A Complete Chronological Report
By the C.R.T.F. Webmaster
Updated July 14th, 2000
At 11:21 a.m. Mountain Time on April 20th, 1999, a total of five calls were first received by the Jefferson County Communications Center of the Sheriffs Office. Loud noises were reported by local residents living near Columbine High School, located within Jefferson County, Colorado. It is at this time, as reported by eye witnesses and the press, that at least two armed people entered the southeast Columbine High School parking lot. They reportedly threw a few devices that exploded in the parking lot, and shot at the school. A student named Brooks Brown was allegedly warned by the assailants to leave the area. Brown said one of the shooters was unloading duffel bags from his car, which likely contained bombs and ammo.
“Students tell [Channel] 9 News two people came into the school wearing long, black trench coats and face masks. They were carrying shotguns, grenades and pipe bombs.”
“I saw the two students take their guns out of black duffel bags, nod to each other, and then the shooting began outside the school next to the library,” said Kim Blair.
“They proceed[ed] inside, to the school cafeteria, shooting as they walk, then upstairs to the library, still shooting”, reported the Associated Press. Other students, such as Rachel Scott, were shot outside the cafeteria by a gunman located on the “upper stairs”. “Two gunmen were on top of the stairs at the entrance of the school,” when they began shooting said The Denver Post.
Some have said the gunmen began their shooting in the southeast school parking lot next to the cafeteria. There it is said they unloaded their duffel bags full of weaponry from a nearby vehicle. However, others say they arose from a hill nearby and began shooting at the cafeteria. “By 11 a.m., [the gunmen]…came over the small hill toward Columbine’s cafeteria. Denny Rowe, a 15-year-old sophomore, was among the first to see them coming. Sitting on a knoll not far from the cafeteria entrance, he watched as one of the two took off his coat to reveal what looked like grenades.”
A mass exodus of at least 1,500 students fled the school as soon as the shooting began, while others hid in classrooms within the school for hours. The assailants stalked the halls early on in the shooting, blasting away innocent people. One student was killed in cold blood on a sidewalk near the back entrance to the cafeteria. In upwards of thirty students were terrorized by the shooters in the large library of the school, with nearly a dozen killed in cold blood. “I heard maybe 50, 60 shots in the library and they chucked four-five pipe bombs in the room,” said student Evan Todd.
Lindsay Elmore, a 17-year-old junior at Columbine, was one of the survivors of the killing zone in the school library. At one point, the gunmen apparently ran out of ammunition. “They started yelling that they needed new clips,” Elmore said. “I think they had their stuff outside or something because they started yelling about it and then they left.”
Conflicting reports suggest the shooting ended at 11:46 a.m., 12:00 noon, 12:05 p.m., 12:15 p.m., 12:30 p.m., slightly after 1 p.m., 2:30 p.m. or 3:45 p.m Mountain Standard Time.
The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office now claims that the gunmen were dead at 12:05 p.m. or 12:08 p.m. “[Police officer] Smoker said shooting from inside the school ended after police fired en masse on the second floor of the library, where the killers had taken shots at rescue workers and police. Police accounts put that shootout sometime before noon.” It is true that a shootout took place, and it is possible the gunmen were killed in this shootout. However, eye witness accounts place gunmen inside the school well after 12 noon.
Two of the shooters, who were seniors at the school, were found dead in the library later that day, and identified as the now infamous Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris. “When he looked at me, the guy’s eyes were just dead”, said student Nick Foss of one of the shooters.
Fourteen students, including the shooters themselves, and one teacher, died during the attack. A total of 15 deaths. About 25 students and faculty were seriously injured.
The shooters reportedly used one 10-shot Hi-Point model 995 carbine rifle, one Intratec AB-10 (TEC-9) pistol, and two thirty year-old Savage 12-gauge shotguns. These low-quality weapons, as a whole, would be considered an unsophisticated arsenal. The sheriffs office claims that at one point, Eric Harris’s gun “jammed” as he ran back inside the school after exchanging fire with an officer. Pipe bombs and at least two 20 lb propane bombs were also used by Harris and Klebold. Click here for quotes from students indicating that “hand grenades” were also used.
Were other shooters involved?
Rumors, eye-witness testimony, official statements, and some evidence suggests other gunmen were involved. However, since ballistics reports from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation find no evidence of other shooters, the issue has become a moot point for the sheriff’s office and the news media.
