Authorities had at least 15 "contacts" with the Columbine High School killers dating back two years before their murderous attack, the state attorney general said Thursday, angering families of the victims.
Attorney General Ken Salazar did not, however, blame the Jefferson County sheriff’s office for missing warning signs about Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold.
Instead, he summarized how investigators reacted to 1997 complaints about Harris, which included a thrown snowball that cracked a car window and a prank telephone call.
Ominous Web site
There were more-ominous signs, too: Authorities have said an anonymous tip that year led a deputy to a Web site run by Harris that said the two teens had built pipe bombs and concluded: “Now our only problem is to find the place that will be ‘ground zero.”’
Harris, 18, and Klebold, 17, killed 12 students and a teacher before taking their own lives at the school near Littleton on April 20, 1999. It remains the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history.
“In the end, none of the many efforts to open up the Columbine records, including today’s activity, will mean much beyond passing curiosity if we cannot learn from this tragedy,” Salazar said at a news conference.
The announcement came as authorities publicly unveiled a chilling display of evidence in the nation’s deadliest school shooting — the murder weapons, bullet fragments, the chairs and tables where 13 people were gunned down by the suicidal gunmen. There was a message board that was put up in a school window the day of the attack that still says in blue Magic Marker: “1 bleeding to death.”
Most material will be archived
Much of the material is headed for the state archives. Relatives of the dead and survivors of the horrific attack saw much of it for the first time in a private viewing Wednesday.
“When you read about the number of bullets that were shot and you read about the number of guns, it’s one thing,” Darrell Scott, whose daughter Rachel was killed, said on NBC’s “Today.” “But when you walk into a room and see the overwhelming numbers of spent shells and bullets and pipe bombs and knives, it was just an overwhelming sight.”
He said it was “the first time my wife and I had seen the gun that actually killed Rachel.”
A key part of Salazar’s investigation looked at work done by former sheriff’s Deputy John Hicks. Sheriff Ted Mink asked Salazar to investigate why a 1997 report by Hicks — found in a folder last October — was never reviewed as part of the probe into the shootings.
At the time, Mink said it seemed obvious the sheriff’s office knew of Harris and Klebold long before the slayings.
Hicks also looked into a 1998 complaint that Harris posted a death threat against a fellow student on the Web site, along with descriptions of pipe bombs he and Klebold built.
Search warrant drafted, but never executed
Randy and Judy Brown, whose son was named in the threat, reported the information to the sheriff’s office. A warrant was drafted to search Harris’ home, but it was never executed.
Hicks left the department in 2000 and now lives in South Carolina.
Tom Mauser, whose son Daniel was killed at the school, said he wanted more details about why the search never took place.
“If we’re going to learn lessons, that’s a key part of it,” he said. “Why did law enforcement stop where it did?”
Brian Rohrbough, whose son Danny died at Columbine, said he still hoped to get the information he and other family members have been seeking.
“We’re going to keep looking until we get the answers,” he said.