A colorised picture from a school CCTV surveillance camera
|Date||20 April 1999|
|Perpetrators||Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold|
|Type||• mass shooting|
• school shooting
• mass murder
|Description||The deadliest high school shooting in U.S. history|
The Columbine Massacre was a school shooting which sparked significant public interest in the ensuing years, fueled by a mixture of the callous, "bad boy" personas of the perpetrators, combined with the continued secrecy of officials in the records and information concerning suspects and events. The shooting also caused a nationwide discussion on video games and whether or not violent content in media is detrimental to youth, as the shooters were avid fans of DOOM and code-named their plan “NBK”, after the film Natural Born Killers.
On the 20th of April 1999, Columbine High School seniors Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold began the worst school shooting since that year, killing 13 people and wounding 24. The massacre, which took place in Jefferson County, Colorado, brought school shootings into the public consciousness, being an event of national concern that was widely televised and reported on.
The shooting was in reality a failed bombing, as the pair had planted two BLEVE (boiling liquid expanding vapor explosion) devices consisting of propane tanks wired up with clocks to detonate at a set time in the cafeteria during Lunch ‘A’ period. Due to a range of events (including the clock manufacturers changing the material from metal to plastic, preventing a complete circuit and the rushed nature of the bomb-making as Harris had purchased the propane tanks that same morning), their anticipated destruction of the cafeteria and the library above it, potentially killing hundreds, never came to fruition.
At around 11:20 AM, Eric and Dylan realized the bombs must have failed, and began the shooting spree; they had reportedly initially planned to wait for the detonation, then pick off stragglers who fled the building. Alternatively, they may have known that BLEVE devices must heat to a critical point at which they detonate, explaining library witness testimonies of the perpetrators claiming “they’re all going to die anyways”; making it in essence a suicide bombing—mass shooting hybrid.
According to official reports, 2 people were killed outside, one professor was killed in the hallway and 10 kids inside the library. Although much of the massacre appears to be indiscriminate, simply killing those who were unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and other times inexplicably sparing victims, several excerpts from the boys’ diaries and witness testimony of their actions during the shooting indicates that retribution seemed to be a significant element in their motive. For example, upon entering the library, Harris reportedly shouted, “Everyone with a white hat or baseball cap, stand up!” This was pertaining to the fad among jocks at the school of wearing white baseball caps.
After police arrived during their onslaught in the school library, they briefly engaged in shootouts with officers from the windows, hampering paramedics’ attempts to rescue wounded students and faculty, before abruptly committing suicide at 12:08 PM. The following hours of the day involve a heavily scrutinized and belated SWAT team sweep of the school, as no standard protocol or procedure had existed for a school shooting situation at the time. It has been argued that the delayed entry and establishment of an ‘all-clear’ by police indirectly led to the death of staff member Dave Sanders, who likely could have survived with swift medical care.
The massacre was massively influential upon popular culture in the United States and indeed the developed world, creating many copycat shootings in the following years.
Prior to the shooting, Klebold and Harris filmed several videos explaining their actions to their family and the media, often going off on tangents or ranting about grievances at school. A video of Harris driving alone and briefly sobbing, seemingly apologetic for “what he has to do”, has also been transcribed but not released. This collection of videos is known to journalists and researchers as the "Basement Tapes", and has never been released by Jefferson County. Bizarrely, JeffCo reportedly destroyed their copy of the tapes (dubiously citing a “concern about inspiring copycat killers”), although it is rumored within the research community that the FBI has retained their own copy.
Interestingly, Harris’ father was a decorated Air Force officer; his job often required the Harris family to relocate across the country. Wayne N. Harris was considered highly intelligent with exceptional leader capabilities, and was trusted by the USAF with some of its most important projects, including the B-1B Bomber. Sue Klebold, Dylan’s mother, said that she had heard that military documents on brainwashing techniques had been found in the Harris’ home. Additionally, reputable researcher John Quinn claimed he has two sources in Plattsburgh Air Force Base (where the Harris family once was located) who state that Harris was drafted into “behavior modification programs” underway there.
