Election Section

Documentary outlines Columbine killers’ warning signs

By Jon Sarche, The Associated Press
Saturday March 30, 2002

DENVER — Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold showed signs of depression and violent fantasies two years before their suicidal rampage at Columbine High School, according to an upcoming TV documentary. 

Bullying at school prompted sadness and resentment, and violent images in film and video games helped push Harris and Klebold into anger and depression, researchers say in the “Investigative Reports” program airing on the cable network A&E on April 15. 

Klebold and Harris killed 13 people and wounded 23 before killing themselves inside the school in 1999. 

One classmate, who is not identified in the documentary, said Harris told his psychology class of a recurring dream in which he awakes, comes to school and starts shooting students and teachers and then blows up the school. 

Students also said the gunmen made a video for a classroom assignment called “Hitmen for Hire.” 

“There were three people in the video, and I think Dylan and Eric were the hit men,” student Jon Behunin said. 

Nate Dykeman, another classmate who was a friend of both teens, said Harris’ parents found a pipe bomb when they searched their son’s room. 

“They were furious about it and then kept it in their room because they didn’t know what to do with it,” he said. 

In their lawsuits, victims’ families have alleged that deputies were aware that Harris’ father, Wayne Harris, found a pipe bomb made by his son and exploded it in a vacant field. Wayne Harris has denied that he found such a bomb. 

The show follows psychiatrists and a former FBI agent on the Newport, Calif.-based Threat Assessment Group, which sought to develop “psychiatric autopsies” of Harris and Klebold. The team’s conclusions will not be released until the documentary airs. 

None of the group’s findings uncovered new information, Jefferson County School District spokesman Rick Kaufman said. 

He also said teachers and administrators reacted appropriately to warning signs cited in the documentary such as writings and Internet postings in which Harris and Klebold telegraphed their meticulously planned attack. 

In a letter to the documentary’s producers, district Superintendent Jane Hammond questioned the timing of the show. 

“We believe the project will do very little in the way of unveiling any new information or insights into the tragedy,” she wrote. “It does, however, have the potential to unleash more harm and heartache to a school and community that have suffered enough.” 

County District Attorney Dave Thomas asked the group in 1999 to help determine what motivated the gunmen. Team members spent a week in the Littleton area in September, interviewing about 50 people, including friends and teachers. They also reviewed police reports, physical evidence, and some video tapes and writings made by Harris and Klebold. 

Psychiatrist Park Dietz, who worked on the Unabomber case and evaluated a Houston woman recently sentenced to life in prison for drowning her five children, said Harris and Klebold reinforced each other’s “bad ideas” and immersed themselves in violent media. 

“Once you have a person who is very angry and also suicidal, all it takes to create mass murder is the model of mass murder as the way to go,” Dietz said. 

The team explored possible motives and settled on several they considered likely: anger, revenge, suicide and fame. 

“They did it for power and respect and control and revenge,” Dietz said. “They did it out of anger. They did it as a flashy form of suicide. They did it to gain infamy ... And they did it to call attention to the problem of bullying.”