipment
that had been stolen moments earlier from a parked van near Littleton, Colorado. Both
were arrested and attended a joint court hearing where they pleaded guilty to the felony
theft. The judge sentenced them to juvenile diversion where they attended various classes
together, including a class on anger management. Harris also started attending therapy
with a psychologist and continued to do so for about a year.
While in diversion, both adolescents attended mandated classes and met with diversion
officers. They placed out of the substance abuse class, despite Klebold's history of
drinking and a dilute urine test. Both Harris and Klebold were eventually released from
diversion several weeks early due to their good behavior, although they remained on
probation.[verification needed] Harris wrote an ingratiating letter to the owner of the
equipment they stole, offering insincere apologies and feigned empathy. During this
time he would often boast in his journal entries about faking regret, and applauded
himself at his deception. Harris continued under his psychologist's care until a few
months before the attack, all while he and Klebold plotted; the pair felt as if they were
at war against society and needed to take action toward those they hated.
Shortly after his and Klebold's court hearing, Harris' blog disappeared and his website
was reverted to its original purpose of posting user-created levels for the game Doom. It
was at this time that Harris began to write out his thoughts and plans in a paper journal.
Despite this, Harris still dedicated a section of his website to posting his progress on
the collection of guns and the building of the bombs used in the attack. After its
existence was made public, AOL permanently deleted the website from its servers.
After Harris complained of depression, anger, and suicidal thoughts at a meeting with his
psychiatrist, he was prescribed the anti-depressant Zoloft. He complained about
restlessness and a lack of concentration to his doctor, and in April was switched to a
similar drug, Luvox. At the time of his death, Harris had therapeutic Luvox levels in
his system. Some analysts, such as psychiatrist Peter Breggin, have argued that one or
both of these medications may have contributed to Harris's actions. It has been claimed
that side-effects of these drugs include increased aggression, loss of remorse,
depersonalization and mania.
Journals and videos
Both Harris and Klebold began keeping journals of their progress soon after their arrests.
The pair also documented their arsenal with video tapes that were kept secret.
Journal entries revealed that the pair had an elaborate plan for a major bombing rivaling
that of Oklahoma City. The entries contained blurbs about ways to escape to Mexico,
hijacking an aircraft at Denver International Airport and crashing into a building in New
York City, as well as details about the attacks. The pair hoped that after setting off
bombs in the cafeteria at the busiest time of day, killing many hundreds of students, they
would use their guns to shoot survivors as they fled from the school. Then, as police
cars, ambulances, fire trucks, and reporters came to the school, bombs set in the boys'
cars would go off, killing the emergency personnel, media, and law officers; this original
plan failed when their main explosives did not detonate. The pair also kept videos
that were used mainly as documentation of explosives, ammunition, and weapons they had
acquired illegally. In these videos, the shooters also revealed all the elaborate and
creative ways the two had thought up to hide their arsenals in their own homes, as well as
the ways they would deceive their parents about their activities. Some videos contained
footage of the pair doing target practice in nearby foothills, as well as shots of the
areas of the high school they planned to attack. On April 20, approximately thirty
minutes before the attack, a final video had the pair saying goodbye and apologizing
to their friends and families.
In the months prior to the attacks, Harris and Klebold acquired two 9 mm firearms and two
12-gauge shotguns. A rifle and the two shotguns were bought by a friend, Robyn Anderson,
at the Tanner Gun Show in December, 1998. Harris and Klebold later bought a handgun
from another friend, Mark Manes, for $500. Manes was jailed after the massacre for selling
a handgun to a minor, as was Philip Duran, who had introduced the duo to Manes.
With instructions from the Internet, they also built 99 improvised explosive devices of
various designs and sizes. They also sawed the barrels and butts off their shotguns in
order to make them easier to conceal. The two perpetrators committed numerous felony
violations of state and federal law, including the National Firearms Act and the Gun
Control Act of 1968, even before the massacre began.
During the shootings, Harris carried a 12 gauge Savage-Springfield 67H pump-action shotgun
(serial no. A232432) and a Hi-Point 995 Carbine 9 mm semi-automatic rifle with thirteen
10-round magazines, fired 96 times. Harris's other weapon, the shotgun, was fired a total
of 25 times. Harris committed suicide by shooting himself in the head with his shotgun.
Klebold carried a 9 mm Intratec TEC-9 semi-automatic handgun manufactured by Navegar, Inc.
with one 52-, one 32-, and one 28-round magazine. He also carried a 12 gauge Stevens 311D
double barreled sawed-off shotgun (serial no. A077513). Klebold's primary weapon was the
TEC-9 handgun, which was fired a total of 55 times. Klebold would later commit suicide via
a shot to the left temple with the TEC-9.
April 20, 1999: The Massacre
An aerial shot of Columbine High School on the day of the massacre
Note: All times are in Mountain Daylight Time, UTC-6
At 11:10 a.m. on Tuesday, April 20, 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold arrived at
Columbine High School in separate cars. Harris parked in the Junior student parking lot
and Klebold in the Senior student parking lot at spaces not assigned to them. From these
spots, both of them had excellent views of the cafeteria's side entrance and each one was
covering a main exit of the school. Shortly before arriving at Columbine, Harris and
Klebold had set up a small fire bomb in a field half a mile away from the school. The bomb
was set to explode at 11:14 a.m., and is thought to have been placed there as a diversion
for emergency personnel. The bomb did partially detonate, and caused a small fire that was
extinguished by the fire department.
At Columbine, the pair met near Harris's car and armed two 20 pound (9 kg) propane bombs
before entering the cafeteria a few minutes before the A lunch shift began and placed the
duffel bags carrying the bombs inside. Each bomb was set to explode at approximately 11:17
a.m. Coincidentally, a custodian removed the security camera video tape, rewound it,
and placed a new tape in the slot at the same time they entered the cafeteria. Although
the act of placing the bombs was not recorded, once the new tape was started the bags
could be clearly seen. The bombs had enough explosive power to destroy the entire
cafeteria and bring the library above crashing down, though they failed to detonate. Each
shooter then returned to his car to wait until the bombs exploded. They intended to open
fire on students fleeing the school through the main entrances once the cafeteria bombs
detonated. As they returned to their cars, Harris encountered Brooks Brown, a classmate
with whom he had recently patched up a longstanding series of disagreements. Brown was
surprised to see Harris getting out of a car with a gym bag. Harris had been absent from a
class test that morning. Brown told him but Harris seemed oddly unconcerned. Harris then
warned him, "Brooks, I like you now. Get out of here. Go home." Brown, feeling uneasy,
walked away. Several minutes later, students departing Columbine for lunch noticed
Brooks Brown heading down South Pierce Street away from the school. Meanwhile, Harris and
Klebold armed themselves by their cars and waited for the bombs to explode.
When the cafeteria bombs failed, Harris and Klebold armed themselves with their weapons,
met, and walked toward the building. They went to the top of the West Entrance steps,
which was the highest point on campus. From this vantage point, the cafeteria's side
entrance was at the bottom of the staircase, the school's main West Entrance was to their
left, and the athletic fields to their right (see the lead photograph at the top of this
page for an image of the staircase in question).
Injuries and deaths in initial incident
1. Rachel Scott, age 17, killed by shots to the head, torso, and leg on a grassy area next
to the West Entrance of the school.
2. Richard Castaldo, age 17, shot in the arm, chest, back and abdomen on the same grassy
3. Daniel Rohrbough, age 15, killed by a shot to the chest on the West Staircase.
4. Sean Graves, age 15, shot in the back, foot and abdomen on the West Staircase.
5. Lance Kirklin, age 16, shot with wounds to the leg, neck and jaw on the West
6. Michael Johnson, age 15, escaped from the grassy knoll with wounds to his face, arm and
7. Mark Taylor, age 16, shot in the chest, arms and leg on the grassy knoll.
8. Anne-Marie Hochhalter, age 17, shot in the chest, arm, abdomen, back, and left leg near
the cafeteria's entrance.
9. Brian Anderson, age 16, injured near the West Entrance by flying glass.
10. Patti Nielson, age 35, hit in the shoulder by shrapnel near the West Entrance.
11. Stephanie Munson, age 16, shot in the ankle inside the North Hallway.
12. Dave Sanders, age 47, died of blood loss after being shot in the neck and back inside
the South Hallway.
