Columbine Report: More Details Than Answers

Sheriff's Department releases exhaustive CD-ROM which satisfies few who want to know why things happened as they did.

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In a way, the victims, families and friends of those affected by last year's massacre at Columbine High School were bound to be disappointed by Monday's dissection on the tragedy. After all, no law enforcement report was likely to get into the minds of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. But the fact that the first detailed account of the massacre last April 20 fails to address other "whys" — why law enforcement took so long to act, why it took so long to get to some of the wounded — is bound to increase efforts to find resolution through the courts.

To be sure, the report is an exhaustive affair, a CD-ROM that includes photographs, sound recordings and video from surveillance cameras. It's a complete reconstruction of Harris and Klebold's movements, from their guns-blazing entrance through the school's west entrance (11:19) to the moment the two teenage killers turned their weapons on themselves in the blood-soaked library (12:08). But the report doesn't answer the questions victims' families have about the killing spree, namely: What took SWAT teams more than 45 minutes — almost the entire length of the rampage — to get inside the school, and another three-plus hours to get to the library? Why were some of the injured not reached until hours after the shooting stopped?

The report describes the initial bewilderment of law enforcement on the scene — too many agencies, too many conflicting 911 reports, not enough coordination. For a while, authorities believed there was a third shooter on the roof; he turned out to be an air conditioner repairman. As for whether police were cowardly, or negligent, or poorly trained, the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department has made enough p.r. blunders to know that conclusions of that kind are best left to the courts, and with 15 lawsuits pending, the truth will have ample opportunity to come out. Connie Michalik, whose son was wounded as he sat on the grass outside the school, summed up: "Probably what we really want is not going to be in there." Including, of course, the answer to the biggest question of all: What went wrong with Harris and Klebold? For that, the report can only offer a chilling quote, uttered by one of the gunmen as the pair entered the school: "This is what we always wanted to do. This is awesome."