By Alan Prendergast
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Brown also insists that the investigator assigned to the case, John Hicks, told him he already had a file on a juvenile named Eric Harris. Even if the threats and accounts of setting off explosives and vandalizing houses weren't enough to file charges, Brown says, they should have been brought to the attention of school administrators and the people supervising Harris's probation. Such action could have resulted in a search warrant, revocation of probation--or, at the very least, a reassessment of Harris's progress in the anger-management classes required by his juvenile diversion program. ("Eric did a very nice job on Diversion," his supervisor reported. "He impressed me as being very articulate and intelligent.")
Frustrated by official inaction, Brown lived several weeks in anticipation of bad news. "You get used to checking your house for pipe bombs," he says.
Gradually, the sense of danger receded. Brooks was still friends with Dylan Klebold--"There were a lot of kids my kids knew that we worried about, and Dylan wasn't one of them," Brown says--and everyone thought that Dylan might have a "calming effect" on Harris. Two weeks before the shootings, Brooks informed his parents that he'd made a separate peace with Eric, too, that his former nemesis was acting more grown-up these days.
He was also acting more cautious. In the spring of 1998 Harris removed some of the more explicitly violent writings from his Web site--tipped off by Dylan, perhaps, that the Brown family was reading them. He still talked about wanting to blow up the school, but he was careful of his audience. Unlike Melissa Sowder, he didn't make the mistake of saying such things to the dean.
Around the same time, he began to keep a handwritten journal of his plans for an attack on Columbine High. Investigators have released few details about the journal, but it appears to be an evolving manual of possible weapons and tactics, with lists of hated athletes thrown in for good measure--a crash course in applied Doom. As the months wore on, the imagined carnage became more and more extreme, an exit strategy Reb and VoDkA could embellish upon whenever they'd had a bellyful of bullshit.
One element that appears to be missing from the journal is any clear rationale or motive for the plan. "A lot of it, it's hard to discern fantasy from reality," says Steve Davis, spokesman for the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department. "For example, the part about taking the plane and crashing it into New York City--who knows? We may never know how much of it was an actual plan and how much of it was just talking. I don't think there's any real explanation that we're getting from that diary."
Yet the date chosen for the attack--April 20, Adolf Hitler's birthday--is one kind of explanation. Harris's fascination with Hitler is debatable; he and Klebold may have offered 'Heil Hitler' salutes after bowling strikes, but not often enough to attract much comment. Yet Harris did embrace a kind of social Darwinism any Nazi could appreciate: "YOU KNOW WHAT I LOVE!!!? Natural SELECTION!!!!!!!! God damn its the best thing that ever happened to the Earth. Getting rid of all the stupid and weak orginisms...but its all natural!! YES!"
Harris had a T-shirt that read "Natural Selection." According to some students, he was wearing it the day he died. The fantasy of wiping out the inferior "dumbasses" who got in his way was at the heart of his megalomania. In his inscription of Nathan Dykeman's 1998 yearbook--a seriously deranged note, peppered with lyrics from Rammstien ("God damn not an angel when I die"), references to Doom ("kick some, take some, and get some"), and German phrases proclaiming "No pity" and "I am God"--he offers this piece of advice: "Hey don't follow your dreams or goals or any of that shit. Follow your fucking animal instincts. If it moves, kill it. If it doesn't, burn it."
As the fantasy grew, reality receded. At some point the plan was no longer about revenge against jocks but about taking down the whole school--and themselves with it. There would be no God mode once they started shooting, Harris realized. In what appear to be later writings about the attack, he refers to the event as "NBK"--possibly a reference to Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers, a movie about people born to kill--and expresses a fatalistic detachment about what is to come.
One document, consisting of three pages about building and storing pipe bombs, was obtained by several Web surfers from Harris's site within hours of the attack, before America Online took down the account. Investigators won't confirm its authenticity, but several internal clues suggest it is Harris's own writing. In discussing ways to add shrapnel to the bombs, the author writes, "I am not sure that method works. I did try it on the Delta batch, and since they won't be used until NBK it'll be kind of hard to report the results. You might try asking the survivors if they got a good look at the bomb before it went off and then the remains!"