Columbine

Columbine

by

Dave Cullen

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Columbine: Chapter 30 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Long before the Columbine shooting, Jeffco police had files on both Eric and Dylan. They were in possession of at least twelve pages of “hate[ful], threatening” rants from Eric’s website. Essentially a public confession which the authorities have been “sitting on” since 1997, the files are a potential “PR disaster.”
The Jefferson County sheriff’s department failed, in a major way, to investigate Eric and Dylan when they had reports of the boys’ dangerous behavior years earlier.  If this information comes to light in the media circus surrounding Columbine, it will be disastrous and damaging.
Themes
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Media: Misinformation and Sensationalism Theme Icon
Judy and Randy Brown, Brooks’ parents, had sent the sheriff’s department the pages from Eric’s website, and had warned officials “repeatedly” about Eric for over a year. Even after the attacks began and officials used sections of Eric’s web rant to justify obtaining search warrants for his parents’ house, Jeffco officials publicly continued to deny having ever seen the rants.
Jeffco officials lie outright, despite evidence of the fact that they knew about Eric’s violent and hateful website—and had been informed repeatedly of other incidents involving Eric.
Themes
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Failure Theme Icon
The public gets “two conflicting stories” about the Browns: “either [they] labored to prevent Columbine, or [inspired] one of its conspirators.” The Browns insist to the press that they contacted the sheriff’s department fifteen times to discuss Eric. However, Jeffco officials insist that the Browns never met with an investigator, “despite holding a report indicating they had.”
The sheriff’s department slyly attempts to turn public opinion toward the idea that the Browns perhaps “created” Columbine through their repeated harassment of Eric—when really, the officials’ failure to follow through on investigations of Eric is the real story.
Themes
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Thirteen months before the shooting, two Jeffco investigators—John Hicks and Mike Guerra—investigated one of the Browns’ many complaints, and “discovered substantial evidence that Eric was building pipe bombs.” Guerra drafted a search warrant but “for some reason” it was never followed up. After Columbine, at a “clandestine, cover-your-ass” meeting of about a dozen Jeffco officials, Guerra is told “never to discuss [the warrant]” again, and he complies.
Mike Guerra had the opportunity to disarm Eric Harris, but due to a number of factors and incompetence within the department, Guerra was never able to do so, and Eric was able to keep—and continue to build—pipe bombs and other ordnance that he already possessed over a year before the attack.
Themes
Violence and Spectacle Theme Icon
Failure Theme Icon
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Ten days after the massacre, Jeffco officials hold a press conference in which they “boldly lie” about what they knew about Eric Harris’s “motive, means, and opportunity” well in advance of the shooting. Investigator Guerra’s file on Eric Harris “disappear[s.]”
The department’s desire to save themselves outweighs their allegiance to the public’s right to the truth.
Themes
Memory, Bearing Witness, Trauma, and Testimony Theme Icon
Failure Theme Icon
Media: Misinformation and Sensationalism Theme Icon
Chris Morris, desperate to clear his name—investigators believe he is one of the shooters’ conspirators—agrees to a wiretap to help officials “smoke out Phil Duran.” Over the course of a long and tense phone call, as the FBI listens in, Chris obtains an admission from Duran that he had “been out shooting with Eric and Dylan [at a] place called Rampart Range.” Officials question Duran a few days later. Duran confesses to having put the boys in touch with Mark Manes, and to putting up some of the money for the gun they obtained from him, but promises he made no money on the deal—everything he says is true. Five days later, officials question Mark Manes, who makes a full confession, and outlines how Dylan made the down payment and picked up the gun from Manes’ house in late January. Manes made nine dollars, total, on selling the gun to the boys, and now faces eighteen years in prison.
Investigators, still hunting for conspirators and others who might share in the blame for the attacks, “smoke out” the individuals who provided Eric and Dylan with a large part of the means they needed to commit such a large-scale atrocity. The arms dealers, who had no idea—much like the shooters’ friends—what Eric and Dylan’s intentions were, now face serious punishment for their roles in the massacre.
Themes
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Memory, Bearing Witness, Trauma, and Testimony Theme Icon
Dr. Fuselier, plagued by questions of motive, begins carving out time amidst all his other responsibilities to look into the killers. He is the only psychologist on the investigative team, and the only one qualified to analyze the boys’ perspective. Though the boys’ point of view is “indefensible,” Fuselier forces himself to empathize with them. He quickly becomes known as the “expert” on the boys among his peers and subordinates alike. When he comes across Eric’s journal, which opens with the line “I hate the fucking world,” Fuselier realizes he is dealing with an “all-pervasive hate.” Whereas Eric’s website mostly “vented rage,” it said very little about why he felt it—but the journal is “reflective,” and describes the “urges driving Eric to kill.”
Fuselier, experienced in his role as an analyst and negotiator, understands that while the killers’ crimes are unforgivable, there must have been a “reason” for them—at least in the eyes of the boys themselves. Fuselier’s endeavor to understand the shooters will shed some much-needed light on the case. His discovery of Eric’s deep, blanket hatred of the world and humanity opens a new chapter in the investigation, and will provide some much-needed answers for those still struggling to identify and understand the “whys” of the case.
Themes
Violence and Spectacle Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Trauma, and Testimony Theme Icon