Skip to comments.Investigating the Lies
Posted on 01/05/2002 7:40:48 AM PST by SMEDLEYBUTLER
Investigating the 'lies'
Parents, police are miles apart on what happened in Columbine rampage
By Kevin Vaughan and Jeff Kass, News Staff Writers
Allegations of a friendly fire death. Whispers of a cover-up by law officers. An independent investigator called in. A request by Colorado's governor for a state grand jury probe. A possible coroner's inquest. Developments in the Columbine investigation are coming fast and furious, even though it's been nearly three years since Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold took their rage to school on April 20, 1999.
It was a shooting rampage that left the two gunmen and 13 others dead and more than 20 wounded. It also left a trail of unanswered questions.
On the day after Christmas, five families of Columbine victims made an explosive court filing in an effort to get their federal lawsuit reinstated.
The documents named, for the first time, Denver police Sgt. Dan O'Shea as the law officer they allege killed 15-year-old Daniel Rohrbough in the chaos outside the school.
And the families detailed 29 instances in which they allege a "pattern of obstruction and falsification" by the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office.
Jefferson County has until Jan. 17 to respond in court. But acting Jefferson County Attorney Bill Tuthill said Friday he does not believe the 29 claims will compel a judge to reinstate the case.
Many do not meet the legal requirement of new evidence, he said. In others, there are no true inconsistencies, according to Tuthill.
"It's a second verse of the same song," he said.
The Rocky Mountain News examined each of the 29 statements, using more than 16,500 pages of documents that have been released, the official report on the shootings, follow-up interviews with key figures, and evidence amassed by the Rohrbough family, some of which has never previously been revealed publicly.
Here are the findings. The first category, which is titled "Officially," lists the families' example of an alleged falsehood or misstatement by Jefferson County officials. The second gives the families' version of the truth. The third is the News' analysis.
1. Officially: Daniel Rohrbough was shot twice by Klebold and the bullet recovered from his body was positively identified as having come from Klebold's weapon.
Families' contention: The department now admits that the bullet recovered from Rohrbough did not come from Klebold and was in fact never positively identified at all.
News' findings: The sheriff's department did conclude that Klebold killed Rohrbough, but ballistics do not support that determination.
The official Columbine report, released in May 2000, said Harris and Klebold opened fire about 11:19 a.m. and that almost immediately Rohrbough and two other students "are hit by gunfire" as they leave the building. Moments later, the report says, "Klebold goes back down the stairs to the area outside the cafeteria and shoots Daniel Rohrbough again at close range, killing him instantly."
Two diagrams in the report appear to support this scenario. In one, it appears that Klebold is firing bullets aimed for Rohrbough. In the other, Klebold is shown at the bottom of the stairs firing at Rohrbough.
On Sept. 1, 1999, Rohrbough's family met with Jefferson County sheriff's Sgt. Randy West and investigator Kate Battan. Family members surreptitiously tape-recorded the meeting and this week allowed the News to listen to the recording.
"Every single thing that happens is supported by more than one witness, the evidence and then ballistics," Battan said in explaining how investigators determined the sequence of events.
However, only one bullet, a 9mm slug, was recovered from Rohrbough's body, according to ballistics reports released under court order in May 2001.
Those reports by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation showed the bullet was "consistent" with Harris' carbine rifle -- not Klebold's TEC-9 -- but said that it could not be positively identified. The report was forwarded to Jefferson County sheriff's officials on July 21, 1999 -- six weeks before Battan and West met with the Rohrbough family.
The bullets that passed through Rohrbough's body, including the one that caused his fatal injuries, were never identified, according to the ballistics experts.
2. Officially: Daniel Rohrbough was shot twice at close range.
Families' contention: The recently released CBI test results on Rohrbough's clothes conclusively established that the shots were not fired from close range. The report states that the absence of gunpowder "precludes the possibility of determining a muzzle-to-garments distance."
News' findings: Officials did tell the family that Rohrbough was shot twice at close range, but forensics tests could not determine the distance between the boy and his killer.
