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Eric David Harris
Born April 9, 1981(1981-04-09)
Wichita, Kansas, U.S.A.
Died April 20, 1999 (aged 18)
Jefferson County, near Denver and Littleton, Colorado, U.S.A.
Status Deceased (suicide)
Occupation Student
Parents Wayne Harris
Katherine Poole
Dylan Bennet Klebold
Born September 11, 1981(1981-09-11)
Lakewood, Colorado, U.S.A.
Died April 20, 1999 (aged 17)
Jefferson County, near Denver and Littleton, Colorado, U.S.A.
Status Deceased (suicide)
Occupation Student
Parents Thomas Klebold
Susan Yassenoff

Eric David Harris (April 9, 1981 – April 20, 1999) and Dylan Bennet Klebold (September 11, 1981 – April 20, 1999) were the high school seniors who committed the Columbine High School massacre. They killed 13 people and injured 21 others. Three people were also injured as they escaped the attack.[1] Both Harris, 18 years old, and Klebold, 17, committed suicide at the site of the killings.

Contents

Background

Eric David Harris was born in Wichita, Kansas. The Harris family relocated often as Eric's father, Wayne Harris, was a U.S. Air Force transport pilot. His mother, Katherine Ann Poole, was a homemaker. The family moved from Plattsburgh, New York to Littleton, Colorado in July 1993, when Wayne Harris retired from military service.

The Harris family lived in rented accommodations for the first three years that they lived in the Littleton area. During this time Eric met and befriended Dylan Klebold. In 1996, the Harris family purchased a house south of Columbine High School. Eric's older brother Kevin attended college at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Dylan Bennet Klebold was born in Lakewood, Colorado to Thomas Klebold and Susan Yassenoff. His parents attended a Lutheran church with their children, and Dylan and his older brother Byron attended confirmation classes in accordance with Lutheran tradition.[2] At home, the family also observed some rituals in keeping with Susan Klebold's Jewish heritage.[2][3] Susan's grandfather, Leo Yassenoff, was an influential builder and philanthropist. Thomas Klebold was raised by a brother 18 years his senior, after his parents had died while he was young.

The Klebold family had resided in Deer Creek Canyon in southern Lakewood since 1990. Thomas Klebold was a geophysicist turned realtor and ran a small real estate business from home, while Susan Klebold worked for the State of Colorado, administering training programs for the Disabled.[4] Klebold attended Normandy Elementary School during first and second grade, then attended Governor's Ranch Elementary School where he was part of the CHIPS (Challenging High Intellectual Potential Students) program.[5] He met and befriended Brooks Brown around this period, but he would not meet Harris until junior high school.

High school

1998 Yearbook photographs of Klebold and Harris.

According to early accounts of the shooting, Harris and Klebold were unpopular students and frequent targets of bullying at their high school.[3] They eventually began to bully other students; Harris and Klebold had written diary entries about how they themselves had bullied younger students and "fags."[6] Harris and Klebold were reportedly members of a group that called themselves the "Trenchcoat Mafia," although they had no particular connection with the group, and did not appear in a group photo of the Trenchcoat Mafia in the 1998 Columbine yearbook.[7] Harris's father stated that his son was "a member of what they call the Trenchcoat Mafia" in a 911 call he made on April 20, 1999.[8] Klebold attended the high school prom three days before the shootings with a classmate named Robyn Anderson.[9]

Soon after they became friends, Harris and Klebold linked their personal computers on a network and both played many games over the Internet. Harris created a set of levels for the game Doom which later became known as the Harris levels. Harris had a Web presence under the handle "REB" (short for Rebel) and other cyber aliases including "Rebldomakr," "Rebdoomer," and "Rebdomine," while Klebold went by the names "VoDKa" and "VoDkA." Harris had various websites that hosted Doom and Quake files, as well as team information for those he gamed with online. The sites openly espoused hatred for the people of their neighborhood and the world in general. When the pair began experimenting with pipe bombs, they posted results of the explosions on the websites.

Harris was a fan of musical groups such as Rammstein, KMFDM, Orbital, and The Prodigy.[10] Soon after the shooting, KMFDM posted material on their website condemning Harris and Klebold's violence and denying that their music had anything to do with it.[11]

The massacre

Initial legal encounters

In March 1998, Jefferson County Sheriff's Office investigator Michael Guerra looked at Harris's website after the parents of Brooks Brown, a fellow student of Harris and Klebold, discovered Harris was making threats aimed at their son following a falling out between them. Guerra wrote a draft affidavit for a search warrant, but the affidavit was never filed. This information was not revealed to the public until September 2001 by 60 Minutes, though it was known by the police the entire time.

