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Columbine: The Horror Writer

"Columbine" author Dave Cullen wants you and the public you serve to know that future school massacres can be stopped.

September 18, 2009  |  by - Also by this author

Eric leaked a lot of information about his plans. Why didn't somebody realize that he was a threat?

Eric was so smart about knowing where to stop. You can see that in the school assignment paper that he wrote about the Nazis. He knows in that paper exactly what he's got to say so that the teacher doesn't think, This kid is dangerous. But in his journal, he writes: "I want to do this, too. The Nazis are role models for me. I want to do everything those people did. They had a great plan."

You argue that Dylan Klebold would not have turned homicidal without the psychopathic influence of Eric Harris. Let's flip that for a moment. Do you think that Harris would have attacked his schoolmates without Klebold for support?

I think that Eric Harris would have done something terrible, whether it would be his schoolmates or not is an open question. What's really an open question with Eric is what the time frame would have been before he attacked.

And the older he got and the longer we waited for something to happen from him the worse it would have been. With each year he grew older, he got smarter and he had more resources. If it had been even a year later and he was moved out of the house, it would have been much worse. His parents were a limiting factor; he had to be careful about hiding stuff. Living on his own, he would have had a lot more freedom and a lot more money with a full-time job and a place of his own. He could have been buying truck loads of fertilizer like Tim McVeigh.

About 12 months before the attack, Jefferson County Sheriff's Department investigator Mike Guerra looked into threats by Eric Harris against a fellow student and drafted an affidavit seeking a warrant to search the Harris house based on information on Eric's Website about bombs. Why didn't he follow through and get a search warrant?

We don't know for sure. Guerra hasn't spoken to the press. But we have statements from Jefferson County that say Guerra was pulled away to another case, a multiple murder case. Then for whatever reason didn't come back to it.

What I tried to do in this book was look at the events from the point of view of the people in that story line and how they were looking at the world at that point. I asked myself: What made sense to them at that time, not what makes sense from our judgment looking back on these events.

It's very easy to point fingers. But when I look at the work that was done by the cops ahead of time, for the most part, I think it's very reasonable that they didn't see any threat coming with the information that they had at the time I don't think anyone would have.

This is the one particular moment where they should have. Guerra really put it together; Guerra really figured it out. I give him a lot of credit for having figured it out. But he got pulled away to another case, an actual murder, that's understandable.

Some of the cops I've spoken to about this have said: "You know how many complaints we get about some neighborhood brat who is causing mischief and making wild threats? It just becomes noise and static, and it's easy to dismiss." I think one of the lessons here and one that good cops have picked up on is: Don't be too quick to brush those things off because sometimes they are real.

What role did bullying play in this massacre?

Bullying did not play a role with Eric, who was the driver. There were at least a couple of cases of ongoing bullying that were documented at Columbine. What I didn't see was an excessive amount of bullying at Columbine.

Comments (1)

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annie @ 3/5/2011 11:30 PM

interesting never knew about the bombs

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