In the Sept. 1, 1999, meeting, West told the Rohrbough family that "Dylan Klebold walks down the stairs and at very close range, then shoots Danny twice more . . . that's with the, uh, TEC-9. But again, we're talking very close range."
When the CBI examined Rohrbough's T-shirt and blue jeans, technicians could find no "gunpowder patterns" and, as a result, could not determine the shooter's location.
3. Officially: The sheriff's department said there were "many bullet fragments" found around Rohrbough's body.
Families' contention: The department's own recently released evidence chart shows a single bullet fragment near Rohrbough's body.
News' findings: Documents released by Jefferson County contradict the official statement of the department about the number of bullet fragments around Rohrbough's body.
On May 24, 2001, after Brian Rohrbough publicly questioned the ballistics evidence surrounding his son's death, the sheriff's office released a two-page statement defending its findings and asserting that Harris and Klebold killed Daniel Rohrbough. That was the first departure from the official report, which unequivocally said Klebold fired the fatal shot.
"A lot of evidence, including bullet fragments, were found around Daniel's body," the statement said. "It was impossible to determine from those many bullet fragments what firearm they would have come from."
However, both a hand-drawn sketch of the area near Rohrbough's body and a CD-ROM that was released showing the same area show only one bullet fragment.
4. Officially: The department denied a meeting between Randy and Judy Brown and a sheriff's detective in March 1998 concerning alleged death threats Harris made against their son, Brooks Brown.
Families' contention: The department now admits that the Browns made numerous reports and that there were multiple meetings with them.
News' findings: Top sheriff's officials did deny that the Browns met with an investigator, but a draft search warrant affidavit released in April 2001 contradicted that assertion.
The week after the shootings, Randy and Judy Brown -- parents of Columbine student Brooks Brown, a friend of Klebold and Harris -- went public with their story. They contended that after reporting the threat, they met with sheriff's investigator John Hicks on March 31, 1998.
In December 1999, Division Chief John Kiekbusch, who headed the Columbine investigation, said Hicks' appointment records din't reflect that meeting.
"His position is he had a phone conversation with them, as opposed to a face-to-face meeting," Kiekbusch said.
Last April, a judge ordered the department to release a draft search warrant affidavit written in 1998 by investigator Mike Guerra. It included this passage: "On March 31, 1998, your affiant met with Investigator John Hicks and Investigator Glenn Grove of the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department. Investigator Hicks advised your affiant he met with Mrs. Judy Brown reference Eric David Harris."
5. Officially: The department denied there were similarities between the pipe bombs Eric Harris claimed to have made in his writings and actual bombs found in Jefferson County.
Families' contention: The department now admits that the description by Harris on his Web pages matched almost exactly an exploded pipe bomb found by deputies.
News' findings: Top sheriff's officials said they could not link Harris to any earlier pipe bomb cases, but the draft affidavit showed that they did make a connection, at least in their own minds, between Harris and an earlier incident.
On April 30, 1999, Kiekbusch called a press conference to discuss the Browns' 1998 report. He said "attempts were made to determine if any reports of found pipe bombs could be linked to the report, none of which could be."
On April 10, 2001, Jefferson County released the 1998 draft affidavit, which had never been been acted upon.
In it, investigator Guerra talked about a page from Harris' Web site which described a 1 1/4-inch by 6-inch pipe bomb and the kind of powder and fuse used for it. He said the size and components of a pipe bomb found Feb. 15, 1998, in south Jefferson County were "consistent with material" Harris talked about on his Web page, and that the size was "consistent" with two pipe bombs Harris had named "Atlanta" and "Pholus."
6. Officially: Officials passed along the allegations by the Browns about Harris to Deputy Neil Gardner, the Columbine school resource officer. "Deputy Gardner occasionally engaged Harris and Klebold, along with several of their friends and associates, in light conversation," a press release said. "Deputy Gardner made no observations of inappropriate behavior and has stated that both Harris and Klebold treated him with the appropriate respect."
Families' contention: In a police interview with Gardner taped six hours after the shootings, he said he had no idea who Harris was:
Question: "Did you recognize him (Harris) from the photo?"
Q: "So you really don't know this kid at all?'
A: "I never dealt, I had never dealt with Eric Harris."
News' findings: Documents released in 2001 support the families' allegations.
County officials did say that Gardner was told of the allegations and kept watch on the gunmen. Jefferson County Sheriff John Stone told the News on April 30, 1999, that Gardner was "eyeballing" Harris in the year before the shootings.
7. Officially: The department repeatedly denied the existence of documents such as the affidavit drafted to search the Harris home in March 1998.
Families' contention: The department finally produced the affidavit under a court order related to a lawsuit filed by CBS News.
News' findings: County officials apparently did not specifically deny the existence of the draft affidavit; however, they asserted repeatedly that they had released all existing paperwork even though the draft had never been made public.
The News, for example, made a written request on April 29, 1999, for all documents related to the Browns' 1998 report about Harris and the county's response. Jefferson County provided some documents, such as the police report, but did not turn over the affidavit.
Judge Brooke Jackson ordered the affidavit released on April 6, 2001, after CBS News sued.
The document's significance? It showed that the sheriff's department was aware of possible illegal behavior by Harris nearly a year before the Columbine shootings.
8. Officially: After the search warrant affidavit was released, the sheriff's department said it had disclosed its existence in public reports shortly after the shootings.
Families' contention: No such disclosure was ever made; indeed, after making the statement, sheriff's officials were not able to identify the report.
News' findings: Documents and press releases issued by the sheriff's department support the families' contention.
The day after the draft affidavit was disclosed publicly, the sheriff's office issued a written statement that said, "A few days after the Columbine shootings, the sheriff's office disclosed the existence of the so-called 'secret' search warrant affidavit and discussed our actions in response to the Harris information."
When the News pressed a sheriff's official, he acknowledged that he could not find any news stories supporting the claim.
"If you want to word it that way, sure," Sgt. Mike Julian said when asked if it wasn't true that the department had never acknowledged the existence of the draft affidavit.
9. Officially: All victims outside the school were killed or injured before law enforcement arrived on the scene.
Families' contention: Several points contradict that timeline:
Rachel Scott would therefore have been killed several minutes before she bought her lunch in the cafeteria even if a time-corrected cash receipt is taken into account.
Arapahoe County Sheriff's Deputy Jim Taylor saw Daniel Rohrbough get shot and killed long after law enforcement was on the scene.
Jefferson County Sheriff's deputy Annette Walker told Sue Petrone, Daniel Rohrbough's mother, that she saw Rohrbough holding a door open long after he would have been dead.
News' findings: Sheriff's officials said that all outside victims were shot before officers arrived; a lunchroom receipt contradicts the official timeline in Scott's death; tape recordings released this week support the families' allegations regarding deputy Taylor; and deputy Walker's statement could not be independently verified.
Battan, in the 1999 interview taped by the Rohrboughs, told the families: "All of the kids outside had been shot before any officer showed up. Neil Gardner was the first one and when he shows up Harris and Klebold were done outside -- they're walking in the door."
The sheriff's official report says that Rachel Scott and Daniel Rohrbough were killed in the initial burst of gunfire "at about 11:19 a.m."
The sheriff said Gardner, the school resource officer, stepped out of his car in the student parking lot at 11:24 a.m.
Scott's cafeteria receipt shows that she bought lunch at 11:32 a.m. Another report indicates that the receipt clock was ten minutes fast. That would put the time of her transaction at 11:22 a.m., still up to three minutes after the sheriff says she was shot and killed.
Taylor now says he never heard gunshots on April 20, and never saw Rohrbough or other deceased victims on April 20.
But in a conversation taped by the Rohrbough family, Taylor says he saw "some kid get shot." He said he realized it was Daniel Rohrbough after seeing a photo in the News the next day.
Walker has denied telling Petrone she saw Daniel holding the door open. Walker told investigators she was not dispatched to Columbine until 12:30 p.m., and placed herself at Clement Park adjacent the school at 1:05 p.m.
10. Officially: Battan said that all suspects had passed lie detector tests.
Families' contention: Columbine student Nathan Dykeman failed his test and refused to take another. Student Zachary Heckler's test was inconclusive.
News' findings: Battan did say all suspects passed polygraphs; documents showed that one was "inconclusive" and another was "deceptive" on key questions.
Battan told the Rohrboughs, according to their audiotape: "Some of these people have been interviewed six or seven times. Many of these people, and closer friends, have taken polygraphs. Everybody has passed the polygraphs, which I don't believe polygraphs 100 percent ever."
FBI agent Mark Holstlaw told the News in a Dec. 14, 1999, story, that everyone who had taken lie detector tests had passed, and other methods were used to clear those who had refused.
Dykeman and Heckler, both Columbine students, were friends of the killers.
Dykeman's responses to two lie detector questions are detailed in the sheriff's investigative file:
"Did you help Dylan and Eric yesterday?" Response: No.
"Did you help plan what Eric and Dylan did yesterday?" Response: No.
The examiner then wrote: "It is the opinion of the examiner that Dykeman was deceptive when responding to these relevant questions.
"When confronted with his deceptive responses, Dykeman admitted he was withholding information from the investigators."
Dykeman said he had not been completely truthful because he was afraid that he would be arrested, according to investigators. But he did provide information about the guns and explosives obtained by Klebold and Harris.
Lie detector test results for Zachary Heckler indicate that his responses to three "relevant questions" were inconclusive, and "no diagnostic opinion can be rendered."
Those questions were whether Heckler participated in the planning, whether he knew it would occur, and whether he knowingly provided any of the weapons. Heckler answered no to each one.
Dykeman could not be reached this week for comment; Heckler's family said he would not comment.
Tuthill said, "If the basic message is, 'They're cleared,' I think they're accurate," of sheriff's department investigators.
11. Officially: No one was injured in the "commons" area.
Families' contention: Columbine teacher Eric Kritzer was.
News' findings: It does not appear that Kritzer was injured.
Kritzer told investigators that he was hit in the calf, possibly by something explosive. The sheriff's report, however, said he suffered no injury.
12. Officially: The department has released all investigative records except those excluded by Judge Jackson's orders.
Families' contention: The department had a timeline of Harris' and Klebold's actions before April 20, 1999, but shredded it.
News' findings: Sheriff's officials have said that all documents were released. They also have acknowledged destroying a timeline but said the information on it was incorporated into the final report.
Lily Oeffler, the assistant county attorney, told Judge Jackson on March 19, 2001, that the county no longer had the original timeline.
"Once the working document, which is just a piece of paper on the wall, was included in the (final sheriff's) report, it was not kept. It was documented elsewhere."
Jackson replied, "What did they do, shred it?"
Oeffler responded, "Certainly, like investigators do with the notes or with a letter. It is like a rough draft."
13. Officially: The department said that Klebold and Harris had booby-trapped their victims, and that's why the bodies weren't moved for more than 24 hours.
Families' contention: No booby traps were found on the bodies, and officials knew this long before they made the statement to families.
News' findings: It could not be independently verified that Sue Petrone was told her son's body was booby-trapped. However, officials said several times in public that they feared some victims had been rigged with explosives.
Petrone, Daniel Rohrbough's mother, said she went to Columbine a day after the shootings to retrieve her son's body. She said a deputy -- she doesn't remember his name -- said that her son's body had been booby-trapped and she could not get to it.
A News story on April 22, 1999, two days after Columbine, said: "As evening fell (on April 21), they (police) carried out the dead, who had been left where they fell overnight for fear they might be booby-trapped."
14. Officially: The Rohrboughs were told for months that the department could not release Daniel's clothes because they were a "biohazard."
Families' contention: This statement was utterly false. Other victim's clothes were released a full year before Daniel Rohrbough's parents received his clothes.
News' findings: The family was told Rohrbough's clothes were a biohazard; some victims clothes were released to other families earlier. However, several other families got their clothes back at the same time as the Rohrbough family.
Petrone, in the Sept. 1, 1999, meeting with West and Battan, asked if his clothes were being held as evidence.
West's initial response is not audible on the tape -- the Rohrbough family believes he nodded his head "yes" -- but then he said, "And because of biohazard, we can't release those."
Daniel's clothes were returned to his family Feb. 22, 2001. The families of five other victims got their loves ones' clothes that day, and two other releases were made on Feb. 21, 2001, and on March 6, 2001.
However, at least two families had their childrens' clothes returned to them in 2000.
The records released so far do not reflect when -- or if -- three other families received their childrens' clothing.
15. Officially: Rohrbough's family was told the department could not release his clothes because they were evidence in an "ongoing" investigation.
Families' contention: Once again this statement was utterly false as demonstrated by the fact that other victim's clothes were released.
News' findings: The family was told that Rohrbough's clothes were needed for evidence.
Brian Rohrbough asked in the Sept. 1, 1999, meeting how long his son's clothing would be held for evidence.
"We want to make sure there aren't going to be any trials," West said. "If we would ever find a third person that was involved in this, we'd need all the evidence for that."
But sheriff's officials released clothing to at least two families in 2000.
16. Officially: The department said that FBI interviews with the Browns were not given to the Columbine investigation task force and were therefore not included in the files released by the county.
Families' contention: Even so, sheriff's investigators mentioned statements made by the Browns to FBI agents in their own materials.
News' findings: Sheriff's officials made that statement about the FBI documents, and investigators did write a report that included statements about the Browns' interviews with federal agents.
The department released previously undisclosed documents on April 19, 2001, saying they hadn't been provided to the task force and therefore hadn't been included in earlier releases.
However, on page 9,086 of the documents released in late 2000, a sheriff's investigator talked about two FBI interviews with Brooks Brown.
"They had them and they read them," Randy Brown said at the time.
17. Officially: The Brown family was interviewed for 11 hours by the FBI. The sheriff's department told them everything had been produced in the open records case (filed by the families and members of the media), and there were no other records of their interviews.
Families' contention: The same day the sheriff's department denied the Browns' request for copies of their interviews, FBI agent Dwayne Fuselier read about the missing interviews in a media report and located them. The sheriff's department had made absolutely no effort to find these interviews before denying they existed.
News' findings: Federal officials did conclude, after reading a news story, that they had not forwarded their reports to Jefferson County sheriff's investigators.
On April 19, 2001, the sheriff's department released a statement that said FBI officials had checked their files and "found that interviews conducted with Randy and Judy Brown on April 22, 1999, and Brooks Brown on April 29, 1999, were not forwarded to the Jefferson County investigation file for Columbine High School."
The previous day, Agent Fuselier sent a letter to sheriff's officials explaining how he'd seen a news report about the Brown interviews and began looking for the documents. His search led him to his computer, where he found copies of the interviews that were not included in the investigative file.
18. Officially: Denver police Sgt. Daniel O'Shea was told on April 22, 1999, that ballistics tests proved that no law enforcement bullet hit any victim.
Families' contention: The bullets were not transmitted to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation until May 5, 1999. It was not possible for any such ballistics information (even initial findings) to have been available April 22.
News' findings: A sworn statement supports the families' contention about O'Shea, and documents show that ballistics evidence wasn't sent to the CBI laboratory until May 5, 1999.
Jefferson County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Jacki Tallman has agreed that ballistics tests were not completed two days after Columbine.
O'Shea denies he shot Rohrbough.
19. Officially: When it recently released maps of evidence outside the school, the department said the maps were "identical" to the original FBI maps that had been shown to some victims' families.
Families' contention: The recently released CD-ROM of FBI evidence mapping is missing obvious and crucial data. For example, the location of police bullets in critical areas had been removed. Even the location of one of the victims (Rachel Scott) has been removed.
News' findings: The discrepancies alleged by the families' exist, as do other contradictions between the original map and the CD-ROM that was released.
An examination of the CD-ROM and of photographs of one small section of the original map show discrepancies in the location of police ballistics evidence inside the west doors.
Similarly, Rachel Scott's body is not depicted on the evidence map reproduced on the computer disc.
An examination of a crime scene drawing in the area near Daniel Rohrbough shows several pieces of evidence in different locations from where they are depicted on the CD-ROM. For example, item No. 2123, a Dr Pepper can, is shown at Daniel's feet on the CD-ROM and near his head on the original crime scene drawing. Item No. 2124, an off-white sweater, is shown on the stairs above Daniel on the original crime scene drawing but is below his body on the CD-ROM. Several pieces of ballistics evidence also are in different locations.
20. Officially: Jefferson County Sheriff John Stone said the day after the first part of this lawsuit was filed in April 2000 that "ballistics" data conclusively proved that law enforcement personnel could not have killed Daniel Rohrbough.
Families' contention: Stone knew the fatal bullet was never recovered and the only bullet recovered could not be positively identified.
News' findings: The families' allegation could not be independently verified.
Stone spoke with the News regarding the lawsuit the day after it was filed. He was not directly quoted on ballistics.
The story said, "Ballistics tests show no evidence that Rohrbough died from wounds other than those inflicted by the teen killers, authorities have said."
Stone was quoted as saying, "They (deputies) now have to defend themselves in ridiculous court actions."
Ballistics do not prove who fired the shots that killed Rohrbough. The sheriff has relied on eyewitness accounts naming Harris and Klebold as the killers.
21. Officially: Battan said in April 2000: "I know who killed each and every one of the children, and I have the ballistics to prove it."
Families' contention: Battan knew the bullet that killed Daniel Rohrbough was never recovered, and the only bullet recovered could not be positively identified. Amazingly, now the sheriff's department says that it is "irrelevant" who shot Daniel.
News' findings: The statement attributed to Battan could not be independently verified; however, sheriff's officials said repeatedly that ballistics showed there were no "friendly fire" incidents at Columbine.
Battan's remarks are based on Brian Rohrbough's recollection.
The News wrote on April 20, 2000: "Sheriff's officials consistently have denied that any 'friendly fire' struck the Columbine victims, citing ballistics tests they said showed that every bullet and pellet fired at the victims came from one of the four guns used by the two teen gunmen."
A sheriff's department press release talks of a draft "reference list" regarding "the basic injuries, weapons and shooters of all the deceased victims."
"Whether the names of the killers or the injuries they caused were accidentally switched on this list is irrelevant," the press release said. "There is no question that Daniel Rohrbough was shot and killed by Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold on April 20, 1999."
22. Officially: The department stated that every law enforcement firearm discharged on April 20, 1999, was collected and tested.
Families' contention: At least one gun was not collected for testing until more than a year later.
News' findings: The department did not claim to have collected and tested every gun on April 20, 1999. Officials did test at least one gun more than a year after the tragedy.
The sheriff's final report states that on the day of the shootings, the critical incident team that investigates use of deadly force by police officers "interviewed and collected the firearms of most officers who fired a weapon that day."
Other documents released by the sheriff's department show that some ballistics tests were not completed until May 16, 2000.
23. Officially: The department has steadfastly insisted that no police bullet hit any Columbine victim and this conclusion is beyond the slightest doubt.
Families' contention: Battan told victim Corey DePooter's mother that the bullet found in his backpack was the same bullet that had penetrated his arm. But this bullet was never tested against Harris' or Klebold's weapons. The bullet was tested only against four of the ten police weapons that were fired. The sheriff's department knew this bullet was not fired by Harris or Klebold (perhaps because it is the wrong caliber).
News' findings: Sheriff's officials stated unequivically that no victims were hit by police bullets. However, testing of the bullet found in DePooter's backpack was incomplete.
The sheriff's final report states, "There were no injuries or deaths as a result of shots fired by law enforcement officers." It also notes that 12 officers fired their weapons.
Patricia DePooter said that she was told the bullet that hit her son's arm lodged in a notebook in his backpack. However, she believes it was not Battan, but a victims advocate who gave her the information.
A ballistics report showed that the bullet was tested against only four of the police weapons. This testing was not done until more than a year after the shooting. So there is no way to definitely conclude whose gun fired the bullet.
24. Officially: The department said that Deputy Gardner fired a total of eight shots and that these shots were all directed at Harris when he was near the west doors of the school.
