1) Teachers were aware of the shooters' fascination with killing people but dismissed it
Harris (left) and Klebold practice shooting guns in a home movie, dated March 1999
In December 1998, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold produced a short film called Hitmen For Hire
. They showed the movie to their class and everyone was horrified; the tape showed the boys being hired by a nerd and then shooting a bully with fake guns. Both the Harris and Klebold families, including the police, only learned of this after
the massacre. The teacher allegedly chastised them for the violence but didn't see it as an impending threat.
In an interview with Sue Klebold, she reveals that in March 1999, not long before the shooting, she and Tom were called into a meeting with Dylan's Creative Writing teacher, Judith Kelly. When they arrived with Dylan in tow, they were surprised to see that a guidance counselor was also present. According to Ms. Kelly, she had wanted to meet with them before she graded the paper. Dylan had written a very violent essay in which he depicted himself as an assassin "dressed head-to-toe in black," gunning down innocent people. Sue and Tom were horrified, then they were dumbfounded as to why they had actually
been called in-- Ms. Kelly didn't have a problem with the violence, it was the excessive use of swear words that bothered her. While Dylan dismissed his own writing as "just a story," Sue recalls Tom asking the counselor: "Is this something we need to be worried about?" He told them no; however, if that they were really concerned about things then he'd follow up with them and show them Dylan's essay. (Ms. Kelly would later contradict
the Klebold family's claims that she wasn't a concerned teacher.)
The counselor never reached out to Sue and Tom. When he was interviewed in 2016 for a 20/20
special, he said (off-camera): "In a pre-Columbine world, I just didn't see it as a threat."
2) The police were criticized for how they handled the entire thing
Students and staff fleeing Columbine High School on April 20, 1999
Prior to the shooting, the police were actually aware that Eric and Dylan had a criminal record.
On January 30, 1998
, they broke into a stranger’s van and stole electrical equipment, including a computer. They were arrested the same day and charged with theft, a class 4 felony in the state of Colorado if more than $1,000 worth of property is taken. Both boys attended a joint court hearing; because they had no previous records and were “model” students, the judge ordered them to enroll in a diversion program which included anger management classes. Despite being released early for good behavior, they were placed on probation. Sue Klebold later said that “so much as putting shaving cream on a banister” would’ve been enough to put Dylan in jail.
In March 1998, Eric’s private AOL website
was brought to the attention of the police. Brooks Brown
(a former friend) and his parents reported that Eric was threatening to kill him on said website
, as well as threatening violence against other students and various Columbine teachers. Michael Guerra, a Jefferson County police investigator, reported these findings in a draft affidavit, requesting a search warrant of the Harris household; already on probation, this would’ve led to Eric being arrested. However, the affidavit was never submitted to a judge, and, as a result, the case against Eric was ignored. Furthermore, the police were “unable to access the website” when the Brown family came back for an update.
After the shooting, the Brown family, as well as many others, criticized the police for not taking enough action. In the documentary Zero Hour: Massacre at Columbine High
, Randy Brown says: “What a lot of people don’t know is that on April 20-- while the executions are taking place-- the [emergency exit] door that leads to the library is propped open. They listen and they listen and they never rescue these kids. No matter what they say, that’s unacceptable.” Judy Brown also added: “So when they talk about how they saved many
kids that day, that’s not true. Those kids ran out of that school--they saved themselves.” The authorities later said that they had been following standard police procedures, which emphasize the need to "contain the incident."
Other criticisms regarding the police included when they announced that there were as many as eight gunmen and prematurely counting the death toll as being twenty-five.
3) A student wrote "1 BLEEDING TO DEATH" in an attempt to alert police of teacher Dave Sanders, who was dying, but it was ignored
Coach William \"Dave\" Sanders was hailed as a hero for his actions that day
Perhaps one of the biggest criticisms of the Jefferson County police, and their response to April 20, is how they also ignored the distress call of Dave Sanders
, who had been shot and was slowly bleeding to death. Sanders had been a hero that day; he recognized the shots as gunfire and helped evacuate most of the cafeteria. When he ran upstairs to make sure classrooms were locked, Harris shot him in the back. Despite this, Sanders managed to crawl to teacher Doug Johnson's biology lab, where sixty students and three teachers were hiding. Student Aaron Hancey attempted first aid
, to no avail. Teacher Teresa Miller tried calling 911 to alert the authorities of Sanders' condition and location, but the line was overflooded with calls. For the near three hours in which he was bleeding, students managed to distract him from the pain by asking him about the pictures of his family in his wallet.
