Columbine

Columbine

by

Dave Cullen

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Columbine: Chapter 15 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Before noon, an investigative team had already been assembled. Kate Battan is named the lead investigator, and, from student reports, has identified the shooters as Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold and begun compiling information about both of the boys. She sends detectives to each of their homes. Eric’s parents are “uncooperative” and attempt to refuse the police entry, but the cops insist. In Eric’s room, their team finds a stash of ordnance: sawed-off shotgun barrel, ammo, fireworks, and materials for building bombs on nearly every surface. 
The interaction between Eric’s parents and investigators on the day of the killing will come to symbolize the nature of all their further interactions with investigators: reluctant, uncooperative, and conditional.
Themes
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The Klebolds are “much more forthcoming” and “communicative,” assisting the police by describing their son’s social life and past. The police find pipe bombs in the house, and both Tom and Sue are “shocked,” insisting that their son was happy, and that they would have known if something had been wrong with him.
The Klebolds are compliant where the Harrises were reluctant, but both sets of parents are shocked and alarmed by their own failure to see what was happening with and between their sons.
Themes
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Supervisory Special Agent Dr. Dwayne Fuselier (FUSE-uh-lay) is the first FBI agent to arrive at Columbine. Though he is a veteran agent and “one of the leading hostage negotiators in the country,” he is only there because his son, Brian, is a Columbine student. Fuselier offers his services to Jeffco officials, though, and they accept. The first step of negotiating, Fuselier knows, is to determine if the situation is a hostage or nonhostage situation—the situations are vastly different. Hostage-takers often act rationally and issue demands, whereas nonhostage gunmen find no meaning in human lives and “typically issue no demands.” Jeffco officials have labeled Columbine a hostage situation when Fuselier arrives on the scene, and all major news outlets are reporting it as such; Fuselier, though, knows that what he is heading into is “much worse.”
Fuselier’s expertise is a welcome addition to the investigation, which promises to be long, sprawling, and grueling. Fuselier’s classification of Columbine as a nonhostage situation, and the shooters as desirous of violence at any cost, with no demands and nothing to lose, changes the nature of the situation—and the impending investigation—entirely.
Themes
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Memory, Bearing Witness, Trauma, and Testimony Theme Icon
Both the public and the detectives on the scene believe that the attack is a “large conspiracy”—they feel it is too big to just have been orchestrated by the two gunmen. One of Eric and Dylan’s friends, Chris Morris, was home playing video games at the time of the attack. He called himself in to 911, “scared” by the knowledge he possessed—that Dylan and Eric owned guns and had recently been “messing” with pipe bombs. The police take Chris into custody, believing he “looks the part” of a conspirator.
The desire to understand the “why” of Columbine begins with the refusal to believe that just two boys could have been responsible for such carnage—the police, desperate to pin the motive and blame on more than two students, seek out the boys’ friends who seem to fit the bill.
Themes
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Memory, Bearing Witness, Trauma, and Testimony Theme Icon
Media: Misinformation and Sensationalism Theme Icon
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Columbine PDF
Though media and witnesses both describe the shooters as a unit—a theyFuselier knows that “multiple gunmen demand[s] multiple [negotiation] tactics.” He knows already that there may be two very different motives at work in the attack—one for Eric, and one for Dylan. As reports of the shooters as loners and outcasts continue to emerge, witnesses from the school describe the shooters as members of the Trench Coat Mafia—a group of “Goth” students at Columbine “associated with death and violence.” This claim is false, but the story, which is “bizarre,” spreads like wildfire.
Fuselier’s ability to differentiate between the shooters, and to understand early on that there will be different motivations and desires for each boy, allows him to approach the situation more receptive to the “whys” than any of his fellow investigators. The introduction of the Trench Coat Mafia angle ignites something huge in the media, which seizes upon the bizarre idea and sensationalizes it almost immediately.
Themes
Violence and Spectacle Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Trauma, and Testimony Theme Icon
Media: Misinformation and Sensationalism Theme Icon