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Hiding in Plain Sight

Are Columbine's remaining secrets too dangerous for the public to know -- or too embarrassing for officials to reveal?

Wayne's World and the Clueless Klebolds

In his letter to Sheriff Mink, Harris attorney Montgomery contends that the single media viewing of the basement tapes six years ago "should be deemed sufficient...to insure public transparency in the investigative and prosecutorial decisions of executive agencies." But what's striking about the drawn-out records battle is how little transparency there's been.

From day one, mortified county officials did their best to conceal the existence of an affidavit for a warrant to search Harris's home that was drafted a year before the shootings but never submitted to a judge ("Anatomy of a Cover-Up," September 30, 2004). They kept it under wraps for two years, until CBS News found out about it and Judge Jackson ordered its release.

Investigators lied to the media about what the sheriff's office knew about Harris and Klebold before the shootings. They gave victims' parents bad information about how their children died. In an effort to make the facts of the police response to the attack fit the official story, timelines were distorted or destroyed and dispatch logs and other key documents spirited away, in defiance of court orders and open-records requests. Small wonder that critics of the sheriff's office believe that, copycat concerns aside, the powers that be have other motives for keeping the remaining materials in the vault.

Some clues to What They Don't Want You to Know can be found in the basement tapes and in the Harris writings first published in Westword in 2001. The lads boast about how easy it is to fool adults in general and their parents in particular. They mock some of their lamer teachers, and Klebold offers a hearty fuck-you to a sheriff's deputy who, it turns out, had more contact with the pair than his department was prepared to admit. Harris exults in how easy it was to buy guns and ammo, how absurdly easy to dupe everyone around him.

"I could convince them that I'm going to climb Mount Everest or I have a twin brother growing out of my back," he says. "I can make you believe anything."

None of this is terribly complimentary to school officials, law enforcement, the supervisors of the diversion program the teens were both in -- or the parenting skills of the Harrises and Klebolds. And it raises disturbing questions about what similar revelations might be contained in other, as-yet-unreleased materials.

Evidence logs indicate that police found much more than the basement tapes and the "Book of God" when they searched the Harris home. Harris left other handwritten notes behind and at least one audio message -- a microcassette labeled "Nixon" that was left conspicuously on the kitchen counter. According to a brief internal police summary of the tape's contents, Harris can be heard explaining "why these things are happening and states it will happen Œless than nine hours [from] now.'"

But the most intriguing, hush-hush item from the Harris home is probably evidence item #201, a green steno book found in a desk drawer. The book doesn't belong to Eric or God but to Wayne Harris, who used it to write down various matters concerning his son's mental health, errant behavior and interactions with neighbors and authorities. As a result of the confidential settlements reached in lawsuits brought against the Harrises and Klebolds by some victims' families, virtually everyone who's ever seen the steno book can't comment on its contents.

We do know one thing about item #201: It documents more contacts between the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office and the Harrises over their son's behavior years before the shooting than the sheriff's office has ever acknowledged. In 2004, investigators working for the state attorney general's office used the steno book to track a complaint against Eric that dated back to 1997, a case for which the department paperwork had disappeared. The deputy on the case, Tim Walsh, was the same officer who arrested Harris and Klebold for breaking into a van in 1998; interviewed by investigators after the shootings in 1999, Walsh made no mention of the 1997 case.

Wayne and Kathy Harris have never given a formal interview to the police. Their chief contact with Columbine investigators occurred the day of the shootings, when officers arrived to search the house, and particularly Eric's room, despite Kathy's protesting, "I don't want you going down there." But the parents' attorneys have had extensive communication with the county attorney's office since that day, and they've joined forces with the county on numerous occasions to battle release of the steno book and other materials seized from the home. It's a cozy alliance that has troubled Brian Rohrbough, whose son Danny was murdered at Columbine and who has ended up opposing the team in court.

"Jefferson County has used taxpayer money to represent the Klebolds' and Harrises' demand that these items never be released," Rohrbough wrote in his own letter to Mink, urging him to release the materials sought by the Post."It is long past time for you to serve the public's interest in protecting children above the private interest of two families who raised cold-blooded murderers."

Nothing akin to the green steno book was found at the Klebold home. Tom and Susan Klebold did talk to investigators; five years later, they even gave one media interview, to David Brooks of the New York Times. "They say they had no intimations of Dylan's mental state," Brooks wrote. That assertion is spectacularly at odds with accounts from school employees -- about chronic disciplinary problems, perceived "anger issues" Dylan might have had with his father, and, most of all, a class essay Dylan wrote about a trenchcoated avenger who slaughters a group of "preps," a scene so vicious that his teacher felt compelled to discuss it with his parents -- but Brooks didn't press the issue.

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