At 2:15 pm, student Deidra Kucera used a whiteboard
and wrote "1 BLEEDING TO DEATH," placing it against the window to alert those who were outside. EMTs took note of the whiteboard but were refused entry by the police, who said that the SWAT team needed to go into the room first. (The SWAT team was actually inside the school at this point, having entered shortly after one o'clock. However, they were not informed of the message, and, had they been, many people believe that Sanders could've been saved.) Police later revealed that they thought the message was a ruse used by the killers in an attempt to ambush.
Dave Sanders passed away shortly thereafter, and the SWAT team did not reach the biology lab until after 3:00 pm. Upon discovering that he was deceased, they still reportedly denied EMTs the opportunity to check on him (although there have been disputes). In a 60 Minutes
special, the parents of Kelly Fleming
publicly denounced the authorities for the fact that nobody even attempted
the school until long after people had died.
4) Kyle Valesquez didn't hide or understand what was going on because he was mentally disabled, and Daniel Mauser may have fought back
Daniel Mauser was 15-years-old when he died in the Columbine library
One of the hardest things to stomach would have to be the possibility that Kyle Velasquez
, a 16-year-old student who was mentally-impaired due to a stroke at birth, was too scared or confused to hide. When his body was found, it was discovered that he'd been shot in the back of the head with Klebold's shotgun. The investigators were able to conclude that Kyle was most likely seated in his chair when the shooters entered the library. One witness later recalled that he "looked very confused" as the gunshots got closer; Kyle was the only student in the library who didn't hide underneath a desk.
Another haunting thought is the idea that Daniel Mauser
, who was the second-to-last victim in the library, may have fought back against Eric Harris, or at least tried to.
According to the transcript of the 911 call, there was a "scuffling noise" before Harris shot Daniel in the face, killing him instantly. Several theories have surfaced as to what really happened. The idea that Daniel fought back has been supported by evidence: an overturned chair found near his body and the fact that Klebold had asked Harris, "Did that kid try to jump you?" Because of this, many believe that Daniel had tried to push a chair at Harris after being taunted with: "Nice glasses."
When looking at Daniel's autopsy report, however, one can see that there was damage to his spinal cord after the bullet entered his face and traveled through his neck (due to his crouched position, looking up at Harris). His body may have jerked back and pushed the chair due to an involuntary motor reflex. Klebold may have found this amusing and joked to Harris that Daniel had "jumped" him.
Daniel's father, Tom Mauser, stands by his own theory. The autopsy report states that Daniel was also shot in the hand and had been grazed on one of his ears by a bullet. Tom believes that, before his son was shot in the face, one of those injuries may have led to him pushing the chair out of fear or recoil. Either way, we know that some sort of struggle occurred due to the audio of the 911 call and Klebold's remark.
5) Even after the tragedy, the shooters still claimed victims
Survivors anxiously wait for news of their classmates, who are still inside the school
On April 20, 1999, fifteen people died at Columbine, including the two shooters. But, even in the aftermath of the carnage, some feel that others indirectly lost their lives because of Eric and Dylan.
Six months after the massacre, Anne Marie Hochhalter
, who was shot and paralyzed for life, lost her mother. "My mother had been suffering for a long time," she penned in a letter. "Columbine didn't cause her to commit suicide, but it certainly was a factor." Carla Hochhalter, 48, committed suicide
with a gun inside an Englewood pawnshop on October 22, 1999.
Shortly after Columbine's one-year "anniversary," Greg Barnes
, 17, committed suicide on May 4, 2000. His father found him in the garage at around 12:15 pm with "Adam's Song" by Blink-182 playing. Greg left no suicide note and his family said he was reportedly happy the night before when they spoke to him. On April 20, Greg had been in the biology lab and witnessed Dave Sanders bleed to death. One of his good friends, Matthew Kechter, was also killed in the library.
The most recent was Austin Eubanks
, who died of a heroin overdose in May 2019 after relapsing. He'd been in the library and was injured, alongside his friends Jennifer Doyle and Corey DePooter, the latter of whom he witnessed die. After being released from the hospital, Austin developed an addiction to painkillers. Upon turning his life around he became a motivational speaker
. Austin had been sober for over eight years prior to his relapse. He was 37.