The two boys got into trouble with the law early for breaking into a locked van and stealing tools. In January 1998, they were charged with mischief, breaking and entering, trespassing and theft. They both left good impressions on the juvenile officers, who offered to expunge their criminal records if they agreed to attend a diversionary program to include community service, receiving psychiatric treatment, and obeying the law. Harris was required to attend anger management classes where, again, he made a favorable impression. They were so well behaved that their probation officer discharged them from the program a few months earlier than the due date. Of Harris, it was remarked that he was "a very bright individual who is likely to succeed in life," while Klebold was said to be intelligent, but "needs to understand that hard work is part of fulfilling a dream."

Hitmen for Hire

Despite these outward appearances of calm, as time went on, their rage continued to grow. The two made a video for a school project that showed them pretending to shoot fake guns and "snuffing" students in the hallway of their school as Hitmen for Hire. They both displayed themes of violence in their creative writing projects for school; Harris' teacher said of a Doom-based tale, written on January 17, 1999 by Harris, "Yours is a unique approach and your writing works in a gruesome way — good details and mood setting."[12][13]

While having a cigarette at the start of lunch break, Brooks Brown saw Harris arrive at school on the day of the massacre. Brown scolded Harris for skipping the morning class, because Harris was always serious about his academics and being on time. Harris reportedly said, "Brooks, I like you now. Get out of here. Go home."[14] Having severed his friendship with him a year earlier due to Harris's throwing a chunk of ice at his car windshield, Brown quickly left the school grounds. Upon hearing the first gunshots after he had already walked some distance away from the school, he informed the police by a neighbor's cell phone.

Acquiring arms

9 mm Hi-Point 995 carbine, one of the guns Eric Harris used.
9 mm TEC-DC9 pistol, one of the guns Dylan Klebold used.

Because Harris and Klebold were both underage at the time, Robyn Anderson, an 18-year-old Columbine student and old friend of Klebold's, made a straw purchase of two shotguns and Hi-Point carbine for the pair.[15] Anderson was not charged for her part in the straw purchase in exchange for her cooperation with the investigation that followed the shootings. After illegally acquiring the weapons, Klebold sawed off his Savage 311-D 12-gauge double-barrel shotgun, shortening the overall length to approximately 23 inches, a felony under the National Firearms Act, while Harris's Savage–Springfield 12-gauge pump shotgun was sawed off to around 26 inches.[16]

The shooters also possessed a TEC-DC9 semi-automatic handgun, which had a long history. The manufacturer of the TEC-DC9 first sold it to Miami-based Navegar Incorporated. It was then sold to Zander's Sporting Goods in Baldwin, Illinois in 1994. The gun was later sold to Thornton, Colorado firearms dealer Larry Russell. In violation of federal law, Russell failed to keep records of the sale, yet he determined that the purchaser of the gun was twenty-one years of age or older. He was unable to identify the pictures of Klebold, Anderson, or Harris shown to him by police after the shooting. Two men, Mark Manes and Philip Duran, were convicted of supplying weapons to the two. Early descriptions of the TEC-DC9 claimed that it was a fully automatic weapon, one that fired continuously with one pull of the trigger, although this was not the case.

The bombs used by the pair varied and were crudely made from carbon dioxide canisters, galvanized pipe, and metal propane bottles. The bombs were primed with matches placed at one end of the bomb. Both had striker tips on their sleeves. When they rubbed against the bomb, the match head would instantly light the fuse. The weekend before the shootings, Harris and Klebold had purchased propane tanks and other supplies from a hardware store for a few hundred dollars. Several residents of the area claimed to have heard glass breaking and buzzing sounds from the Harris family's garage, which later was concluded to indicate they were constructing pipe bombs. Harris purchased more propane tanks on the morning of the attack.

More complex bombs, such as the one that detonated on the corner of South Wadsworth Boulevard and Ken Caryl Avenue, had timers. The two largest bombs built were found in the school cafeteria and were made from small propane tanks. Only one of these bombs went off, only partially detonating. It was estimated that had any of the bombs placed in the cafeteria actually detonated properly, the blast could have caused extensive structural damage to the school and resulted in casualties in the hundreds.[17]

Aftermath

Motivations

Harris (left) and Klebold as captured on Columbine High School's security cameras during the massacre.

