Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold: Portrait Of A Deadly Bond

One was a leader, the other a follower. One prone to fits of venomous temper, the other shy and awkward. TIME investigates what led Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold to turn Columbine High School into a killing spree

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Brown says he realized how wrong he was five days later, when Harris and Klebold launched the Columbine massacre, murdering 13 and wounding 23 before killing themselves in circumstances (Double suicide? Murder-suicide?) that the authorities have not yet clarified. Brown had been spending a good deal of time with these deadly friends, and he understands them as well as anyone now alive. But he insists he never had a clue to what they were up to. And though his association with Harris and Klebold has drawn suspicion--"I don't know what he is," says District Attorney Dave Thomas, "and we are not ruling anyone out"--the friendship may also have saved his life. Brown chanced upon Harris in the school parking lot just minutes before the shooting began. Harris was pulling a duffel bag of materiel from his car; Brown says he didn't know what was in it. He mentioned a philosophy test Harris had missed that morning. "Doesn't matter anymore," said Harris. Brown says he didn't know what that meant--nor what Harris was planning when he told Brown to get away from the school, saying, "Brooks, I like you. Now get out of here. Go home." Others who know Harris believe sentiment had nothing to do with Harris' decision to spare Brown. They think Brown was simply too far away from the cafeteria for Harris to kill, because doing so would have given those inside a chance to get away, spoiling his carefully polished game plan. Says Brown: "I hate what they did, but they were my friends. Not many people will say that about them. Not many people really know them."

Littleton buried its young last week, and the sky had the good sense to cry. When 5,000 gathered to celebrate the short life of Isaiah Shoels, a warm-hearted young man slain because he was African American, Columbine survivors walking in the rain to the Heritage Christian Center didn't bother to open their umbrellas; if they could feel the rain on their faces, they must be alive. Inside the vast modern sanctuary, the explanations tended to be straightforward: Satan had taken control of Harris and Klebold.

Throughout the week, police searched for accomplices (no arrests were made, but authorities at week's end said they still had 10 to 15 potential suspects) and responded to accusations that they failed to heed warning signs of the plot. Many students were searching for secular explanations as well. They got together in houses to talk and weep and speculate; sometimes the boys fantasized about what commando tactics they might have used to halt the killing spree--the next logical but sad step for a tragedy fueled from the start by violent, cartoonish fantasies. And like so many other people across the country, they groped for answers that would not come.

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