At 11:19 a.m., a witness heard Eric Harris yell "Go! Go!" At that moment the gunmen pulled
out their shotguns and began shooting at Rachel Scott and Richard Castaldo, who were
sitting on a grassy knoll to their left (next to the West Entrance of the school), eating
lunch. Scott was killed instantly, hit four times; Castaldo was critically wounded, hit
eight times. It is unclear who shot first and who killed Scott. Many rumors swirled
regarding the causes of the rampage, including the possible targeting of Christians. One
such rumor was that the shooters first asked Scott if she believed in God, then killed her
after she answered affirmatively. The FBI later concluded that this interaction did not
Harris removed his trench coat and took out his 9 mm semi-automatic carbine, aiming it
down the West Staircase. Daniel Rohrbough and two friends, Sean Graves and Lance Kirklin,
were walking up the staircase directly below the shooters. Kirklin reported seeing them
standing at the top, when suddenly they began shooting at him. All three fell wounded.
Harris and Klebold then turned and began shooting south (away from the school) at students
sitting on the grassy knoll adjacent to the steps, opposite the West Entrance of the
school. Michael Johnson was hit but kept running and escaped. Mark Taylor fell to the
ground, crippled, and played dead. The other three escaped uninjured. As the shooting
continued, Sean Graves stood up and limped down the staircase into the cafeteria's side
entrance, where he collapsed in front of the door. Klebold walked down the steps heading
toward the cafeteria. As he descended, he shot Lance Kirklin once more in the face,
critically wounding him. As Daniel Rohrbough struggled down the steps towards the bottom
of the staircase, Klebold walked up to him and shot him in the back at close range,
killing him. He then continued down the staircase and entered the cafeteria, walking over
the injured Sean Graves, who lay at the cafeteria entrance. It is speculated that Klebold
did this because he was checking to see why the propane bombs had failed to explode. As
Klebold stepped into the cafeteria, Harris began to shoot down the steps at several
students sitting near the cafeteria's entrance, wounding Anne-Marie Hochhalter as she
attempted to flee. After a few seconds, Klebold returned up the staircase to meet with
Harris at the top.
The west entrance of the school after the shooting
The two then shot toward students standing near the soccer field a few yards away, but did
not hit anyone. They threw pipe bombs as they made their way towards the West Entrance,
none of which detonated. Inside the campus, teacher Patti Nielson, seeing the
commotion, walked towards the West Entrance with student Brian Anderson. She wanted to
walk outside and tell the two students to "Knock it off", as she thought they were
shooting a video or pulling a prank. As Anderson opened the first set of double doors,
Harris and Klebold shot out the windows. Anderson was injured by flying glass and Nielson
was hit in the shoulder by shrapnel. Reacting in fear, she quickly stood up and ran down
the hall into the library where she began to alert students inside, demanding they duck
beneath desks and remain silent. She then dialed 9-1-1 and concealed herself beneath the
library's administrative counter. Brian Anderson remained behind, caught between the
exterior and interior doors.
Soon thereafter, at approximately 11:24 a.m., a Jefferson County deputy sheriff arrived at
the scene and began shooting at Harris and Klebold, distracting them from the injured
Brian Anderson. Anderson staggered out of the area and made it into the library where
he ran into an open staff break room, remaining there until the ordeal ended. Harris fired
ten shots at the officer, who then radioed in a Code 33 (officer in need of emergency
assistance). When his gun ran out of ammo, Harris ran inside the school with Klebold. The
pair then proceeded down the main North Hallway shooting at anyone they saw and throwing
pipe bombs. While doing so, they shot student Stephanie Munson in the ankle. She was able
to walk out of the school and make it to a house across the street. The pair then
proceeded to shoot out the windows to the East Entrance of the school. After going through
the hall several more times, shooting at any students they saw (but not injuring any),
they headed back towards the West Entrance and turned to the Library Hallway.
Moments earlier, Coach Dave Sanders had evacuated the cafeteria through a staircase
leading up to the second floor. The staircase was around the corner from the Library
Hallway in the main South Hallway. He and a student turned the corner and were walking