The Complete Story & Motives Behind The Columbine High School Shooting
On April 20, 1999, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris walked into the Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, and gunned down 13 people. The number of injured people was more than 20. Once they finished carrying out this horrific act, the duo cowardly took out their own lives. This tragic incident would come to be etched in America’s history as the Columbine High School Shooting.
As of 1999, the massacre was the deadliest school shooting in the United States. Aside from the death counts and those injured, Columbine Shooting left a scar in the minds of those little children that made it out alive on the infamous day.
What really motivated Klebold and Harris to carry out such heinous attacks on young children? And so far, how have the victims of the Columbine Shooting fared? With more than two decades elapsing since the Columbine Massacre, has America made any progress concerning gun control and school safety?
The following contains the complete story and facts about the events that occurred before, during, and after the Columbine High School Shooting:
Quick Facts About The Columbine High School Shooting
- The day of the Columbine High School Massacre was on Tuesday, April 20, 1999.
- The shooters’ names were Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris.
- Both Klebold and Harris marched into Columbine High School at around 11:00 a.m.
- The death count from the carnage was 13: there were 12 students and one teacher.
- On the day of the attack, neither Eric Harris nor Dylan Klebold showed up to their morning classes. The very bright and intelligent student, Harris even missed the philosophy test.
- While approaching the premises of the school, Harris encountered his friend, Brooks Brown, at the smoking area of the school. Harris warned Brooks to flee because things were about to get ugly in the school. In less than a few minutes after Brooks left the school’s premises, the sounds of gunfire began.
- During the first few moments of hearing the gunshots, it did not cross Brooks’ mind that the sounds were actual gunfire. He reasoned they were fireworks that were probably set off to prank students and staff of the school. Once reason dawned on him that they were in fact gunshots, he quickly found a telephone in a house nearby and called for help.
- Brooks Brown and Harris had been friends since the first grade. About a year prior to the Massacre, Harris was very physically abusive to Brooks. He thrashed Brooks’ house; sent him a lot of death threats online; and even confided in Brooks that he intended blowing things up with pipe bombs.
- Investigations revealed that the Columbine Shooting lasted for about an hour or so. Both shooters, Harris and Klebold, wore trench coats. They also had duffel bags in their hands.
- Many people have continued to maintain that the deluded teenagers that carried out the attacks were social misfits and outcasts. It was even believed that they did what they did because they were bullied. This is completely far from the truth.
- Due to the misconceptions that Klebold and Harris were bullied back in school, many anti-bullying initiatives were launched after the Columbine Shooting Carnage incident.
- In Early 2019, the Littleton authorities tabled a proposal for the demolition of the Columbine High School. The authorities want to do this because of the vast numbers of people that have an unhealthy fascination with the school. It has been estimated that in the past 11 months alone, over a hundred cases of break-ins into the school have been recorded.
- The Columbine High School Shooting once held the infamous record for being the deadliest school shooting in US history.
A quick clarification: it will be foolhardy to think that bullying was the only/major factor that influenced the shooters. However, and with the passage of time, studies and investigations have shown that even if Harris and Klebold were bullied, it would only have accounted for a minuscule amount in terms of what actually triggered them to go on their despicable rampage.
What kind of Lives did Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold live?
Prior to the shooting, the duo mass killers lived an unusual teenage life. Apart from Harris’ brush with Brown and his family, everything seemed quite normal to outsiders.
Friends and family would have described Klebold as a very quiet and shy type. Also, he did well in school, a high-flying student. Klebold was not the type that wore his heart on his sleeves.
With regard to Eric Harris, most of what we know about the mass killer comes from Brooks Brown. Of all Harris’ classmates, Brooks Brown was the closest. The two young boys were also members of the Colorado CHIPS (Challenging High Intellectual Potential Students) program – an organization that provides both financial and counseling services to students.
Another very important fact about Klebold is that he was a member of the school’s drama group. The teenager worked behind the stage on sounds and other drama stuff.
