Eric David Harris (April 9, 1981 - April 20, 1999) and Dylan Bennet Klebold (September 11, 1981 - April 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.
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 Harrises as supportive of their son.
Earlier in childhood, Eric was in the Little League and served as 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.
Dylan Klebold was born in Lakewood, Colorado. He was a resident of Littleton for many years. His parents were Susan Klebold and Tom Klebold. He also had an older brother named Byron. Tom Klebold was a former geophysicist who operated from the family home. Sue came from a prominent Jewish family in Ohio and worked at the State Consortium of Community Colleges, providing accessibility for disabled students. Dylan's neighbors felt that he came from a stable family, but noted that Eric Harris exercised a powerful influence on Dylan after 1996.
Soon after they became friends, the two boys linked their personal computers on a network. They both played a lot of games over the Internet. Harris created some levels in Doom which later became known as the "Harris levels". Contrary to rumours, none of these were based on the layout of Columbine High School. They are still available for download on the internet if one takes the time to search.
The two boys early on got into trouble for breaking into a locked van and stealing tools. In March 1998, the boys were arrested on felony charges for criminal trespassing and theft. The boys 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 he likewise made a good impression.
Both boys attended Columbine High School.
The boys occasionally hung out with members of a group called the "Trenchcoat Mafia", a small clique which wore heavy black trenchcoats. Most of the major members of the group had graduated or dropped out of the school by the time that Harris and Klebold committed the massacre. The boys generally embraced the often called goth culture. Some people who identify themselves as "gothic" claim that the boys were not practicing "true goth" culture, and that the media had misidentified them. Eric Harris was known to be a devoted KMFDM fan, and they 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. The plan for mass murder may have first been discussed in April 1998 after Eric and Dylan were convicted of breaking into a van and received ten months of counseling and community service. At about this time, multiple athletes from Columbine High were convicted in a string of felony crimes and received probation.
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. Some of the teachers believed that they were sympathetic to the Nazi causes and that they were depressed and angry. Nothing happened to the boys despite the fact that the teachers complained about the boys, although one of them was suspended for the rest of the school year for cracking into the school computer system.
Eric Harris maintained a website under the name "Reb" (Rebel) that 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. As early as March 1998, words 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 cyber aliases include: "Rebldmkr" (Rebel Doom-maker, for his creations of levels for the violent computer game Doom), and "Rebdolmn" among others.
In 1997, Jefferson County Sheriff's Office investigator Michael Guerra looked at Harris' website. Guerra decided to write a draft affidavit for a search warrant. The affidavit was never filed. The information was not revealed at the April 30 press conference, which was the second press conference. The information was revealed to the public in September 2001.
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.
Harris 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 codenamed "VoDkA", or "V", found to be Dylan Klebold, and an unidentified screename, "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. The boys had access to reading material 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 powerful 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. Up to three hundred students may have perished if the bomb went off.
In yearbooks, journals, and computer files, Harris and Klebold listed 67 people they did not like. Only one of them got injured in Columbine, and he probably wasn't specifically targeted because he was on the list. Brooks Brown, a student whom Harris targeted numerous times in his rants, saw Harris entering the cafeteria the morning of the massacre, and scolded Harris for skipping a class. Harris reportedly said, "Brooks, I like you. Go home." Brooks heard gunshots from inside the school, and ran miles into Littleton, Colorado to find help.
A journal found in Harris' 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.
The journal found in Harris' bedroom stated 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 the highest number of students would be located in the cafeteria at the time. According to the diary, the boys also planned on 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. Finally, they planned to either escape the United States and go live on an island or to hijack an airplane and crash it into the heart of New York City.
The Columbine massacre
The two killed 12 students and a teacher, before each shooter shot himself 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 allegedly shot himself in the right temple. Some say that Harris killed him since Klebold was left handed. Harris's body was found slumped against a bookcase with Klebold at his feet.
The two things that prevented the deaths of many people were the failure of their bombs to explode and the quick response of police, which surrounded the campus. 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
- 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