Littleton, Colorado, the hometown of both Harris and Klebold, is the seat of a Lockheed-Martin factory which was ordered to be constructed in the 1950s by the Pentagon; in addition to rocket and satellite contracts, classified government projects take place there as well.
A news report by ABC’s 20/20 nearly a decade before the massacre concerned “death education”, an experimental teaching program that sought to inform students on the macabre subject of dying and the many spiritual and psychedelic theories on what happens after death. Among the schools interviewed as participants in the experiment was Columbine High School.
Columbine survivor Mark Taylor told his mother several bizarre things he saw in the school, including the open use of drugs, classes consisting of watching MTV, teachers coaching students on how to have better sex, and discussion of “witchcraft”, suggesting a possible link to clandestine operations of occult trauma programming akin to other instances within American schools, i.e. the McMartin Preschool Trials. Taylor also claimed that the shooters were on SSRIs, and that this was a major contributor to their actions. It has been reported that Harris was taking Luvox, an SSRI similar to Prozac.
In 2008, Taylor was chemically lobotomized and institutionalized in Aspen Pointe after an alleged “mental breakdown in a bookstore”. His degenerated cognition is heavily apparent in his 2009 interview.
Taylor’s claims of occult elements are corroborated by survivor Evan Todd’s statement to Time Magazine that “[the shooters] were into witchcraft. They were into voodoo dolls”.
“The truth is, I looked back and saw a third shooter, whom I and many others identified to law enforcement. No matter how many times I and countless others detailed the name and descriptions of that third shooter—who wasn’t even supposed to be at school that day—no one believed us. One of the most traumatic aftershocks of that day was the knowledge that law enforcement ignored the warnings, ignored the signs hanging in the windows, and that countless other students who survived know that at least one other person was out for our blood that day. He still roams free because the easy answer is that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were the only shooters. After all, they were dead, and the weapons used were found by their bodies. Only those of us that were there that day and those who knew what was happening and who participated in the shootings or helped to orchestrate the massacre know and speak out about this truth. The shooters were my friends. We were all the outcasts in that school, bullied because we didn’t fit the mold. I knew Eric and Dylan, I also knew the third shooter, which explains why I was able to clearly identify him to law enforcement. That fall semester before the shootings occurred, all my red flags were raised with this group of friends. They were obsessed with death and revenge and were clearly unstable. Although I wasn’t the most emotionally healthy person at that time, I knew the difference between right and wrong, and refused to participate in their “fantasies.” For this reason I intentionally distanced myself from that group during that fall semester and never looked back.”
Kristen Krueger (April 2019) 
It is of great interest to many independent researchers that in the JeffCo police witness files on Columbine (referred to as the ‘11k’, for the near-11,000 pages it comprises), there are dozens of witnesses who testify that they identified more than two shooters. The confidence in these assertions range from unsure to outright defiance of the police/JeffCo narrative. One perpetrator was reported to appear “middle aged, with a chiseled face...”; this individual was seen apparently calming Klebold down during the shooting, similar to a handler.
Several witnesses identified a known friend of the shooters, named Robert Perry. Perry was a member of a school clique/gang along with Harris, Klebold, and several other students, known as the “Trench Coat Mafia”.
Some ex-members had claimed that the official shooters would often bring up the idea of blowing up the school or shooting peers, but that “it was usually presumed to be a dark joke”. Nevertheless, this proves that the plan was not airtight between Harris and Klebold, meaning it is likely that they could have convinced other socially outcast friends to be complicit to some extent.
According to a diagram of the ballistics from the school’s emergency exit into the library, it is possible that SWAT units had, inadvertently or otherwise, shot and injured/killed students under the desks. If this is the case, it would be another plausible explanation for the tightly-knit secrecy surrounding the case by JeffCo to this very day, as well as the almost unbelievable amount of rumors and misinformation originating from Sheriff Stone’s words to the media in the early hours of the shooting; the police department would have a motive to avoid exposure of this, as it would open them up to litigation by parents and family, and potentially a wider investigation for negligence. In 2001, parents of victims had called for an investigation into whether or not police had shot a student and attempted to cover it up. Helicopter footage has surfaced of Jefferson County Police firing blindly into the library, without having seen the shooters. This footage seems to be around 12:15PM; i.e. around 7 minutes after the official shooters were already dead. The corresponding reports in the 11k can be found in the SWAT section, especially Greg Romero (pp. 8465-8486).
