TOPICS > Politics

Deadly School Violence

BY Admin  April 21, 1999 at 6:15 PM EDT

Jefferson County Sheriff John Stone told reporters that the two young men dressed in black trench coats entered Columbine High School at 11am local time. The two were armed with two sawed-off shotguns, a semiautomatic rifle, handgun and more than 30 explosive devices when they opened fire.

The victims were identified as one adult male teacher, 10 male students and four female students.

According to police spokesman Steve Davis, the two alleged gunmen were among the dead in the school’s library from what police “suspect are self-inflicted gunshot wounds.” Police identified the two as Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold.

Asked for a motive Sheriff Stone simply said “madness.”

SWAT team members and detectives who had entered the crime scene described it as “grisly” and “gruesome” and police have warned the investigation would not be a fast one.

“It is a massive crime scene,” Davis explained. “It will take quite a few days to allow our detectives to piece together the scene.”

The investigation has also been hampered by some 30 different explosive devices, including some timed to explode later, that have been found in and around the high school.

The Jefferson County District Attorney said the two alleged gunmen had been in trouble before.

“Both were known to the juvenile justice system,” David Thomas told a Wednesday press conference. Thomas said that the two had plead guilty to First Degree Criminal Trespassing in January 1998 and served a juvenile education program which ended in February of 1999.

Both Sheriff Stone and Thomas said the investigation was continuing and could expand beyond the two current suspects.

“We have received a fair amount of information that there are some people who are at least knowledgeable” about their plans, Thomas said. “We are pursuing that angle aggressively.”

President Clinton addressed the shooting in a speech Tuesday night.

“We don’t know yet all the how’s or whys of this tragedy,” he said. “If it can happen here, then surely people will recognize that they have to be alive to the possibility that it can occur in any community in America and maybe that will help us to keep it from happening again.”

President Clinton added he would explore ways to reduce the violence in schools, but he said the people of Littleton needed time to grieve.

“The community is an open wound right now,” he said. “Tonight, I think the American people ought to be thinking about those folks in Littleton. Tomorrow and in the days ahead, we’ll have a little more time to kind of gather ourselves and our determination and go back at this again.”

Columbine High is in the middle-class suburb of Littleton, CO and has a student body of 1800.

Littleton, a town of 35,000, became the latest American community shocked by school violence. Since 1997, a series of school shootings have led to calls for tighter security and closer monitoring of troubled students. Two people were killed in an attack at a school in Pearl, Miss., three at West Paducah, Ky., five at Jonesboro, Ark., and two in Springfield, Ore.