Families' contention: The ballistics evidence positively identifies three of the bullets found in the library as coming from Gardner's weapon. The library windows and the west doors are a considerable distance apart. It is impossible for stray bullets aimed at the west doors to wind up in the library.
News' findings: Gardner's official statement and the final Columbine report contend he fired all eight of his shots at Harris at the west doors. However, three of his bullets were found in the library.
Ballistics and crime scene documents reviewed by the News show that three of Gardner's rounds were fired into the second-floor school library, a contradiction of his official statement.
In Gardner's tape-recorded interview, he said he took "four quick shots" at one of the gunmen just after pulling into the school's parking lot and then took four more after the gunman aimed his rifle out a shattered door frame.
Later, Gardner was asked where his bullets went.
"I'm not sure," he answered. Then, in response to another question, "I mean I was directly aiming at, at the door, the door frame right here . . ."
A short time later, Gardner said, other officers opened fire on the library after seeing Harris through a window.
"I didn't shoot anymore," he said. "They started shooting at the upper window."
25. Officially: The department said that reports of the detonation of pipe bombs by Eric Harris prior to April 20, 1999, could not be substantiated.
Families' contention: The department's own draft search warrant affidavit directly contradicts this statement.
News' findings: The draft search warrant did show that sheriff's investigators were suspicious in 1998 that Harris could have been responsible for a pipe bomb found in a field.
26. Officially: The department maintained the Brown family's report as an "open lead" from its inception in March 1998.
Families' contention: The department's own records listed the report as "closed."
News' findings: Sheriff's officials claimed they never closed the Browns' 1998 report; documents contradict that.
An April 30, 1999, press release from the sheriff's department says: "The Investigators have maintained the (Browns') report as a 'open lead' since it was originally reported."
But a sheriff's department printout included in documents released by the department includes the notation: "Records Status: CLOSED."
The "clearance date" is also listed as March 18, 1998.
The date of the "last change" on the Browns' file, according to the printout, was March 26, 1998.
27. Officially: The department said material released in the open records case "would have been available to the families' attorneys through normal discovery procedures associated with their civil actions."
Families' contention: It is beyond doubt the department was doing everything in its power to prevent the discovery they implied would be available on a routine basis.
News' findings: The families' allegation is supported by an an April 11, 2001, sheriff's department press release. Sheriff's officials did work to get the lawsuits dismissed.
28. Officially: Families were assured that all FBI documents related to the Columbine investigation had been released.
Families' contention: Th FBI has stated there are more than 2,700 pages in its Columbine files. The FBI has previously assured the families that all of their material was provided to the sheriff's department. Yet, the FBI material released to date included nowhere near this number of pages.
News' findings: Documents and statements made by Jefferson County officials substantially support the families' allegations, although the language included in those papers is not exactly the same as that contained in the lawsuit.
In a News story on Sept. 7, 2001, regarding the work of FBI agents at Columbine, sheriff's spokeswoman Jacki Tallman said no other reports from the FBI team exist. She added: "We have released everything that we have related to these teams."
The FBI says there are approximately 2,700 pages in its Columbine file. The response also notes that 450 pages are handwritten notes from FBI agents that are paraphrased in other documents.
There is no index to the approximately 16,500 pages of Columbine documents released by the sheriff's department, and no immediate way to determine the number of FBI documents previously released. FBI officials said they do not know how many of their documents have been relased by the sheriff.
Denver FBI spokeswoman Ann Atanasio said that the FBI has not had any direct communication with the families, but has gone through the Jefferson County sheriff.
29. Officially: The department has steadfastly asserted that even if the March 1998 search warrant had not been quashed, nothing would have been learned that could have prevented the shootings.
Families' contention: Material leaked to the media earlier this month shows that in his writings Harris planned to the very day and hour when and where the attack would take place.
News' findings: The claim about the statements of sheriff's officials could not be independently veriried. However, documents obtained by the News showed that Harris had a detailed plan for the Columbine attack in April 1998 -- a year before the tragedy.
January 5, 2002
Copyright 2002, Rocky Mountain News. All Rights Reserved.
And the son was involved in the taping of the video where they pretended to kill people.
I was about to post this, but found this thread.