Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold

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Yearbook photographs of the two perpetrators.

Eric David Harris (April 9, 1981April 20, 1999) and Dylan Bennet Klebold (September 11, 1981April 20, 1999) were the perpetrators of the Columbine High School massacre near Littleton, Colorado on Tuesday, April 20, 1999, murdering 12 classmates and one teacher. 18-year-old Harris and 17-year-old Klebold committed suicide after they killed the students.


Eric Harris

Harris was born in Wichita, Kansas. His parents, Wayne and Kathy were both born in Colorado. However, the two moved around quite a bit, as Wayne was a U.S. Air Force transport pilot. The three had lived in Ohio, Michigan, and New York. As soon as Wayne retired, they settled in Littleton in 1993. After the move, Wayne worked at the Flight Safety Services Corporation in Englewood, Colorado. Kathy worked at a catering company in the area. Eric soon bonded with a boy named Dylan Klebold. Some neighbors described the Harris' as supportive of their son.

Earlier in childhood, Eric was in the Little League and was a Boy Scout. Eric wanted to be in the United States Marine Corps, but was rejected from the Corps several days before the shooting due to the fact that he was taking Luvox (Fluvoxamine maleate), an SSRI antidepressant and had a birth defect affecting his sternum.

Dylan Klebold

Dylan Klebold was born in Lakewood, Colorado and his family had resided in Littleton for many years. His father, Tom Klebold was a former geophysicist who worked from the family home; his mother, Susan, came from a prominent family in Ohio and worked at the State Consortium of Community Colleges, providing accessibility for disabled students. Dylan also had one older brother, Byron. Dylan's neighbors felt that he came from a stable family, but noted that Eric Harris exercised a powerful influence on Dylan after 1996.

Klebold spent the majority of his childhood growing up in Littleton. He, like Harris, played little league baseball. He was also active in other activities, but was a relatively quiet child.

The friendship

Soon after they became friends, the two boys linked their personal computers on a network and both played a lot of games over the Internet. Harris created a set of levels for the game Doom which later became known as the "Harris levels"; they can still be found available for download on the internet. Contrary to rumours, none of these were based on the layout of Columbine High School.

The two boys got into trouble early on for breaking into a locked van and stealing tools. In March 1998, they were arrested on charges of criminal trespassing and theft. Eric and Dylan left a good impression on the juvenile officers, who offered to have their criminal records cleared if the boys attended a diversionary program and stayed out of trouble. Harris was forced to attend anger management classes where, again, he made a good impression. Dylan was the guy who could fit in if he wanted, and be an outcast at the same time.

Both attended Columbine High School.

Fomenting frustration

Initially, both were believed to be members of a group that called themselves the "Trenchcoat Mafia", a small group which wore heavy black trenchcoats. However, it's been since discovered that they were only friends with one of the members of the group, Chris Morris, and that most of the primary members of the Trenchcoat Mafia had graduated or dropped out of the school by the time that Harris and Klebold committed the massacre. Most didn't even know the shooters, apart from their association with Morris.

There were also rumors that the boys were into the goth scene, but individuals who identify themselves as "gothic" claim that the two were not practicing "true goth" culture, and that the media had misidentified them. Eric Harris was known to be a devoted KMFDM fan, and he and Dylan both were fans of Rammstein and violent video games such as Doom. Many sources reported that they also listened to Marilyn Manson; there are no records which confirm this though, and the two were known to have disapproved of Manson, thinking that he was too mainstream. These elements produced a lot of media finger-pointing claiming that everything from music to the Internet was responsible for the shootings.

The plan for mass killing may have first been discussed in January 1998 after Eric and Dylan were convicted of breaking into a van and received ten months of juvenile intervention counseling and community service. Harris was also put into anger management sessions and his parents began taking him to therapy. He was prescribed Luvox® to help manage his emotions. Both excelled in intervention and were released early from the program, something they gloated about later on video; they were proud of having fooled everyone so well - even their parents.

As time went on, the boys' rage continued to grow; they made a video for a school project that showed them wielding fake guns and "snuffing" students in the hallway of their school as "Hitmen for Hire". The two boys were upset when the teacher barred the video from being shown upon finding of its graphic nature. Eric Harris often displayed themes of violence in his creative writing projects. Though no action was taken despite these complaints, one of the boys was suspended for the rest of the school year for cracking into the school computer system to gain access to locker combinations for the purpose of planting threatening notes.

The two maintained a website under the name "REB" (short for Rebel) that, in addition to hosting Doom and Quake files, openly showed hatred for the people of Littleton including members of racial minorities and, ironically, given the taunts he endured almost daily, homosexuals, and especially teachers at his high school, Columbine High School -- whose mascot is the American Revolution Rebel. As early as March 1998, he posted hateful things to the internet such as "God, I can't wait until I can kill you people," and "I'll just go to some downtown area in some big ass city and blow up and shoot everything I can" appeared. The two boys were experimenting with pipe bombs and posting results of the bombs' explosions on the website. Harris's known cyber aliases include: "REB", "Rebldomakr", and "Rebdomine" among possible others.

