Columbine

Columbine

by

Dave Cullen

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Columbine: Chapter 36 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The investigative team behind Columbine seeks convictions. There are three separate crimes to uncover: participation in the attack itself, participation in the planning of the attack, and guilty knowledge of the attack. All of Dylan and Eric’s friends who’ve been interviewed have copped to knowing small details, but were “clueless” about the master plan. Searches of the killers’ friends house turn nothing up. None of them appear in the killers’ journals. Though Sheriff Stone will “publicly espouse a conspiracy theory” for months, Fuselier feels that theory slipping away within the first two weeks of investigations.
The investigative team fails to believe that just two boys could have committed such a large-scale crime, but their attempts to pin down more conspirators are unsuccessful. Jeffco officials, in the meantime, continue to derail the public and media perception of the incident by continuing to push the theory that Columbine was a larger conspiracy.
Themes
Violence and Spectacle Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Trauma, and Testimony Theme Icon
Failure Theme Icon
Media: Misinformation and Sensationalism Theme Icon
While witnesses claimed to have seen multiple shooters, experts and investigators state that eyewitness testimony—due to the brain’s inability to form new memories during moments of terror or trauma—is not particularly accurate, and memory is “notoriously unreliable.”
Issues of bearing witness and the accuracy of eyewitness testimony come to the forefront as the investigation begins to increasingly rely on testimony and firsthand accounts.
Themes
Violence and Spectacle Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Trauma, and Testimony Theme Icon
Failure Theme Icon
Desperate for “whys,” the media locks onto a new angle of motive behind the attacks: the Marines. Eric had been talking to a Marine recruiter during the last few weeks before the attack. Eric was also taking an antidepressant. The story of Eric, rejected by the Marines, going off his medication and flying into a killing rampage gains traction, but Fuselier knows it is wrong. Eric had remained on a full dose of medication up until his death, and Eric had never been rejected from the Marines. Fuselier knows “what the media [does not.] There had been no trigger.”
The public simply cannot accept that the attacks were perpetrated by two boys whose only motives were hatred and disdain. The theory that there had to have been a “trigger” which pushed the boys to kill is attractive, because it eliminates the horrific truth behind the massacre: that the boys had coolly calculated the attack for no reason other than their own ill will and desire for glory.
Themes
Violence and Spectacle Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Trauma, and Testimony Theme Icon
Failure Theme Icon
Media: Misinformation and Sensationalism Theme Icon
Lead investigator Kate Battan interviews the Klebolds, but is disappointed to find that the interview only yields “a fluff piece on their son” in which they describe him as quiet and sensitive. The Harrises demand immunity from prosecution before they talk to investigators. Jeffco officials refuse, and Battan does not even get “fluff” from them. 
The parents of the shooters are reluctant to speak to the media, and even when the Klebolds, who had been unaware of Dylan’s depression and anger, relent, they are unable to yield anything useful.
Themes
Memory, Bearing Witness, Trauma, and Testimony Theme Icon
Failure Theme Icon
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Columbine PDF
Sheriff John Stone continues spewing his theory that Columbine had been a conspiracy engineered by several students to the members of the press, and Jeffco spokesmen must constantly correct their sheriff’s misstatements. Stone’s staff begs him to stop speaking to the press, but are worried about the optics of “muzzl[ing]” their sheriff. Nine days after the shootings, there is a “blackout” of information, and nothing new about the shootings will come out of Jeffco for five months. Columbine press coverage, too, abruptly ends—the narrative, Cullen writes, is set.
John Stone fails to provide his community with the correct information, despite his staff’s pleading with him to stop saying anything at all. Soon the crucial moment in the development of the narrative of Columbine has passed, and it is too late to change what the public will think—as evidenced by the many untrue myths about the massacre that persist even to this day.
Themes
Failure Theme Icon
Media: Misinformation and Sensationalism Theme Icon