Eric Harris was a Kansas-born whose father was a US Air Force pilot. As a result of his father’s job, Harris spent a great amount of time moving from one state to another. It has been said that he had quite an unusual fascination for violent war games. With the issue of constant moving and readjustment, Harris constantly shut himself in and found violent video games, especially first-person shooter war games.
Throughout their years in middle school, Harris, Brown, and Klebold maintained the same group of friends. Like many kids of their age, the boys loved playing video games. Quite clearly, neither Harris nor Klebold was extremely antisocial.
It must also be emphasized that the understanding between the boys peaked when they working at a local pizza restaurant. Both Harris and Klebold were satisfactory workers; none of them had anything amiss with the manager of the restaurant.
Harris, being the employee with more experience, and due to his punctual behavior, was made the restaurant’s shift manager. This added responsibility somehow brought Harris out of his shell. Harris felt greater impetus to run amok and vandalize properties.
Were there any tell-tale signs on the wall?
Depending on whom you ask, the verdict remains a bit unclear as to whether the parents, guardians or at least the police could have taken pre-emptive actions to halt the killers’ deviant behavior from escalating.
In addition to the violent outburst that Klebold exhibited sometimes, Klebold did get on the wrong side of the school authorities when he scratched homophobic words in the locker of a student. The incident, which took place in 1997, resulted in Harris getting suspended from the school.
Similarly, Harris exhibited a significant amount of rage in the years leading to the school shooting. He once smashed Brown’s windshield to bits and pieces. All this bottled-up rage is what got released on April 20, 1999.
On a website that was frequented by both Harris and Klebold, Brooks discovered that Harris had made disparaging and highly offensive comments about him. His attention was drawn to this by Klebold himself. On the page, Harris narrated violent events that he had once engaged in. The ultimate give away into how the mind of Harris worked at the time was when he wrote about how he intended using pipe bombs to destroy several properties.
News of Harris’ plan made its way to Brooks’ parents. The parents, who were worried obviously, spoke to the police about Harris’ unbecoming behavior. It was no longer a matter of petty vandalism.
After investigating the call, the police discovered items that were vital materials for the preparation of pipe bombs around the home of Brooks. The discoveries were solid enough for the police to proceed to file a report.
With that case pending, Harris and Klebold got themselves in a different kind of trouble the following day. The pair had stolen stereo equipment from a van in their neighborhood.
It was at this time that Wayne, Harris’ father, decided to commit Harris into a youth rehabilitation program. Unbeknownst to the program and juvenile court judge, the case of pipe bombs did not come up during the proceedings. Also, the police failed to search Harris’ home for any explosive or bomb-like materials.
What is the story behind their trench coats?
The trench coat in Columbine High School became a fad after a bullied junior started wearing it. Many kids, realizing how a simple thing as a trench coat elevated the boy’s appeal, were quick to adopt the trench coat.
On some occasions, a number of students showed up to school in trench coats on hot days. Over time, the “Trench Coat Mafia” became the name students called kids who wore trench coats.
It was quite a fashion choice and statement for kids that considered themselves ‘cool’. However, these all happened a year or two before the Columbine Shooting. According to Brooks, Harris’ friend, Harris and Klebold weren’t part of this supposedly “cool” fashion group.
The only connection the boys had to the trench-coat wearing group was that Chris Morris, a friend of theirs, was part of the group.
On the day of the shooting, Harris, and Klebold must have thought that by wearing trench coats, they would look exactly like a violent mafia group in real life. Their goal was to send as much fear down the spines of their victims. Also, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold both wore trench coats in order to conceal the lethal weapons they carried on them into the school.
When did Klebold and Harris make their plans?
Subsequent investigations revealed that Harris and Klebold began making plans for their monstrous attack as far back as the spring of 1998. They termed the day that they would attack the school as “Judgment Day”.
A look into the journals of the boys showed awful and sadistic paintings of how they planned hurting and killing people. Harris even had a book that he titled, “The Book of God”. In the book, he sketched down sick and awful things as well as the philosophy behind his thinking process. In the case of Klebold, he called his journal, “Existences: A Virtual Book”.
