Split Decision

As expected, this morning Jefferson County Sheriff Ted Mink announced that he'd decided not to release the basement tapes -- the audio and videotapes seized from the homes of killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold shortly after the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School. Although many victims' families had pressed for their release, Mink stood by his office's contention that the materials could inspire copycat shootings. "Today," he declared in a written statement, "I have the opportunity to prevent the mass distribution of their message inciting hate and violence."

The sheriff did say he would release 936 pages of writings seized from the killers' homes and vehicles — including, apparently, long-hidden writings by Klebold and a notebook kept by Harris' father documenting his son's contacts with cops and school authorities ("Hiding in Plain Sight," April 13). But first the Harris and Klebold parents will have an opportunity to contest his decision in court — and so will the Denver Post, which has been seeking to pry loose the basement tapes from Jeffco for five years.

The bottom line: today Mink gets to take the kudos and the criticism for stifling bad messages and letting them out all at the same time, but the oh-so-protracted timeline for actual disclosure of Columbine's remaining secrets remains uncertain. —Alan Prendergast

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun