After stealing a set of signs at the end of summer 1997, Eric becomes more and more obsessed with death. With Dylan, he hacks into the school’s computer system in October of 1997 to steal locker combinations, and the boys are caught and suspended. Wayne is relieved to find that the situation will be dealt with “in-house” at Columbine, and the offense will not appear on Eric’s permanent legal record. The Klebolds are surprised by Dylan’s “lapse of ethics.” Both boys are grounded for a month, and contact with one another is forbidden. They “weather the punishment” and remain close—with Zack having drifted away, the two are now firmly a duo.
Eric and Dylan are bound together by their shared responsibility for this newest infraction. Eric’s parents are just glad that it won’t be on their son’s permanent record, while Dylan’s parents are totally shocked by his behavior. The two grow even closer after “weather[ing]” their punishment.
Fuselier wonders what Eric’s psychological state might have been at this point. Though his website is angry and surely the instincts that will lead him to the massacre are already in place, Eric has not yet revealed any specifics.
Eric has made a spectacle of his anger, but his actual motivations are still imprecise and unclear.
Dylan, in his journal, continues to fixate on Harriet, the girl he loves from afar. He works with her on a group project, but fails to talk to her. Dylan identifies with two fictional characters in his journal at this point in time: the protagonist of Nine Inch Nails’ macabre concept album The Downward Spiral, the plot of which culminates in suicide, and the main character in David Lynch’s Lost Highway, a dark and twisting film about confused identities and deep insecurity. Though the darkly comedic killing-spree film Natural Born Killers and violent video games are cited as the boys’ inspiration for the attacks, Cullen argues that Dylan, at least, only identified with characters who seemed just as depressed as he was.
Dylan’s deep self-esteem issues and low sense of self-worth are reflected in the characters he identifies with—people who are confused, unhappy, and struggling with who they truly are. The popular myth that the boys were directly influenced by stylized violence in the media is seemingly incorrect—yet Cullen posits that Dylan, at least, may have been “inspired” by more morose, directionless icons in which he saw himself more clearly.
Eric’s father discovered one of his pipe bombs in the fall of 1997. Eric told his friends about the discovery, but Wayne Harris never wrote in his personal journal about it. Eric promised his parents he would never make a bomb again, but eventually “got back to business.”
Eric continues to deceive his parents and put on a contrite, innocent face, but meanwhile “leaks” information about his exploits to his friends.
While Dylan is still grounded for the computer hack, his older brother Byron is kicked out of the house for drug use. Dylan feels abandoned and “more depressed with each day.” In his journal around this time, he makes an overt reference to “go[ing] on [a] killing spree,” but does not linger on the idea for more than one line. Cullen considers it “unlikely” that, at this same moment in time, Eric was experimenting with building bigger bombs.
Dylan’s depression worsens, and he focuses his heightened despair outward rather than inward for the first time ever. Eric, meanwhile, seems to have taken a hiatus from his designs on destruction. Both boys are angry and frustrated, but stuck.
Toward the end of 1997, Eric completes a school paper about school shootings. He writes that it is “just as easy to bring a loaded handgun to school as it is to bring a calculator.” His teacher rates his paper as “thorough & logical,” and commends him on a job well done.
Eric is testing how far he can push people around him, no doubt taking pride in his ability to push the envelope and reveal small facets of his dark inner desires to the world.
Eric and Dylan continue to steal, taking equipment from the computer lab. Eric, at this point, may or may not have attempted a credit card scam. Dylan’s father catches him with a stolen laptop and forces him to turn it in, and in January Dylan is sent to the dean again for writing “fag” on a freshman’s locker—he is suspended once more.
As the boys get into more and more trouble in a series of failed exploits, they are increasingly on everyone’s radar—nothing of major consequence, though, happens to them.
The boys have begun setting off pipe bombs, and brag to their friend Nate Dykeman about their success. They bring Nate along on Super Bowl Sunday to show him a “demo.”
The boys are putting on a show for their close friends—but it’s also a “show” that only they are in on, further isolating the two from others.
One Friday night at the end of January, the boys, restless and driving around aimlessly, steal a large amount of electronic equipment from a parked van. Dylan does the “dirty work,” wearing ski gloves to mask his fingerprints, while Eric stands guard. The boys drive away to play with their new toys, but once they park in what they think is a safe place they are approached by a Jeffco Deputy. Eric lies, claiming that the boys had “stumbled onto the equipment,” but he is “off his game” and describes the location they’d found the equipment as the actual location of the robbery. Dylan “folded” and confesses to the officer.
This is the most significant crime the boys have committed, and, as such, it is proportionally their largest failure to date when they are caught. Eric, flustered, told an easily-punctured lie. Dylan, perhaps afraid of getting caught, or realizing that they would be no matter what, confesses and ensures that their failure is total. This is then a definitive turning point in the boys’ lives.
The boys’ parents are at the police station when Eric and Dylan arrive. In their statements, Eric blames Dylan for masterminding the theft. Dylan alleges that the boys had both gotten the idea to rob the van “almost at the same time.” The boys are fingerprinted, booked, and released into their parents’ custody. They each face three felony charges, which each carry up to three years in prison.
Eric still continues to manipulate things in his favor, going so far as to throw Dylan under the bus for the crime. The boys are in the system as felons now, highlighting even more profoundly the fact that Jeffco officials knew they were trouble and had every opportunity to look into what the boys were really up to.