1999 News Coverage
Inside the Columbine High investigation
Everything you know about the Littleton killings is wrong. But the truth may be scarier than the myths.
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By Dave Cullen
Sept. 23, 1999 | LITTLETON, Colo. — They were never part of the Trench Coat Mafia. They didn’t target jocks, minorities or Christians. They had a hit list, but nobody on it was hit. They expected their bombs and explosives would wipe out most of the school.
As investigators get closer to producing an official report about the Columbine High School massacre, it is already clear that much of what was reported last spring about the motives and methods of killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold was untrue.
“I hate the fucking world”
The writings of Eric Harris reveal an equal opportunity hater, who rails against minorities and racists and can’t stand the WB.
By Dave Cullen
Multiple sources close to the Columbine investigation have disclosed key findings to Salon News, including a glimpse into Harris’ infamous “diary.” Lead investigator Kate Battan broke five months of virtual silence with her public comments. The sources say that many of the most notorious events from the shooting spree — repeated over and over in news reports, on TV chat shows and now in a bestselling book — simply never occurred.
Investigators now know conclusively that the attack Harris and Klebold launched April 20 was planned as a suicide mission, driven by indiscriminate hate, and intended to wipe out most of their suburban school. Their hatred was boundless, often ludicrous. In his so-called diary (which was not a diary as such, but rather a journal that he wrote in occasionally), Harris raged against everyone from slow drivers in the fast lane to the WB network. And his celebrated “hit list” — actually a compilation of scattered lists and designations — included targets as bizarre as Tiger Woods. His diary opens with the telling phrase: “I hate the fucking world.”
They were equal-opportunity haters, railing against minorities and whites, praising Hitler’s “final solution” — and then ranting against racism. Their scribblings also reveal standard teenage concerns: The same writings where Harris described his plans to destroy his school April 20 found him obsessing about finding a date for the prom, held three days earlier.
The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department expects to release its final report in late November. The department has analyzed more than 10,000 pieces of evidence with the assistance of the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. It has tracked 4,000 leads and conducted several thousand interviews with over 2,000 people. The original investigation crew of 80 has now been scaled back to about a dozen.
Although some Klebold texts, such as school essays, survived, they pale in comparison to the Harris written file. Klebold kept no journal, and his hard drive was wiped clean of personal files. His profile was developed largely from friends, family and survivors. But enlightening interviews with his parents in late April — Harris’ family has refused to speak with investigators — balanced Harris’ written record, sources said.
“I know a lot about both of them,” Battan said.
The investigation has shattered the perception that Harris led the rampage and Klebold was barely more than a hapless follower. While Klebold seemed to have the more passive personality, one source after another stressed that they were “equal partners” in the assault. Among other details, forensic evidence confirms that they were responsible for a nearly equal split of the murders.
While the investigation has revealed a great deal about the killers’ plans for destruction and revenge, it has frustrated those seeking an explanation. Schools, parents and communities can work to combat racism, or anti-Christian prejudice, or the schoolyard cruelty that might lead students to seek revenge against jocks, but fighting against indiscriminate hate is much thornier.
“Everybody wants a quick answer,” Battan said. “They want an easy answer so that they can sleep at night and know this is not going to happen tomorrow at their school. And there is no such thing in this case. There’s not an easy answer. I’ve been working on this nonstop daily since April 20th and I can’t tell you why it happened.”