TOPICS > Politics

Littleton Shooting

April 21, 1999 at 12:00 AM EDT

JIM LEHRER: The school tragedy in Colorado and the conflict in Kosovo were the major stories of this day. In the Denver suburb of Littleton, authorities searched for evidence and reasons for yesterday’s shooting spree. Fifteen people, including two student shooters, died in the bloody rampage. We have more from Betty Ann Bowser.

BETTY ANN BOWSER: What had been a scene of carnage 24 hours ago today became a place for mourning. Hundreds of students from Denver-area high schools placed flowers, letters to their departed friends, and cards of condolence beneath two trees in front of the Littleton high school where the shootings took place. Meanwhile, police began the process of removing the bodies of the 15 victims from the school. Work has been slow and painstaking at Columbine High School, just south of Denver, because the two shooters had wired themselves and some of the victims with explosives. The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office says so far 30 homemade bombs have been recovered, but police continue a locker-by-locker search inside of the school for more explosives.

STEVE DAVIS, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department: That’s what has been taking so much time here last night and today, is that bomb squad going through and using dogs and every piece of equipment and robots that we have used. And we didn’t want anyone to go back into that building until the bomb team felt that it was safe.

BETTY ANN BOWSER: The two gunmen have been identified as 17-year-old Dylan Klebold and 18-year-old Eric Harris. Both were seniors at the Littleton high school and reportedly belonged to a group of kids who were known as the “Trench Coat Mafia” because they wore black trench coats to school. Last night, police searched the homes of both boys and confiscated computers and found bomb-making materials. The rampage began yesterday at about 11:30 in the morning, when the two young men started throwing pipe bombs outside the school, then entered carrying multiple weapons and began firing at students in the hallways, cafeteria, and library. A spokesman for the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department said today, early on, a school security guard returned fire.

SPOKESMAN: The deputy that is assigned to that school was in the school and present yesterday. He heard shooting and an explosion in an area of the school and he responded there. He observed one gunman firing, and he engaged that gunman but did not hit him that we’re aware of.

BETTY ANN BOWSER: Terrified students ran from the school. Later, they described scenes of horror.

STUDENT: I heard shots, and they told us to get under the tables, and teachers were running around, telling us to get down. And we were just under the tables and then we heard more gunshots and then there was just a stampede and everybody ran.

STUDENT: There was people just running in every direction. And I heard a loud like — I saw a huge light just flash and then this girl ran by and she was like screaming for someone to help her. And the teacher told to us lock the door and stay in the room.

BETTY ANN BOWSER: Frantic parents raced to the school to look for their children.

PARENT: Has anyone seen Lauren Crolecky, Lauren Corlecky? Has anybody seen Lauren Crolecky?

BETTY ANN BOWSER: Over the next three hours, SWAT teams evacuated most of the 1,800 students from the building; 23 people were taken to area hospitals, where they were treated for gunshot and shrapnel wounds. Late yesterday afternoon, SWAT teams discovered a dozen bodies in the library, including those of the two gunmen, who had apparently shot themselves. Today, all schools in Jefferson County were closed because of the shootings. All high schools in Denver were also closed. Denver’s professional hockey, baseball, and basketball teams all canceled scheduled games, saying team members were just too sad to play.

CLAUDE LEMIEUX, Colorado Avalanche Hockey Player: I have four kids myself. And I know some of these kids that go to that school and — you know, the pain is so large.

BETTY ANN BOWSER: As a direct result of the shootings, several Colorado lawmakers dropped their plans to push bills through the state legislature that would have made it easier for gun owners to carry concealed weapons.