6) A majority of those who were killed did not die instantly, and one of them confronted Eric and Dylan
Thirteen people, not counting the shooters, died at Columbine High School
Eyewitness accounts of the shooting range from little to great detail. Some recall instances where they could only hear
someone's fate. Others, like Bree Pasquale
and Emily Wyant
, witnessed the death of a fellow classmate (Cassie Bernall) up-close.
From what we know, at least half of the victims were alive for a few minutes (or hours) after they'd been shot. This includes Daniel Rohrbough, Dave Sanders, Steven Curnow
, Isaiah Shoels, Matthew Kechter, and Corey DePooter.
John Tomlin was initially injured, but he fell out from underneath his table. According to the transcript of the 911 call, he asked: "Haven't you done enough?" In response, Dylan Klebold shot him repeatedly with his TEC-9. "You think we've done enough?" he says, laughing. Prior to his death, Isaiah Shoels
had also been taunted, with Klebold saying (to Harris): "There's a n*gger over here!"
7) Bodies that were discovered inside the school were left there to decompose for nearly 2 days, even after some of the families were notified
Police put up a \"privacy tent\" when removing the bodies from the building
In the official Columbine report
(dubbed "The 11k"), it is revealed that while the deceased were accounted for but not identified, their bodies remained in place for the next two days. This was to make sure that the victims and shooters weren't booby-trapped; the entire procedure was finished at 2 a.m. on April 21. A few hours later, as dawn broke, the crime scene photos were taken. Even those who were killed outside (Rachel Scott and Daniel Rohrbough) remained in place, covered by a white sheet. To make sure that everything was safe and secure for the coroners to come in, the bodies still weren't removed until mid-afternoon on April 22.
The authorities also had very poor communication with the families; Tom Mauser said he wasn't aware that Daniel was among the dead until the cops called him at 12:30 pm the next day. The parents of Cassie Bernall weren't informed that she was dead until April 22, the same day that the medical examiner was able to perform her autopsy. One family was instructed to send in dental records because a shotgun wound to the head had made their child unrecognizable.
All of the victims' autopsy reports document "early post-mortem decomposition."
8) Some of the infamous photos taken on that day include Eric Harris standing by the library windows
The famous photo of four girls who escaped the carnage in the library
The events of April 20, 1999, brought a variety of images to the public eye, albeit gruesome, eerie, or heart-breaking. There's the iconic photo of two girls
crying; the boys who ran
down the street; a pair of bloody shoes
left outside of a hospital. On a seriously morbid note, there's the image of Daniel Rohrbough's body
, which was plastered over several news outlets the very next day. According to his family, that's how they found out that he was one of the deceased.
One of the eeriest and lesser-known photos taken on that day includes a view of Eric Harris inside the library
, standing by the windows.
9) Lauren Townsend was shot so many times that the medical examiner couldn't figure out which bullet had killed her
Lauren Townsend, 18, was in the running for valedictorian when she was murdered Lauren Townsend
, who comforted friends in her final moments, experienced the brunt of Dylan Klebold's rage. He fired his TEC-9 at point-blank range, with nearly all of the shots hitting Lauren. Even in death, the damage to her body wouldn't cease; after murdering Kelly Fleming, an extra round from Eric Harris' shotgun went into Lauren's body.
While the investigation and witness reports claim it was a headshot that killed her, the results of her autopsy are unable to confirm this. Apart from her head, she'd also been struck in the back, chest, abdomen, hip, and arm. A total of nine
entry wounds was documented in her report
The medical examiner concludes her death as being the result of "multiple gunshot wounds," since he was unable to figure out which injury had killed her.
10) On the day of the shooting, Eric's father, Wayne Harris, called 911 and said, "I'm afraid that [my son] may be involved..."
Wayne and Kathy Harris have not spoken publicly since the shooting
The accusations of bad parenting, or lack of any
parenting, have always been evident since Columbine happened. When Sue Klebold finally spoke in 2016, we were given insight into how she and Tom parented Dylan; when you listen to her speak, you realize that they were like most responsible parents: taking away privileges as punishment, grounding, communicating when necessary, etc. but at the same time they treated Dylan with respect and valued his privacy by the time he was a senior in high school. Many experts have come forward to say that neither Sue or Tom had any idea of Dylan's involvement, planning, or intentions.
The same, however, cannot be said for Wayne and Kathy Harris, who (to this day) have not spoken publicly. One thing that leaves much to the imagination is the 911 call
that Wayne Harris made when he heard about the shooting.