Of the two boys, Klebold was definitely the more depressed. He seemed a bit more remorseful and hesitant in his actions. His entries into the journal sort of painted a picture of someone who duly acknowledged that he had messed up his life. He reasoned that the only way out was to end it by committing suicide. In his mind, Eric Harris was offering him a path to ending it all.
Klebold’s trigger definitely had to be Harris. It was Harris that heralded the idea that humanity was doomed because of their sheepish attitude to life. A completely unremorseful young man, Harris had successfully convinced himself that someone had to step in to get the “natural selection” process rolling. Harris even had the phrase “Natural Selection” on the shirt that he wore on the day of the shooting. In every sense of the imagination, Eric Harris was simply a psychopath.
What preparations did Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold make for the shooting?
Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold’s preparations began roughly a year before the incident went down. They had successfully evaded their parents’ and police’s gaze and stockpiled several weapons in their homes. The boys had pipe bombs and several portable canisters. Their shotguns were sawed-off. Their goal was to inflict as much damage to the school.
In the course of their preparation, it is believed that the duo tried to get Chris Morris on board. But he blatantly refused.
Due to the porous nature of US gun control laws, the teenagers were able to lay hands on two pump-action shotguns and a carbine rifle. They got an 18-year-old friend of theirs to make the gun purchases. A fourth gun was purchased under the counter from a different friend.
After the boys acquired the guns and explosive materials, they set out to practice. April 16, 1999, was the last day Eric and Klebold showed up at work.
The chosen date of the attack was set on April 19, 1999. Due to some last-minute purchases, in terms of weapons and ammunition, Harris decided to postpone it to the next day, Tuesday, April 20.
What Happened on the Day of the Columbine Shooting Massacre?
On the day of the attack, both Harris and Eric set off from home around 5:30 a.m. They left early in order to wrap up on their preparations. All in all, they hoped to place bombs at three very strategic places.
The first place was their cars. They packed their vehicles with bombs that would explode as first responders rushed to the scene. Everything that they did on the day was intended to cause as much bloodshed as possible.
Harris and Eric also decided to place propane time bombs close to the pillars of the school. Their goal was to make the roof cave in and then subsequently shoot the students as they run for their lives.
The third and final place selected was at the school park. This place was selected to divert first responders’ attention from the school.
The reason why none of the bombs went off was that the boys had the wiring done wrongly. Undoubtedly, this mishap saved a lot of lives that day.
Right up to the very second that the shooting started, Klebold continued to maintain some feeling of hesitation. It is likely that Harris had to convince his partner to go through with the shooting. In the end, it is believed that the majority of the deaths came at the hands of Harris.
About thirty minutes into the carnage, the boys found themselves in the library of the school. The place was packed with about 50 students in prime position to be taken down. A total of 10 students’ lives were lost in the library alone.
After the library massacre, the boys simply left the place and let the people flee for their lives. Perhaps they were more concerned about the bombs in the canteen not going off.
They made their way over to the canteen and unsuccessfully tried to trigger an explosion. They also fired shots outside the school at the police hoping that the police would be drawn into a gun battle with them. However, that did not work because there were no SWAT teams on the scene to move straight into the school building. With events going starkly against their original plan, the boys decided to kill themselves. The shooters took the lives of 13 people – 12 students and one teacher.
Why did the shooters pick April 20 as the day for the attack?
Harris and Klebold originally picked April 19 as the day for their attack because it was the same day as the Waco Siege and the Oklahoma City Bombing. In short, you could say that what happened in Oklahoma was sort of an inspiration to the boys. Harris, in particular, aimed to cause more deaths than the Oklahoma City Bombing. He had ambitious plans to set the Littleton town area ablaze with bombs all over. It was his version of “Judgement Day”.
What were the shooters’ motives behind the Columbine High School Shooters?
