By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
By Michael Roberts
By Melanie Asmar
He knew what time to attack the school in order to kill and maim the most students. He knew where he and fellow gunman Dylan Klebold, alias "V" or "Vodka," would park their bomb-laden cars, what they would wear ("all black"), and how they should act ("very casual and silent") as they hauled bags full of explosives into the cafeteria. And he knew how he wanted it to end.
"Sometime in April  me and V will get revenge and will kick natural selection up a few notches," Harris wrote in his journal on April 26, 1998. "If we have figured out the art of time bombs beforehand, we will set hundreds of them around houses, roads, bridges, buildings and gas stations, anything that will cause damage and chaos...It'll be like the LA riots, the Oklahoma bombing, WWII, Vietnam, [video games] Duke [Nukem] and Doom all mixed together...I want to leave a lasting impression on the world."
Over the next twelve months, Harris refined his plan -- assembling an arsenal of bombs, acquiring guns and ammo, plotting the smallest details with an obsessiveness bordering on mania. He and Klebold never strayed from their course. Never mind that they both were in a juvenile-diversion program throughout 1998 for breaking into a van, or that Harris had been grounded by his parents for months (for drinking and bomb-making, he writes, as well as the van burglary), or that he was also the subject of a police investigation into Internet death threats. Adults were easy to fool, and Harris boasted in his journal of his ability to "BS so fucking well" to con and deceive all the stupid people around him who deserved to die.
"I am higher than you people," he wrote. "If you disagree I would shoot you...some people go through life begging to be shot."
Seized by police from Harris's room hours after the shootings, the killer's journal has been one of the darkest secrets of the Columbine investigation, its public release staunchly opposed by the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office. Short excerpts dribbled out in briefings given to school administrators and were leaked to Salon.com in 1999. Last year the sheriff's official report quoted a few lines as well, including a statement that no one should be blamed for the massacre but Harris and Klebold -- a plea, in effect, to absolve police and school officials of any responsibility for the tragedy.
But that isn't Harris's primary message. The handwritten pages obtained by Westword offer hate, not absolution. They ooze with contempt for cops and other authority figures, people Harris considered embarrassingly easy to dupe, which may be one reason why these writings have been suppressed so long. And they provide glimpses of a teenage terrorist who couldn't wait to carry out his violent fantasies, who was more virulently racist and more acutely psychotic -- batshit mad-dog crazy, in layman's terms -- than previously reported.
They also represent a lost opportunity to have prevented the shootings. Last week U.S. District Judge Lewis Babcock threw out lawsuits filed by victims' families who claimed, among other things, that the sheriff's office had failed to adequately investigate death threats Harris made against classmate Brooks Brown (read the Sidebar). A year before the massacre, Brown's parents, Randy and Judy, had provided Jeffco with copies of pages from Harris's Web site in which he described detonating pipe bombs. The sheriff's office has said it didn't have enough evidence to pursue the matter. Judge Babcock noted that the "vague, rambling rants" on the Web site didn't include a specific threat to attack Columbine.
But the journal was highly specific. Had the police acted on the search-warrant request for Harris's home that an investigator had drafted in response to the Brown complaint, it's likely that officers would have found at least some of these writings, which feature detailed information about guns, explosives and strategy -- information the police didn't discover until they searched Harris's room hours after the massacre. Information they've kept under wraps ever since.
In the spring of 1998, while Randy Brown was trying desperately to get the police to take a closer look at Eric Harris, the precocious lad was hammering out his plans to slaughter Brown's entire family. He wanted NBK -- short for "Natural Born Killers," his name for the coming apocalypse -- to start with a visit to the Brown household. He and Klebold would "take our sweet time pissing on them, spitting on them, and just torturing the hell out of them," he wrote, before heading on to Columbine.
"It's deeply disturbing," says Randy Brown of the journal pages he recently reviewed. "And Sheriff [John] Stone has known about this for more than two years. He knew that Eric wanted to kill my entire family, but he went ahead and treated Brooks like a possible accomplice anyway."
Not all of Harris's meticulous planning came to fruition. The gunmen never mastered the art of the time bomb, and they ultimately decided against wearing the "custom shirts," with matching NBK emblems, that Harris envisioned. (On the day of the attack, Harris wore a T-shirt espousing "Natural Selection"; Klebold's T-shirt bore one word: "Wrath.") Many details, though, including the notion of lobbing bombs and firing at students outside, then heading inside to "pick off fuckers at our will," remained remarkably consistent throughout the months of plotting.