11) Some of the victims reportedly had premonitions of their deaths
Rachel Joy Scott, 17, predicted that she would \"die at a young age\" in her journal entries
While Cassie Bernall had plans to study abroad and wanted to become an obstetrician, she told her parents that she was never going to have kids. They found it ironic, considering her dream job and how she loved being around the babies at the church. Misty Bernall says: "I remember asking her, 'Do you not want kids, Cassie?' And she looked at me kind of funny and said, 'Well, I just feel like I'm never going have the opportunity.' We asked her what she meant by that and she said she couldn't explain it." A few weeks before her death, Cassie also asked her parents: "What would you do if I died?" They were shocked and demanded to know what she meant. "I'm just asking," she reassured them. "But you would be okay, right? You'd know that I'd be in Heaven."
Rachel Scott wrote of her premature death in her journal. When mentioning her school, she writes: "Through these halls of a tragedy." She also mentioned to her family that she wasn't going to have kids, let alone get married. She never explained why, though her desire to do missionary work might be the most plausible theory (for those who doubt premonitions).
When Kyle Velasquez left the house on the morning of April 20, his mother, Phyllis, had a gut feeling that she was never going to see him again. When someone told her about the shooting just a few hours later, she knew right away that he was probably one of the deceased.
The night before he passed away, John Tomlin
had been on the phone with his girlfriend. Before he said goodnight, he told her: "I just want you to know that.... should something ever happen to me, you have to trust God that I'll be okay." His girlfriend later recalled that this was unusual and out of character for him to say.
12) All of the autopsy reports are available to view online
Three girls stare at the crosses of their deceased classmates and teacher
Unsurprisingly, the autopsy reports of Harris and Klebold are available online. But did you know that so are the reports of everyone
who died at Columbine that day? Yep. The official memorial website has the files posted
. (Apart from the 911 calls and crime scene photos, I personally consider these to be the most chilling pieces of evidence/information to come out of the tragedy.)
13) Even if she wasn't killed in the shooting, Rachel Scott might've still been murdered
Rachel worked at a Subway where two murders occurred in February 2000
Before she was killed at Columbine High School, Rachel Scott was working at a Subway restaurant in Littleton. Not even one year after the massacre, on February 14, 2000, two Columbine students were gunned down inside the shop
. 18-year-old Stephanie Hart-Grizzell and her boyfriend Nick Kunselman, 17, were found by a Subway employee at 1 a.m. who came inside to inspect things after driving by. The employee said they knew something was wrong because the lights were still on and it was three hours after closing time. As the police report goes, Stephanie's family said that she'd gone to pick up Nick, who was supposed to lock up after working the late-night shift.
It is unknown who killed them. One witness reported seeing a white male, weighing about 150 pounds and standing at 5 foot 7, leaving the scene before the shop was due to close; other tips that came in have said that the man was blonde and "possibly fresh out of high school." No gunshots were ever reported that night. Theories range from robbery to mistaken identity to a possible drug deal gone bad. The high school sweethearts had survived the Columbine tragedy and were "still grieving together" when they were killed.
Upon hearing about this, Rachel's father was shocked, specifically because it was the same shop Rachel had worked at. To this day, her family wonders that, if she hadn't been killed in the shooting, would she have been gunned down at the Subway? (Her parents talk about it in the book Rachel's Tears
14) There's an audio recording of all the library deaths, but it will probably never be released to the public
The entrance to the Columbine High School library, sealed off by police
The infamous library 911 call
made by Patti Nielson is perhaps one of the most chilling things you will ever hear. Over the years, some clips have been leaked only to be proven fake. The entire call lasts three hours (it was left off the hook after she fled); there's a fifty-minute timeframe from when the call starts, to the murders, to Eric and Dylan committing suicide. You hear everyone die while the fire alarm blares in the background. According to Brooks Brown: "It's incredibly difficult to listen to, even if you don't know the people who are being killed or who's killing them."
There's the expression "if you look hard enough, you'll find something." That's what one YouTuber did in 2011 and, as a result, they leaked an exclusive audio clip
of the library 911 call in which you can hear Dylan Klebold murdering Lauren Townsend, with Val Schnurr screaming for her life. Prior to their upload, no one had the audio or was able to find it. It makes you wonder how deep they had to dig or what resources they had. (Also, their channel has been inactive ever since.)
15) Dylan Klebold asked one girl: "Do you believe in God?" but it wasn't Cassie Bernall, contrary to what the church and media will tell you
Cassie Bernall, 17, was hailed as a martyr following her death
For several months following her death, Cassie Bernall
had been deemed a martyr for proclaiming her faith to Eric Harris, who apparently asked her: "Do you believe in God?" When she said "yes," he killed her instantly. Of all the stories to come out of the Columbine tragedy, this remains the most popular and controversial. While false, Cassie's story is, however, believable due to the troubled life she once had.
In December 1996, her mother, Misty, felt out of touch with Cassie and was wondering why her daughter was being so distant. Misty went looking through her room for a "teen Bible" that Cassie's aunt had given her. Misty found the Bible, but she also found a stack of notecards in which Cassie and a friend ("Mona") discussed killing the Bernall family and then "running away and killing [themselves]." Horrified, her parents confronted her; Cassie rebelled and was pulled out of public school, being sent to a private Christian academy. In March 1997, a new friend of Cassie's invited her to a retreat with their youth group. Initially reluctant, Cassie agreed to go. While there, other teens in the group saw her breaking down and begging God for forgiveness. Upon returning home, she changed for the better, promising to live for God and take on challenges. (Source: She Said Yes
But Cassie was never
questioned by either of the shooters. Emily Wyant, 15, and Bree Pasquale, 17, both witnessed Harris executing Cassie at close-range and neither of them mentions (when interviewed) the junior girl being questioned about her faith. According to Wyant, Harris slapped the top of their table twice, bent down, and said: "Peek-a-boo!" He and Cassie never exchanged words. Furthermore, her final moments are heard on the library's 911 call, backing up Wyant's testimony.
The girl who was asked, "Do you believe in God?" was
in the library, but her name was Val Schnurr
. She had been shot eight times and, after witnessing the death of her best friend Lauren, collapsed onto her hands and knees, screaming: "Oh God! Oh God help me!" She was then confronted by Dylan Klebold, who stood over her with a shotgun. Scared for her life, Val said "no" then quickly changed it to "yes," hoping that either answer would satisfy him. One of the shooters told her, "God is gay" and walked on, sparing her.
Cassie's story, however, is the one that the Christian church holds onto. Even if not true, it has inspired many people, especially those who doubt their faith. Long after Columbine, the idea of teenage martyrdom has been idolized.
16) Lisa Kreutz, who was injured in the library, laid there for several hours because she couldn't move, even when the shooters returned to kill themselves
Lisa Kreutz, 18, receives her diploma and graduates with the Class of '99
Everyone who's very familiar with Columbine remembers the jarring footage of Patrick Ireland
, aka "The Boy In The Window." A few hours after being shot in the head by Dylan Klebold, he managed to walk towards the broken windows and pushed himself out, falling into the arms of SWAT team members. Throughout the whole ordeal, he only recalls drifting in and out of consciousness and wasn't aware that the bullet had entered his brain. While Patrick faced a long road to recovery, he wasn't the last injured person to make it out of the library alive.
Two hours after Patrick made his escape, the SWAT team entered the school's library around 3 p.m. After rescuing teacher Patti Nielson and three other staff members who were hiding in the AV room, they counted sixteen bodies on the floor. Only one of them was alive. It was Lisa Kreutz
, an 18-year-old senior who'd been hiding underneath a table with her friends, which included Lauren Townsend. Dylan fired underneath their table with his shotgun; Lisa and Val Schnurr were struck by the same bullet. She was also near Kelly Fleming when she died and was struck (again) by the buckshot from Eric Harris' shotgun. When the shooters left and the survivors took the opportunity to flee, Lisa was unable to move due to her injuries. Any time she tried to stand up or crawl she felt very lightheaded.
Like Patrick, Lisa also fell in and out of consciousness. After the survivors fled, she remembered the 11:45 bell ringing, which indicated that the lunch period was over. When Lisa wasn't unconscious, she told police that she was able to keep track of time by the bells, which jolted her awake every time they rang. She remembers hearing the shooters come back and, although her memory is hazy, recalls one of them saying something along the lines of: "That girl... over there..." (It is unknown if they noticed that she was still alive or if they were referring to someone else.) She also remembers hearing "an extremely loud bang" before all gunfire ceased, indicating that she at least heard Eric Harris commit suicide. In the 11k report, Lisa recalls "a girl with blonde hair coming and lying next to her." (Initially suspected to be Kelly Fleming, this was dismissed due to her having dark brown hair.)