By Lynn Bartels and Ann Imse Denver Rocky Mountain News Staff Writers -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- How do bright young boys turn into evil young men?
That question has haunted a community, a state and a nation since Tuesday, when Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold shot their way through Columbine High School. By all accounts, Harris and Klebold were good little boys. Harris played Little League in upstate New York, where the Air Force had sent his father. "Eric had three best friends," classmate Nora Boreaux of Plattsburgh, N.Y., recalled. "One was black, one was white and one was Asian."
Klebold joined the Boy Scouts in Jefferson County, where his family has lived for years. "He had good parents and he had a good family," classmate Nick Baumgart said. Harris, 18, and Klebold, 17, became tight sometime after the Harrises moved to Littleton in 1996. At Columbine, Harris and Klebold became early members of the Trench Coat Mafia, a clique of outcasts known for their Old West long coats. Junior Chris Reilly said when he heard that the two gunmen wore black trench coats, he had five students in mind. "Eric and Dylan were two of them," he said.
Dozens of friends and neighbors described the two as normal teens who kept largely to themselves but were sociable. That description contrasted sharply with those from fellow students and teachers of a pair of youths depressed, angry and admiring of the Nazis. It contrasted even more vividly with the picture painted by investigators: two students vicious enough to laugh during mass-murder and organized enough to build and plant dozens of explosives.
After their bloody rampage, investigators found 15 bodies: 12 innocent students, a popular teacher and coach and the two gunmen, who killed themselves after committing the worst act of school violence in U.S. history.
Were the warning signs there?
You bet, said one Columbine parent, who called the Jefferson County sheriff last year to report Harris had threatened his son. The parent, who asked not to be identified, said he found Harris' writings on the Internet so frightening that he turned over 15 pages to a deputy. Harris wrote that he couldn't wait to start killing people and that he would feel no remorse, according to documents obtained by Brian Maass for News4.
"I live in Denver, and I would love to kill almost all of its residents," Harris wrote. "You all better hide in your houses because I'm coming for everyone and I will shoot to kill and I will kill everything." But others didn't notice anything wrong. "They were normal high school kids, had the normal high school camaraderie," said Chris Lau, their boss at Blackjack Pizza near the school. Harris also had worked at a fireworks stand and asked to be paid in fireworks, his friends said. Harris lived with his parents, Wayne and Kathy Harris, in an area of mushrooming subdivisions south of the school on South Reed Street. Wayne Harris was retired from the Air Force. An elder son, Kevin Harris, 20, graduated from Columbine and staff members remembered him as a popular athlete. Klebold lived with his parents, Tom and Sue, in an expensive home nestled between a pair of red rock formations in Deer Creek Canyon, west of Chatfield Reservoir.
On Wednesday, a sign hung on the gate: "Sue and Tom, we love you. Call us." Nineteen people had penned in their first names. Klebold's mother worked with disabled students in the community college system. Former co-worker Sharon Wink at Arapahoe Community College described her as "very empathetic" and a great listener. "I can't imagine her not being a good parent," Wink said. The Klebolds own eight cars, including five 1980s-vintage BMWs. The one Dylan Klebold drove was always over at Eric Harris' house. Baumgart and other friends said Klebold started to change after he met Harris. The teen-agers linked their home computers and for hours played violent video games.
The pair got in trouble a year ago ago when they attempted to break into a car to steal, but they had successfully completed a diversion program, Jefferson County District Attorney Dave Thomas said.
In addition, Columbine suspended one of the students last year for hacking into a school computer, a staff member said. The school district won't release details.
The Trench Coat Mafia was no secret at Columbine and even took out a light-hearted ad in the yearbook last year during happier times. Some members graduated. Others dropped out of the clique. The Trench Coat Mafia that roamed the halls this year seemed a darker, unhappier group. "You'd see them marching down the hall," junior Michael Staver said. "They had berets on. They'd march in sharp turns. They looked like their own little army."
But senior Autumn Hettinger said she never thought Harris or Klebold odd. "They were good students. They were smart. Teachers went to them with computer problems," she said.
Police now believe that Klebold and Harris had planned their Armageddon for sometime. Harris' neighbor, Matt Good, 16, said he heard pounding in the garage during the weekend. Another neighbor, Bill Konen, said he heard Harris and Klebold talking Monday morning. "One said, 'I need a metal baseball bat,"' he recalled. He then heard the sound of breaking glass through the open garage. "I assumed it was some weird art project." Police told him they were probably making shrapnel for their bombs.
Senior Jessica Rosecrans said she went to a bowling class with Harris hours before the shootings. He showed up for their 6:15 a.m. class wearing regular clothes and "not acting strange." Hettinger again saw Harris about five minutes before the bloodbath began. She was in her car in the school parking lot and he walked in front of her. "He was in this trench coat and he had all this stuff around his waist," she said. "I just kept thinking that can't be a backpack. That can't be a fannypack. That's too big."
touch yourself and you will know that i exist. ~luce irigaray