In 1997, Jefferson County Sheriff's Office investigator Michael Guerra looked at Harris' website when the parents of Brooks Brown discovered Harris was making threats aimed at their son, after a falling out split their friendship. Guerra decided to write a draft affidavit for a search warrant but the affidavit was never filed. This information was not revealed to the public until September 2001, though it was known the entire time.

Armed to the teeth

An 18-year old student at Columbine named Robyn Anderson made a straw purchase of two shotguns and a rifle for Dylan Klebold, in violation of the Gun Control Act of 1968. Three days before the shooting, she went to the school prom with Klebold as her date. However, it appears that their relationship was platonic. Anderson was never charged for her part in the straw purchase. After illegally acquiring the weapons, Harris and Klebold sawed-off the shotguns' barrels, thereby committing a felony under the National Firearms Act.

The shooters also possessed a TEC-DC9 semi-automatic handgun. The manufacturer of the TEC-DC9 first sold it to Miami-based Navegar Incorporated. It was then sold to Zander's Sporting Goods in Baldwin, Illinois in 1994. The gun was later sold to Thornton, Colorado firearms dealer Larry Russel. In violation of federal law, Russel did not keep records of the sale, yet he determined that the purchaser of the gun was twenty-one years of age or older. He was unable to identify the pictures of Klebold, Anderson, or Harris shown to him by police after the shooting. Two men named Mark Manes and Philip Duran were found to have supplied weapons to the two boys.

Text from Eric Harris' website indicated that two other boys, one of whom went by the nickname "VoDkA", or "V", found to be Dylan Klebold, and an unidentified alias, "KiBBz", conspired in the shooting. The website contained vivid detail on the rage that Harris felt towards his peers, as well as accounts of the experiments that the three boys conducted with bombs. According to police, at least 12 detonations in Jefferson County, Colorado may have been the work of the conspirators. The boys had learned how to make bombs over the internet and from books such as The Anarchist Cookbook.

Police did not divulge the specific details on many of the bombs that the boys constructed, yet the ingredients were easily found at hardware stores. A sales clerk at a hardware store claimed that Klebold and Harris bought five large propane tanks, nails, wire, screws, and duct tape one week before the incident, as well as that two other boys accompanied the perpetrators in an automobile.

Some of the bombs that the boys made were crude and made with carbon dioxide canisters, galvanized pipe and metal propane bottles. The bombs were primed with matches placed at one end of the bomb. The boys had striker tips on their sleeves. When they rubbed against the bomb, the match head would light the fuse. More complex bombs, such as the one that detonated on the corner of South Wadsworth Boulevard and Ken Caryl Avenue had timers. The largest bombs built were found in the cafeteria. The two bombs were each made of a pipe bomb and several smaller fuel cylinders containing propane. When the bombs failed to go off in the attacks, the boys shot at it, yet the bomb still didn't blow up. Six hundred students might have perished had the bomb exploded.

In yearbooks, journals, and computer files, Harris and Klebold listed 67 people they did not like. Only one of them was injured at Columbine, and he probably was not specifically targeted. Brooks Brown, a student with whom Harris had once been friends but later targeted in his rants, saw Harris entering the school on the morning of the massacre. He scolded Harris for skipping a class. Harris reportedly said, "Brooks, I like you. Go home." Brooks left the school, headed for his home which was close to the school. When he learned of the shootings later, he phoned the police and told them what he knew.

Ambitious plans text

A journal found in Harris's bedroom stated almost every detail that the boys planned to follow after 5:00 a.m. on April 20, 1999. The attack was being planned from as early as April of 1998.

It showed that the two teenagers planned to kill upwards of five hundred students in their school using guns and homemade bombs. The diary mentioned notes on "good hiding places". The attack was to start at 11:00 a.m. as then the highest number of students would be located in the cafeteria. According to the diary, the boys also planned attacking other schools. They were then to run into the surrounding neighborhood and the downtown area, and massacre neighbors on the street and in apartment buildings.

The Columbine massacre

The two perpetrators, captured on 's security cameras.
The two perpetrators, captured on Columbine High School's security cameras.

The two killed 12 students and a teacher, before shooting themselves in the head after it became apparent that they would not be able to make it out of the building alive. Eric Harris fired a shotgun into his mouth. Dylan Klebold shot himself in the left temple. Harris's body was found slumped against a bookcase with Klebold at his feet.

The one thing that prevented the deaths of many people were the failure of their bombs to explode. No drugs (including alcohol) were found in Eric Harris' body post-mortem. The boys had planted from 30 to 50 bombs in the school.

For more details, see: Columbine High School massacre

Related articles

  • "Zero Day", The closest Columbine-esque school shooting film told in a 'Blair Witch Project' fashion, like a home movie. (2003) Directed by Ben Coccio
  • Elephant, a film that is a fictionalized account of the Columbine massacre; Alex and Eric are fictionalized versions of Harris and Klebold in the film
  • Home Room, a film that deals with one girl who knew about her school's shootings and another who was shot but not killed. It is believed to be fictionalized about the Columbine shooting.
  • Bowling for Columbine, a film about the massacre and the gun culture of the United States

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