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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The Browns didn't know what to do. "We were talking about our son's life," says Judy Brown. She and her husband argued heatedly. Randy Brown wanted to call Harris' father. But Judy didn't think the father would do anything; he hadn't disciplined his son for throwing an ice ball at the Browns' car. Randy considered anonymously faxing printouts from the website to Harris' father at work, but Judy thought it might only provoke Harris to violence.

Though she had been friends with Susan Klebold for years, Judy hesitated to call and tell her what was said on the website, which included details of Eric and Dylan's making bombs together. In the end, the Browns decided to call the sheriff's office. On the night of March 18, a deputy came to their house. They gave him printouts of the website, and he wrote a report for what he labeled a "suspicious incident." The Browns provided names and addresses for both Harris and Klebold, but they say they told the deputy that they did not want Harris to know their son had reported him.

A week or so later, Judy called the sheriff's office to find out what had become of their complaint. The detective she spoke with seemed uninterested; he even apologized for being so callous because he had seen so much crime. Mrs. Brown persisted, and she and her husband met with detectives on March 31. Members of the bomb squad helpfully showed them what a pipe bomb looked like--in case one turned up in their mailbox.

The police already had a file on the boys, it turns out: they had been caught breaking into a van and were about to be sentenced. But somehow the new complaint never intersected the first; the Harrises and Klebolds were never told that a new complaint had been leveled at Eric Harris. And as weeks passed, the Browns found it harder to get their calls returned as detectives focused on an unrelated triple homicide. Meanwhile, at the school, Deputy Gardner told the two deans that the police were investigating a boy who was looking up how to make pipe bombs on the Web. But the deans weren't shown the Web page, nor were they given Eric's name.

As more time passed and nothing happened, the Browns' fears eased--though they were troubled when their son started hanging out with Harris again. Then came April 20. As the gunmen entered the school, Harris saw Brown and told him to run away. But when all the smoke had cleared and the bodies counted, the Browns went public with their charge that the police had failed to heed their warnings. And even some cops agree.

"It should have been followed up," says Sheriff Stone, who did not take office until January 1999. "It fell through the cracks," admits John Kiekbusch, the sheriff's division chief in charge of investigations and patrol.

Some people still think Brooks Brown must have been involved. When he goes to the Dairy Queen, the kid at the drive-through recognizes him and locks all the doors and windows. Brown knows it is almost impossible to convince people that the rumors were never true. Like many kids, his life now has its markers: before Columbine and after.

THE INVESTIGATORS

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