Doom Rules

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Brown's complaint went nowhere. His criticism of the sheriff's office and school administrators has been largely ignored. After the massacre, his oldest son, Brooks, was treated as a possible suspect because he told reporters that Harris warned him away from the school moments before the shooting started. The Browns paid for a private polygraph exam to establish that Brooks had no prior knowledge of the attack. Brooks passed. Sheriff John Stone told reporters he was still "suspicious" of Brooks Brown.

Randy Brown has no doubts about his son's innocence. But plenty of people had cause to be suspicious of Eric Harris, he says. They just did nothing about it.

Brooks Brown and Dylan Klebold grew up together. The arrival of Eric Harris, though, gradually began to strain the friendship. Late in 1997 the Browns learned that Harris was attempting to blame the vandalism of a neighbor's house--the same kind of midnight mission that VoDkA and Reb were conducting regularly at that point--on Brooks. But Brooks had an ironclad alibi that night, Randy says; he was grounded.

The Browns told the neighbor of their suspicions about Eric's involvement in the vandalism. Furious, Harris threw a piece of ice at Brooks's car and cracked the windshield. The Browns called the police, and Brooks decided to have a word with Wayne and Kathy Harris.

"Brooks got mad and told his parents everything Eric was doing," Brown says. "Eric's drinking. His sneaking out at night."

Brown recalls that Kathy Harris was "all upset" about her son's behavior--at first. "She called back the next day and said, 'My husband said it's not that serious'--that he basically trusted his son."

Wayne Harris drove Eric to the Brown house and waited in the car while his son offered a begrudging apology. Eric left angrily after Randy's wife, Judy, questioned his sincerity. "He didn't fool my wife, but he fooled me and everybody else," Randy says.

Not long after the windshield fracas, Dylan urged Brooks to check out Eric's Web page. Under the heading "Philosophy" was an unmistakable message.

"I am the law, if you don't like it, you die...Dead people cant do many things, like argue, whine, bitch, complain, narc, rat out, criticize, or even fucking talk. So that's the only way to solve arguments with all you fuckheads out there, I just kill! God I cant wait till I can kill you people...I don't care if I live or die in the shootout, all I want to do is kill and injure as many of you pricks as I can, especially a few people. Like Brooks Brown."

There was more: "You all better fucking hide in your houses because im comin for EVERYONE soon, and i WILL be armed to the fuckin teeth and i WILL shoot to kill and i WILL fucking KILL EVERYTHING! No i am not crazy, crazy is just a word...if you got a problem with my thoughts, come tell me and ill kill you."

Also on the site was a description of pipe bomb missions and one of Eric's Doom wads, the layout designed to resemble the Browns' neighborhood.

The Browns downloaded the materials and contacted the sheriff's office. "We didn't take it to the dad, and I have second-guessed that decision since this happened," Randy says. "We said, 'Look, every time we report this kid, it escalates.' We told them, 'You can't go to Eric directly.' If you go to the school, the stupid counselors bring them into a room and say, 'Eric and Brooks, we see you're having a problem.' That doesn't work with Eric. We were afraid of him, okay? We told them they didn't need to say where they got this information--it's on the Web. They said, 'We don't even know if this is a crime.'"

Much to Brown's dismay, the sheriff's department never interviewed the Harris family about the threat. An investigator couldn't locate Harris's Web site, either because Harris took the material offline or because the address was copied wrong. Several phone calls the Browns made to the investigator went unreturned. Although a copy of the "suspicious incident" report was forwarded to the deputy assigned to Columbine High, no official action was taken as a result.

After the massacre, as news of Brown's report began to make headlines, sheriff's department officials vigorously defended its handling of the case. A computer check had failed to turn up Harris's previous juvenile theft conviction, they said, and Brown's request that investigators not contact various individuals involved in the case, including Brooks and Harris himself, had tied their hands: "Without the ability to speak to a victim or positively identify a suspect, elements of a crime could not be established."

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Alan Prendergast has been writing for Westword for over thirty years. He teaches journalism at Colorado College; his stories about the justice system, historic crimes, high-security prisons and death by misadventure have won numerous awards and appeared in a wide range of magazines and anthologies.
Contact: Alan Prendergast