From a simplistic point of view, you could say that the two shooters were looking for attention. Perhaps deep down in the minds of those deluded and homicidal teenagers, they wanted to be caught in the act. For some strange reasons, none of the parents of the shooters sensed anything leading up to the attack. The ease at which they were able to evade their parents with excuses and lies was certainly palpable.
Take the instance of Harris and his parents. In the months that Harris was making the gun purchases, a gun shop phoned Harris’ house to inform him of the availability of the guns that he ordered a few weeks ago. When his parents confronted him about the call, Harris played it off as a wrong number. Obviously, alarm bells should have gone up in the minds of any decent parent. But clearly none of that of ever happened.
In terms of a more complex explanation of the thought process that consumed the minds of the Columbine shooters, a look at other factors is necessary.
Between the two shooters, Harris was the more disturbed one. Harris saw the attack as a way to leave his mark on earth. He saw it as something that he was destined to do. It is not uncommon to have some types of psychopaths feeling like they alone could save the human race. This was exactly what Eric Harris hoped to accomplish. The attack on him was his way of bringing down the system of indoctrination against the youth down.
In the mind of Harris, he held no qualms against those high school kids; rather, it was the society that he diverted all his anger towards. And what a better way to usher them into the new century (i.e. the year 2000) than to attack the pillars of what held this society together? Without a shred of doubt, Harris epitomized the very word psychopath.
As for Klebold, the attack to him was a way of bowing out of life with some “pump and pageantry”. All throughout his early teens, the kid had suicidal thoughts. And these thoughts were fueled by the number of times he got into trouble. He perhaps felt worthless. In his mind, he must have felt extremely lost, as if the weight of the world was crushing him.
The aftermath of the Columbine High School Shooting
In less than a couple of hours after the Columbine High School Shooting, several big news networks were at the scene covering the attack. So many eyewitness accounts flooded both local and state news channels.
Interestingly, there was not as much widespread knee-jerk response from supporters of gun controls. Social media had yet to become mainstream and ubiquitous. Hence the agenda of gun controls did not immediately pop up as compared to what we see today.
The Jefferson County Sheriff did a poor job of handling the crisis. You could cut them some slacks because the sheriff was only four months into his post. But it still does not excuse him from some of the terrible ways he acted on the scene. For starters, no SWAT team approached the shooters. With that kind of response and had the shooters plan gone according to plan, the carnage would have been much higher.
After it was revealed that Dave Sanders bled to death from gun wounds because he got no immediate response, several media houses faulted the police for just standing outside the premises of the school. Simply put, the police were far from prepared to handle such an attack. They also got several sticks for failing to take seriously cases that involved Harris before the attack. The signs were glaring on the wall, and you would expect any police department to be able to anticipate how a troubled mind such as Harris’ would escalate further.
The police were also very tight-lipped about the attack for a whopping seven years or so. Families of the deceased had to literally go to courts in order to pry out details from the police department. But to no avail.
There were also so many attempts to hush Brooks Brown and his family from giving interviews to news agencies about how sloppy the police dealt with Harris in the months leading up to the attack.
As time went on, several stories about the attackers’ motives continued to gain wide coverage. News agencies picked on a few accounts of students, students who surprisingly did not know any of the boys, and run stories about how Harris and Klebold were excessively bullied at school all their lives. Many reasoned that the shooters lashed out at the school as some sort of revenge for all those years they were bullied. Some students picked on the fact that because Klebold was a member of the school’s theater group, he must have been abused and tagged as gay.
The truth of the matter is that Columbine High School had approximately 2000 students. Obviously, Harris and Klebold were not the most famous of those in 2000. Neither were they part of the “Trench Coat Mafia” simply because they wore trench coats on the day of the attack. These were two very average kids in terms of the social hierarchy of the school. The boys simply had deep-rooted psychological issues that went on for years without any of their parents fully knowing the extent of the boys’ problems.
The police, on the other hand, was privy to all the reports of the boys’ deviant and very dangerous behaviors prior to the attack. Perhaps, they alone could or should have foreseen the impending doom.
See Also: Jack the Ripper – History, Victims, Suspects, & Letters