Harris and Klebold wrote much about how they would carry out the massacre but far less about why. A journal found in Harris' bedroom contained almost every detail that the boys planned to follow after 5:00 a.m. on April 20, 1999.[18] In journal entries, the pair often wrote about events such as the Oklahoma City bombing, Waco, and other similar events, including blurbs and notes on how they wished to "outdo" these events, focusing especially on what Timothy McVeigh did in Oklahoma City. They mentioned how they would like to leave a lasting impression on the world with this kind of violence. That the shooters initially planned and failed to blow up the high school, and not just shoot students, is an indication of how they instead wished to overshadow the events that had occurred, respectively, four and six years earlier.

Much speculation occurred over the date chosen for their attack. It was speculated that the original intended date of the attack may have been April 19, the preceding Monday, but for an unknown reason, the date was changed.[19][20]

Some people, such as Robyn Anderson, who knew the perpetrators, initially stated that the pair was not obsessed with Nazism nor did they worship or admire Adolf Hitler in any way, although the attack occurred on Hitler's birthday, as was speculated early on by the media. Anderson stated that in retrospect, there were many things the pair did not tell friends.[15] In his journal, Harris mentioned his admiration of what he imagined to be natural selection and wrote that he would like to put everyone in a super Doom game and see to it that the weak die and the strong live.[21] On the day of the massacre, Harris wore a white T-shirt with the words "NATURAL SELECTION" printed in black.[6]

Journals and investigation

Harris began keeping a journal in April 1998, a short time after the pair was convicted of breaking into a van, for which each received ten months of juvenile intervention counseling and community service in January 1998. The plan began to formulate then, as reflected in their journals.[20] They were released early from the program due to good behavior, a fact about which they later gloated in memoirs they taped before the shootings. The journals contained notes on "good hiding places" and areas with poor lighting that could be utilized. The attack was to start at exactly 11:17 a.m.; which Harris had estimated to be the time when the largest possible number of students would be located in the cafeteria.

Harris wanted to join the United States Marine Corps, but his application was rejected shortly before the shootings because he was taking the drug Luvox (fluvoxamine), an SSRI antidepressant, which he was required to take as part of court-ordered anger management therapy. According to the recruiting officer, Harris did not know about this rejection. Though some friends of Harris suggested that he had stopped taking the drug beforehand,[22] the autopsy reports showed that he had Luvox in his system at the time of death.[23] Abrupt cessation of SSRI antidepressants has been found to interfere with normal social functioning in some patients. After the shootings, opponents of contemporary psychiatry like Peter Breggin[24] claimed that the psychiatric medications prescribed to Harris after his conviction (ostensibly for obsessive-compulsive disorder) may have exacerbated his aggressiveness.[25]

A personality profile of Eric Harris, based on journal entries and personal communication, suggested behavior patterns consistent with a "malignant narcissism ... (with) pathological narcissism, antisocial features, paranoid traits, and unconstrained aggression".[26] The report notes that such a profile should not be construed as a direct psychiatric diagnosis, which is based on face-to-face interviews, formal psychological testing, and collection of collateral information.

Dylan Klebold's role in the shooting had him surrounded in mystery for some time. In his journal, Klebold wrote about his view that he and Harris were god-like and more highly evolved than every other human being. His secret journal, however, records self-loathing and suicidal intentions. Although both had difficulty controlling their anger, Klebold's anger had led to his being more prone to serious trouble than Harris. Klebold was well known to swear at teachers and fight with his boss at Blackjack Pizza. After their arrest, which both recorded as the most traumatic thing the two had ever experienced, Klebold wrote a letter to Harris, saying how they would have so much fun getting revenge and killing cops, and how his wrath from the January arrest would be god-like. On the day of the massacre, Klebold wore a black T-shirt which had the word "WRATH" printed in red.[6] It was speculated that revenge for the arrest was another possible motive for the attack, and that the pair planned on having a massive gun battle with police during the shooting. Klebold also wrote that life was no fun without a little death, and that he would like to spend the last moments of his life in nerve-wracking twists of murder and bloodshed. He concluded by saying that he would kill himself afterward in order to leave the world that he hated and go to a better place.

One official report suggested that Harris was a clinical psychopath and Klebold was a depressive. Investigators believe that their mental illnesses may have been the underlying cause for their rampage. This report suggested that all of the reasons the boys gave for the shooting were justifications in order to present themselves as killers with a cause.[10]

Some of the home recorded videos, called "The Basement Tapes", have been withheld from the public by the police. Harris and Klebold reportedly discussed their motives for the attacks in these videos and gave instructions in bomb making. Police cite the reason for withholding these tapes as an effort to prevent them from becoming "call-to-arms" and "how-to" videos that could inspire copycat killers.

