Crime

Eleven Colorado School Shootings, Explosion of Attacks Between Columbine and Uvalde

Outside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas after the May 24 attack.
Outside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas after the May 24 attack. KXAN-TV via YouTube
The death toll from the horrific assault on Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24, currently stands at 21, including nineteen children and two adults. But while the loss of life is shocking, the fact that another school shooting took place certainly isn't. Since the April 20, 1999, massacre at Columbine High School, in which two teenage gunmen killed twelve students and a teacher and injured 21 others before committing suicide, incidents like these have become all too common.

According to a mammoth list of such attacks in America, more school shootings have taken place in the 23 years from Columbine to Uvalde than during the entire history of the United States before 1999.

The oldest school shooting in Colorado dates back to 1909, with two more before Columbine; since then, seven have occurred in this state.

Westword published a roundup of school shootings twenty years after the Columbine attack, on April 20, 2019; the country had added another 240 shootings during those two decades. By the time we published an update two years later, on April 20, 2021, there had been another 44 school shootings.

In the succeeding thirteen months, there have been 48 school shootings, including the one in Uvalde, essentially doubling the pace from April 20, 2019, to April 20, 2021, and bringing the total since Columbine to 332. Contrast that with the number of school shootings since the first was recorded on November 12, 1840 — when University of Virginia student Joseph Semmes shot and killed law professor John Anthony Gardner Davis — to the Columbine tragedy almost 160 years later: 320.

The overwhelming majority of school shootings between 1840 and 1999 targeted individuals rather than random groups of students and/or teachers; as a result, the number of casualties in the incidents tended to be small. But that began to change in the twenty years or so before Columbine. In 1986, two people were killed and 74 were injured during a hostage standoff in Cokeville, Wyoming. Two years later, in 1988, a nineteen-year-old murdered two people and wounded nine in Greenwood, California — and in 1989, a racist attack on a school in Stockton, California, killed six and injured 32 more. But almost a decade would pass before the 1998 shooting at a Craighead County, Arkansas, middle school in which five people died and ten were injured — a terrible incident largely forgotten in the wake of the Columbine carnage.

Many of the pre-Columbine incidents in Colorado have been forgotten, too, as more recent tragedies have grabbed headlines. Here are the eleven school shootings in the state, complete with crowd-sourced descriptions.

School shootings in Colorado before 2000

June 10, 1909
Trinidad, Colorado
One killed, none injured
Walter Harris, an eleven-year-old student, accidentally shot his teacher, B. C. Briggs, in the head while on a school field trip, killing him.

October 17, 1961
Denver, Colorado
One killed, two injured
Fourteen-year-old Tennyson Beard got into an argument with fifteen-year-old William Hachmeister at Morey Junior High School, shooting and wounding him. Another shot fatally struck fourteen-year-old Deborah Faith Humphrey. Beard attempted suicide but survived. He was later found not guilty by reason of insanity.

April 7, 1982
Littleton, Colorado
One killed, none injured
Thirteen-year-old Deer Creek Junior High School student Scott Darwin Michael was killed by fourteen-year-old classmate Jason Price Rocha. Rocha was tried as an adult and sentenced to twelve years in prison, plus one year of parole, but was instead released in 1987 at the age of twenty.

April 20, 1999
Littleton, Colorado
Fifteen killed (including the gunmen), 21 injured
Eighteen-year-old Eric Harris and seventeen-year-old Dylan Klebold, students at Columbine High School, killed twelve students and one teacher. They injured 21 additional people, and three more were injured while attempting to escape the school. The pair committed suicide in the library after a brief gunfight with police at the end of the massacre.

School shootings in Colorado after 2000

September 27, 2006
Bailey, Colorado
Two killed (including the gunman), none injured
A 53-year-old drifter named Duane Roger Morrison walked into Platte Canyon High School and took six girls hostage. During the ensuing siege, Morrison sexually assaulted all of the girls. When a SWAT team stormed the classroom, Morrison killed sixteen-year-old Emily Keyes, then took his own life after being shot and wounded by police.

February 23, 2010
Littleton, Colorado
None killed, two injured
At Deer Creek Middle School, 32-year-old Bruco Strong Eagle Eastwood opened fire from a rifle in a parking lot and wounded two eighth-graders, Reagan Webber and Matt Thieu, before being restrained by 57-year-old math teacher David Benke and held until his arrest. In October 2011, Eastwood was found not guilty by reason of insanity.

December 6, 2010
Aurora, Colorado
None killed, one injured
In a gang-related attack outside Aurora Central High School, a seventeen-year-old girl was paralyzed. She was one of a group of students outside the school when twenty-year-old Luis Enrique Guzman-Rincon  fired shots from a car, trying to hit gang rivals. Guzman-Ricon was sentenced to 35 years in prison.

December 13, 2013
Centennial, Colorado
Two killed (including gunman), none injured
Eighteen-year-old Karl Pierson shot seventeen-year-old student Claire Davis in the head, fatally injuring her, in a hallway in Arapahoe High School. Pierson then took his own life. Pierson was armed with a shotgun, three Molotov cocktails and a machete. His intention was to shoot the librarian who had disciplined him. Claire Davis died from her injuries on December 21, 2013.

February 17, 2019
Arapahoe County, Colorado
One killed, none injured
Two adult men in an ongoing dispute about a parking space agreed to meet at Eaglecrest High School to settle the dispute. During the argument, 31-year-old Marcus Johnson produced a handgun and shot 46-year-old Anthony "T.J." Cunningham. Johnson then fled the campus, returned home and called 911 to report the shooting. He was arrested when deputies arrived at his home. Cunningham, a former CU football player drafted by the Seattle Seahawks, died the next day of his wounds. Johnson was charged with first-degree murder.

May 7, 2019
Highlands Ranch, Colorado
One killed, eight injured
STEM School Highlands Ranch shooting: Two shooters killed one student and injured eight others at STEM School Highlands Ranch.

November 19, 2021
Aurora, Colorado
None killed, three injured
Three students were shot in the parking lot of Hinkley High School. No fatalities were reported.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts