Appearing stunned and distraught, relatives of those killed in the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School got their first look Wednesday at all the physical evidence in the case.
In room after room, families and survivors of the slaughter saw chairs with bullet holes, bloody clothing, bullet fragments, guns and a new video of the killers hamming it up before the shootings.
“They are bastards, they are murderers,” said a tearful Patricia DePooter, who lost her 17-year-old son, Corey, in the killings. “Nothing can be more horrible than to see your son’s bloody outline in chalk on the floor.”
The evidence was released by the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department in an attempt to quell questions that have dogged the investigation since it began five years ago.
Sheriff Ted Mink and Colorado Atty. Gen. Ken Salazar met with 60 relatives of the victims at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds. The families were then allowed to see the evidence, which includes 35,000 pages of documents, the murder weapons and autopsy photos. The media and public will view the material today.
“This is every bit of evidence we have,” said Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Jackie Tallman. “This is everything.”
The massacre occurred April 20, 1999, when Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, armed themselves with rifles and pipe bombs and headed into Columbine High School in Littleton. With guns blazing, the two marched from room to room, eventually killing 12 students and one teacher before taking their own lives.
As the years went by, parents raised questions about why telltale signs of Klebold’s and Harris’ violent tendencies had not set off alarm bells earlier. In 1997, Randy and Judy Brown, the parents of a Columbine student, told authorities their son had received death threats from Harris on a website. Some relatives believe the murders could have been prevented had authorities acted on that information.
“They didn’t,” said DePooter. “And now we have to live with it.”
The two killers, social outcasts who favored long black trench coats, also made videos of themselves joking and blasting away with guns in the woods.
The evidence released Wednesday included two new videos. One was shot by sheriff’s deputies as students gathered outside Columbine after the shootings. The second is a 94-minute hodgepodge made by the killers, including footage inside the school before the shootings.
Mark Taylor, who was shot at least six times at Columbine but survived, watched the second video Wednesday.
He said Klebold and Harris were role playing, at one point yelling while beating a bicycle with a baseball bat.
“At one point they were going around acting like police officers and arresting people,” said Taylor, who is now 21. “It’s really stupid. They didn’t seem like the kind of kids who would do something like this.”
Some evidence remains under wraps, including the deposition of Wayne Harris, the father of Eric Harris, and Columbine High School’s own investigation into the incident.
“Why is this stuff still not being released?” Taylor asked. “They let you in to look at all this stuff and then say you can’t open it.”
Betty Shoels doesn’t think she’s getting the full story either. Her nephew Isaiah was shot dead in the Columbine school library. She saw the bullet-pocked library chairs Wednesday.
“I feel there is so much being hidden,” she said between sobs. “I don’t imagine all the truth is out.”
Salazar and Mink will hold a press conference this morning,where they are expected to provide more information about the investigation.
“The goal was to get as many records released as possible, to answer as many questions as possible and let the chips fall where they may,” said Ken Lane, a spokesman for Salazar, who said the release will not satisfy everyone. “John F. Kennedy was killed in 1963 and some people still don’t accept the results of that investigation.”