(2 of 3)
It was there that Williams met and befriended Josh Stevens, who lives there with his mother Karen and her boyfriend Chris Reynolds, 29. Williams and Stevens soon became inseparable, with Stevens always in the lead. "Andy was a follower," says Dawn Hemming, 32, a hairdresser who is the aunt of one of Williams' close friends. "Josh could manipulate Andy because Andy wanted to be In."
And he was In with that crowd, to some extent. Andy dated girls and had a week-long relationship with Ashlee Allsopp, 12, who scrawled I LOVE ANDY on her sneakers. She came to the park to see him. "We would just sit there and smoke weed. Bong loads, pipes, joints, you name it--he smoked it."
Williams continued to be picked on, sometimes even by his newfound friends. "I made fun of him--I regret it now," says John Fields, who said he left Santana High earlier in the school year for frequent truancy and is part of the skate-park group. As recently as the Thursday before the killings, Kathleen Seek, 15, a former girlfriend of Williams' back in Maryland, received an instant message from him saying he didn't want to go to school that day for fear of being bullied. But few of Williams' friends ever really understood what was going on inside the youngster's tormented mind. "Andy didn't speak about his problems. He kept them all in. Maybe a fuse finally blew," says Analisha Welbaum, a 14-year-old freshman.
Stevens, however, thinks he knows what finally unleashed Andy. "He was pushed to the edge," he says. "Listen to In the End, track eight on Linkin Park's CD. That was the song that inspired Andy." The metal hip-hop hybrid screams alienated angst: "In spite of the way you were mocking me/ Acting like I was part of your property/ Remembering all the times you fought with me/ I'm surprised it got so far..."
Williams apparently wanted the taunting to go no further. He told Stevens of his plan to take one of his father's guns from a locked cabinet inside the apartment. "Andy took the key off the chain when his dad was sleeping," says Stevens. It's unclear whether Williams' father noticed the theft of the gun--a rare, German-made Arminius .22-cal. long-barrel revolver with an eight-shot capacity. But after the shooting, police retrieved seven other guns from the cabinet, which they said was properly locked.
For young Williams, it seems, talking about the plot to his friends was a big part of carrying it out. People at least took notice of him. Three weeks ago, Hemming heard that Williams and Stevens were planning to shoot up the school. "Two days later," she says, "I confronted Josh. I said what the hell are you and Andy planning? I said this is serious shit. He said they were just kidding. I said, 'You have to tell someone.' He said, 'I'm going to tell my mother's boyfriend [Reynolds], and he is going to have a talk with Andy.'" Hemming, who called the police after the shooting to tell this story, says she now regrets leaving the matter in the hands of Chris Reynolds. "I thought, well, he's a role model; he's a male." Thinking back on it now, she realizes, "Chris was a buddy."
Reynolds is not a popular figure among the adults at the apartment complex. In an environment where many of the teens desperately need a father figure, Reynolds instead plays the role of older brother, horsing around with the credulous younger boys. He took Williams and Stevens paintball shooting--friends said they called themselves the Terror Squad and went downtown in San Diego to aim at drunks, though Reynolds said they only looked for paper targets. Still, he concedes, "Sure, sometimes I don't always give them the best advice."
On the Saturday before the shootings, Williams, Stevens and some other friends were hanging out at Stevens' apartment. Williams had been silent earlier in the evening, as the boys sat around a small bonfire in another friend's driveway. "He was in his own little world, staring off into space," says Stevens. Later, though, he opened up about his Columbine plan. Reynolds later caught wind of the conversation: "They were in the living room all Saturday night. I heard he was going to go to school and start shooting people. I had the smallest little details. I asked him if it was true, and he said no, he was just joking around."