Media confusion

Initially, the shooters were believed to be members of a clique that called themselves the "Trenchcoat Mafia", a small group of Columbine's self-styled outcasts who wore heavy black trench coats. The Trenchcoat Mafia was originally a group of gamers who hung out together and started wearing trenchcoats after one of the members received a cowboy duster for Christmas. They adopted the name "Trenchcoat Mafia" after jocks began to call them that. Investigation revealed that Harris and Klebold were only friends with one member of the group, Chris Morris, and that most of the primary members of the Trenchcoat Mafia had left the school by the time that Harris and Klebold committed the massacre. Most did not know the shooters, apart from their association with Morris, and none were considered suspects in the shootings or were charged with any involvement in the incident.

Sociological investigation into the high school subculture was conducted in response to the killings, with the goal to determine what factors led to the event and whether or not future massacres in other schools could be successfully prevented. In the aftermath of the attacks, some North American high school students attended compulsory seminars that encouraged tolerance and condemned bullying. The effectiveness of this on bullying prevention was not clear, as investigation indicated that bullying wasn't the sole cause of the shootings.

Harris and Klebold affected U.S. culture in tangible ways. Marilyn Manson dubbed them "The Nobodies" in his song of that name from his 2000 album Holy Wood, echoing the reasons the pair gave for their spree in the lyrics.[27] Manson, who was blamed in the wake of the Columbine massacre by the media, criticized their coverage of the event with the lines:

"Some children died the other day / We fed machines and then we prayed / Puked up and down in morbid faith / You should have seen the ratings that day."

He also stated later that if he was given the chance to say something to Harris and Klebold, "I wouldn't say a single word to them — I would listen to what they have to say, and that's what no one did."[28]

There was controversy over whether the perpetrators should be memorialized. Some were opposed, saying that it glorified murderers, while others argued that the perpetrators themselves were victims, too. Crosses were erected for Harris and Klebold,[29] but the father of victim Daniel Rohrbough cut them down, saying that murderers should not be memorialized in the same place as victims.[30]

Susan Klebold speaks

Susan Klebold, speaking for the first time since the Columbine High School massacre, penned an essay for an issue of O, The Oprah Magazine.[4] In the piece, Klebold wrote "For the rest of my life, I will be haunted by the horror and anguish Dylan caused" and that "Dylan changed everything I believed about myself, about God, about family, and about love."[4] Stating that she had no clue of her son's intentions, she said that "[o]nce I saw his journals, it was clear to me that Dylan entered the school with the intention of dying there."[4]

Video games

The pair created levels for the computer games Doom and Quake. Some of the Harris level packs have graphical modifications that 'enhance' the violent content of the game. Generous supplies of monsters, ammunition, and weapons are some of the other features of the levels created by Eric Harris. None of the levels depict Columbine High School, contrary to early rumors after the shootings.[31]

Film connections

Harris mentioned the murder-themed film Natural Born Killers in his journal, referring to the "holy April morning of NBK." NBK was used as a code name for the attack by both, who were great fans of the work.

Harris and Klebold were portrayed as Alex and Eric in the film Elephant by Gus Van Sant, as Cal and Andre in Zero Day by Ben Coccio, as Derwent and Derrick in Duck! The Carbine High Massacre by William Hellfire and Joey Smack, as Chance and Will in American Yearbook by Brian Ging, and an unnamed shooter in Home Room.

References

  1. ^ The Injured at Columbine High School. AColumbineSite.com. Accessed July 19, 2008.
  2. ^ a b Leppek, Chris (1999-04-30). "Dylan Klebold led life of religious contradictions". http://www.jewishsf.com/content/2-0-/module/displaystory/story_id/11140/edition_id/213/format/html/displaystory.html. Retrieved 2008-08-24. 
  3. ^ a b "Burying a killer - Dylan Klebold's funeral service". Christian Century. 1999-05-12. http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1058/is_15_116/ai_54700214. Retrieved 2008-08-24. 
  4. ^ a b c d Klebold, Susan (November 2009). "I Will Never Know Why". O, The Oprah Magazine. http://www.oprah.com/article/omagazine/200911-omag-susan-klebold-columbine. Retrieved 2009-10-21. 
  5. ^ "Dylan Bennet Klebold". A Columbine Site. http://acolumbinesite.com/dylan.html. Retrieved 2008-08-24. 
  6. ^ a b c Toppo, Greg (2009-04-14). "10 years later, the real story behind Columbine". USA Today. http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2009-04-13-columbine-myths_N.htm. Retrieved 2009-04-14. 
  7. ^ "The Trenchcoat Mafia Yearbook Picture". A Columbine Site. http://www.acolumbinesite.com/yearbook.html#tcm. Retrieved 2008-08-24. 
  8. ^ Kass, Jeff (2009). Columbine: A True Crime Story. Ghost Road Publishing Group. ISBN 0981652565. http://books.google.com/books?id=eHQ7OgAACAAJ. 
  9. ^ Bartels, Linda; Carla Crowder (1999-08-22). "Fatal Friendship". Denver Rocky Mountain News. http://denver.rockymountainnews.com/shooting/0822fata1.shtml. Retrieved 2008-06-01. 
  10. ^ a b Cullen, Dave (2004-04-20). "The Depressive and the Psychopath". Slate. http://www.slate.com/id/2099203/sidebar/2099208/. Retrieved 2008-08-24. 
  11. ^ "Official Press Release Issued by MSO". Internet Archive. 1999-04-21. http://web.archive.org/web/19990427193333/http://www.kmfdm.net/. 
  12. ^ "Eric's writing: Creative writing story". A Columbine Site. http://www.acolumbinesite.com/eric/writing/ehcw.gif. 
  13. ^ "Gunfire in the halls". A Columbine Site. http://www.acolumbinesite.com/event/event.html. Retrieved 2008-08-24. 
  14. ^ Brown, Brooks (2007-04-18). "Columbine Survivor With Words for Virginia Students". NPR. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=9658182. Retrieved 2008-08-24. 
  15. ^ a b "The 11,000 Page Report" (PDF). The Boulder Daily Camera. http://www.boulderdailycamera.com/shooting/report/p10601-10700.pdf. 
  16. ^ "How they were equipped that day". CNN. http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2000/columbine.cd/Pages/EQUIPMENT_TEXT.htm. Retrieved 2009-11-25. 
  17. ^ Bartels, Lynn (2002-04-12). "At 'perfect' school, student sat next to bomb". Rocky Mountain News. http://www.rockymountainnews.com/drmn/local/article/0,1299,DRMN_15_1076860,00.html. Retrieved 2008-08-24. 
  18. ^ "Columbine Documents" (PDF). Rocky Mountain News. http://denver.rockymountainnews.com/pdf/900columbinedocs.pdf. Retrieved 2008-08-24. 
  19. ^ Gallimore, Timothy (2004). "Unresolved Trauma: Fuel for the Cycle of Violence and Terrorism". Psychology of Terrorism: Coping with the Continuing Threat. Praeger. p. 88. ISBN 0275982076. 
  20. ^ a b Ryckman, Lisa (2000-05-16). "Demonic plan was months in making". Rocky Mountain News. http://denver.rockymountainnews.com/shooting/0516bguy2.shtml. 
  21. ^ "Handwritten Journal Entries. 4/21/98". A Columbine Site. http://acolumbinesite.com/eric/writing/journal.html. Retrieved 2008-12-11. 
  22. ^ Gibbs, Nancy (December 20, 1999). "The Columbine Tapes". TIME. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,992873-3,00.html. 
  23. ^ "Eric Harris Autopsy Report". A Columbine Site. http://www.acolumbinesite.com/autopsies/eric9.gif. Retrieved 2009-02-10. 
  24. ^ Breggin, Peter R. (1999-04-30). "Was School Shooter Eric Harris Taking Luvox?". http://breggin.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=190.. Retrieved 2009-02-10. 
  25. ^ Larkin, Ralph W. (2007). Comprehending Columbine. Temple University Press. p. 119. ISBN 1592134912. 
  26. ^ Immelman, Aubrey (August 2004). "Eric Harris: Personality Profile". http://www.csbsju.edu/uspp/Criminal-Profiling/Columbine_Eric-Harris-profile.html. 
  27. ^ "The Nobodies". MansonUSA.com. http://www.mansonusa.com/lyrics/?view=hw/10. 
  28. ^ Marilyn Manson, interviewed by Michael Moore, Bowling for Columbine, directed by Moore, MGM, 2002.
  29. ^ Fong, Tillie (1999-04-28). "Crosses for Harris, Klebold join 13 others". Rocky Mountain News. http://denver.rockymountainnews.com/shooting/0428cros1.shtml. Retrieved 2008-08-24. 
  30. ^ Zewe, Charles (1999-05-01). "Authorities say Columbine shooters acted alone". CNN. http://www.cnn.com/US/9905/01/school.shooting.03/index.html. Retrieved 2007-06-22. 
  31. ^ "The Harris levels". Snopes. 2005-01-01. http://www.snopes.com/spoons/noose/doom.htm. Retrieved 2007-07-09. 

Further reading

Sources and external links








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