By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
Oeffler maintains that Gardner came under fire from Harris before his 11:26 call for assistance. So why did he talk about shots inside the building and neglect to mention the battle at that point? Well, by the time Gardner got on the radio, Harris had moved inside, so "shots inside the building" is "an accurate statement," Oeffler explains. "To use valuable time and attention to air details about the exchange of gunfire was unnecessary."
Or maybe the exchange hadn't happened yet. Gardner's debriefing by investigators on the day of the attack is clear on this point. The gunman didn't come out of the building and shoot at him until right after his 11:26 call. That's Marton's recollection, too. The 11:26 call was about the shots Gardner was hearing inside the school, before he'd seen a suspect. At that point, he said, all he knew was that "someone's shooting up the school."
The record of Smoker's actions is equally clear. Oeffler's letter insists that Smoker was on the west side of the school by 11:24. Four minutes later, "he aired that the shooter may be wearing a black trenchcoat, information that he obtained from students on the west side of the school."
But Smoker told a police interviewer that he was still in Clement Park, on the other side of the ballfields that stretch north from the high school, when he heard Gardner's call for assistance at 11:26. A motorcycle cop, Smoker decided to hook up with an officer in a patrol car, Scott Taborsky, before getting any closer to the fray. Taborsky reported to dispatch that he and Smoker were taking up a position on the west side of the school at 11:29 -- five minutes later than Oeffler claims. As for the information Smoker aired at 11:28 about the trenchcoated suspect, it probably came from a student named Adam Thomas, who remembers fleeing the shooting on the west side and coming across a motorcycle cop minutes later -- in Clement Park.
Oeffler says the wounded students who took cover with Smoker and Taborsky weren't wounded at all. "Many uninjured students had blood on them from assisting injured students...The deputies began to evacuate the students who continued to come out of the school cafeteria and, moments later, the library."
The mass exodus from the cafeteria occurred fifteen minutes before the library evacuation, not "moments" before. And few, if any, of the kids fleeing the cafeteria -- where no one was injured, according to the sheriff's report, so how did these kids get blood on them? -- would have sought refuge behind Taborsky's patrol car. Not only was it not there yet, but the students were running away from the shooters, to the south and east sides of the school.
Put aside, for a moment, Smoker's own statement that the kids he saw had "numerous" gunshot wounds. Here's what Columbine teacher Craig Place, who'd taken cover on the west side of the school after the shooting started, told the FBI:
"A police car arrived and parked on the side of the hill. Approximately ten minutes later, students came out and ran behind the police car. Place believes these students came out the back door exit of the library. Place wanted to try to help the students...A police officer told [him] to 'Get the fuck out of here.'"
Perhaps Place is wrong about the amount of time involved. But chances are he had a better idea of the location of the Columbine library and cafeteria than Paul Smoker did that day.
The official version of what happened at Columbine depends on windows that break without anyone noticing them, gunshot wounds that don't exist, gun battles that aren't worth reporting, and cops and bad guys who manage to be in several places at once. Any way you slice it, it's a pretty rank piece of bologna. But that's Jeffco officials' story.
And they're sticking to it.