The Columbine Tapes

In five secret videos they recorded before the massacre, the killers reveal their hatreds--and their lust for fame

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Dec. 20, 1999 TIME Cover: The Columbine Tapes

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Many of the victims' parents wish they could talk to the Klebolds and Harrises, parent to parent. Donna Taylor is caring for her son Mark, 16, who took six 9-mm rounds and spent 39 days in the hospital. She has tried to make contact. "We just want to know," she explains. "From Day One, I wanted to meet and talk with them. I mean, maybe they did watch their boys, and we're not hearing their story."

Throughout the videotapes, it seems as though the only people about whom the killers felt remorse were their parents. "It f___ing sucks to do this to them," Harris says of his parents. "They're going to be put through hell once we do this." And then he speaks directly to them. "There's nothing you guys could've done to prevent this," he says.

Klebold tells his mom and dad they have been "great parents" who taught him "self-awareness, self-reliance...I always appreciated that." He adds, "I'm sorry I have so much rage."

At one point Harris gets very quiet. His parents have probably noticed that he's become distant, withdrawn lately--but it's been for their own good. "I don't want to spend any more time with them," he says. "I wish they were out of town so I didn't have to look at them and bond more."

Over the months, the police have kept the school apprised of the progress of their investigation: principal Frank DeAngelis has not seen the videotapes, but the evidence that the boys were motivated by many things has prompted some at the school to quietly claim vindication. The charge was that Columbine's social climate was somehow so rancid, the abuse by the school's athletes so relentless, that it drove these boys to murder. The police investigation provides the school with its best defense. "There is nowhere in any of the sheriff's or school's investigation of what happened that shows this was caused by jock culture," says county school spokesman Rick Kaufman. "Both Harris and Klebold dished out as much ribbing as they received. They wanted to become cult heroes. They wanted to make a statement."

That's an overstatement, and it begs the question of why the boys wanted to make such an obscene statement. But many students and faculty were horrified by the way their school was portrayed after the massacre and have tried for the past eight months to correct the record. "I have asked students on occasion," says DeAngelis, "'The things you've read in the paper--is that happening? Am I just naive?' And they've said, 'Mr. DeAngelis, we don't see it.'"

Maybe they saw the kids who flicked the ketchup packets or tossed the bottles at the trench-coat kids in the cafeteria. But things never got out of hand, they say. Evan Todd, the 255-lb. defensive lineman who was wounded in the library, describes the climate this way: "Columbine is a clean, good place except for those rejects," Todd says of Klebold and Harris and their friends. "Most kids didn't want them there. They were into witchcraft. They were into voodoo dolls. Sure, we teased them. But what do you expect with kids who come to school with weird hairdos and horns on their hats? It's not just jocks; the whole school's disgusted with them. They're a bunch of homos, grabbing each other's private parts. If you want to get rid of someone, usually you tease 'em. So the whole school would call them homos, and when they did something sick, we'd tell them, 'You're sick and that's wrong.'"

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