In the FBI’s documents on Columbine, the night before the shooting, an unidentified girl is described to have logged into AOL Instant Messenger and was in contact with two individuals who referenced April 20th, stating that something bad was going to happen in Colorado or North Carolina on that date. They also connected the date to Adolf Hitler’s birthday and “a fire”. Although this would presumably have been Harris and Klebold, the girl later logged into the same chatroom at 10 PM after the shooting occurred that day, and again encountered one of the users. This time, they referred to themselves as “the mole”, and stated they had to “go back under”.
On page 440 of the JeffCo report, library witness Heidi Johnson states that after the shooting, a coworker told her his friend had conversed via telephone with survivor Brooks Brown saying “something big was going to happen”, and that “he didn’t think those guys would come out alive”. This phone conversation was placed either shortly before the shooting occurred, or during the shooting (when nobody knew exactly what was occurring at the school).
An FBI agent involved in the investigation of the shooting was met with criticism when it was discovered that his son had helped create a video depicting Columbine High School crumbling to an apparent orbital satellite beam, with characters involving a ‘good guy’ in a trench coat. The agent downplayed the video, which was filmed two years before the massacre, and it was claimed they had not heard of the Trench Coat Mafia.
On Valentine’s day of 2000, a year after the massacre, two Columbine sophomore students were shot and killed at a Subway restaurant in Jefferson County. Investigators stated that robbery did not seem to be a motive. As of 2021, the killings are still unsolved.
Brandi Jo Malonson, a freshman present during the massacre, reportedly developed a drug habit as a coping mechanism, and ended up vanishing in 2006 the day after Christmas. Although many rumors abound, there are no leads in the disappearance. Notably, she was also friends with the two students killed on Valentine’s Day of 2000.
- Forbes Magazine. ”Expert Calls Blaming Video Games on Tragic Massacres Like Oslo and Columbine Racist”. 7-28-11.
- The Columbine effect
- Transcript of the Basement Tapes
- Heavy. ”The Basement Tapes”. 2019.
- Westword. ”Columbine Killers’ Basement Tapes Destroyed”. 2015.
- Heavy. ”Eric Harris’ Parents & Brother”. 2019.
- Scripps Howard News Service. ”Shooter Harris' father walks straight and narrow path”. 1999.
- The Guardian. ”‘Dylan had killed children in cold blood’: life after the Columbine massacre”. 2016.
- Boulder News. ”Suspects' neighbors stunned by shootings”. 1999.
- Rocky Mountain News. ”Killers' double life fooled many”. 1999.
- Think About It. ”New Columbine Witness Speaks Out”. 1999.
- Deseret News. ”Littleton is Anytown, USA”. 1999.
- ABC 20/20. ”Death in the Classroom”. 1990
- CNN. ”Columbine shooter was prescribed anti-depressant”. 1999.
- Time Magazine. ”The Columbine Tapes”. 1999.
- A Columbine Survivor's Story: Healing the Invisible Wounds of Trauma
- The Guardian. ”A clique within a clique, obsessed with guns, death and Hitler”. 1999.
- Midland Reporter-Telegram. ”Probe Sought in Columbine Deaths”. 2002.
- Animated GIF of helicopter footage
- The Denver Post. ”FBI agent downplays son’s film”. 1999.
- The New York Times. ”2 More Columbine Students Are Killed”. 2000.
- The Denver Post. ”Reward upped for info on teenage couple killed on Valentine’s Day 21 years ago”. 2021.
- The Salt Lake Tribune. ”Woman traumatized by Columbine massacre turns to drugs, vanishes”. 2014.