The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office says that 853 “pieces” of ballistic evidence was recovered during the investigation. If 853 actual shots were fired, such might indicate the presence of other gunmen. CRTF has also received reports that 1100 rounds of ammunition were fired, but this remains unconfirmed. Officials currently say Harris and Klebold fired about 200 rounds.
TIME Magazine reported on May 3rd, “…the killers fired off an estimated 900 rounds, using two sawed-off shotguns, a 9-mm semiautomatic carbine and a TEC-DC 9 semiautomatic handgun.” The higher the number of rounds fired, the more likely other gunmen were involved.
CRTF has credible reports that .223 casings (or casings of similar size) were found in the school, along with different weapons, including an MT 64 50 assault rifle. Witnesses reported hearing the fire of fully automatic weapons throughout the day within the school. Some witnesses reported seeing “machine guns” in the hands of the gunmen. Click here to listen to a Real Audio file of police and dispatchers mention “large caliber” shots fired near the school. There were shell casings from a high caliber weapon found on the roof of the school where a “sniper” or gunman was seen early on.
Investigators would argue that the above could be explained away due to SWAT team “cover fire”. It seems odd to us, however, that a SWAT member would be on the roof of the school firing — or inside of the school firing off bursts of fully automatic fire around numerous students who remained inside. In fact, we can find no plausible explanation as to why any SWAT team member would fire any rounds inside the school, especially if the gunmen were dead by 12:05 p.m. Yet, shots were heard throughout the day.
CRTF can report with great confidence that dozens of witnesses saw three or more gunmen. We have gathered these reports from sources in the Denver area, through news articles and from statements from officials. Below are the reports that can be fully verified at this point in time.
“Many mysteries surround the most lethal school shooting in history. Just how many members of the Trenchcoat Mafia might have been involved? Several eyewitnesses told police and NEWSWEEK that they had seen a third gunman.”
Obtained from an ABC News interview (likely from Nightline, April 20th), one of the students stated the following, “Then we looked up, then one of the gunmen turned towards us and started shooting, so we just fell down to the ground and we just sat there for a while and we turned our heads and once we knew they were done shooting we stood back up and saw the kid in the white on the side of the school start throwing some kind of bomb on the top of the school. It was a grenade or some kind of bomb.”
Found in a CNN article published April 20th is confirmation of the above quote, as well as further confirmation that a third accomplice was spotted, “Another male student who said he was about 100 yards away from the shooters said there were three of them, including one fellow student he recognized and another boy dressed in white ‘throwing the bombs on top of the school — some kind of grenade or something.’ That account was supported by another student interviewed on local TV.”
“Beyond the two dead gunmen, students described seeing another youth dressed in a white shirt throwing bombs that looked like soda cans. A youth matching that description later was seen being led away by police,” reported USA Today.
“We were in the crossfire between the Science Hall and the Choir Room,” said student Adam Foss (left photo) on CNN on the day of the shooting. The conversation continued with the journalist:
“And you saw the guns opening fire, and did you get a quick glimpse of at least how many…?”
“I, ah, how many guns?”
“No, how many guys.”
“I think three, three guys, and maybe twelve gauges, I think. I don’t know, maybe smaller guns.”
We can also email you this clip. Foss later confirmed, face to face, with an investigator in Denver that he did in fact see three gunmen. Due to the smoke inside the school, he could not see their faces or recall whether or not any of them looked like Harris or Klebold.
Special thanks to a fellow investigator in Denver for providing the following audio file. The file contains the eye witness testimony of three girls (“Heather, Amber, and Shelly”) who were present in the cafeteria, or “commons” area, as the shooting began. They related their story to Mark Koebrech of Channel 9 News TV on April 20th. When Koebrech asks if anyone saw the shooters, a girl responds, “We saw three guys with guns…*pause*…and then we saw a really tall guy in a black trench coat.” In the audio file the girl seems to indicate that a fourth assailant (the “black trench coat”) was present. The other girls present seemed to agree with the statement and made no objections. The investigator who provided us this file also went to the school and talked personally with the girls. They confirmed that four gunmen were seen, but expressed little interest in pursuing the matter further.
“At first we thought it was fireworks, then we saw them shooting. He saw us and then he started shooting at us. Then a guy in a white T-shirt threw two hand grenades on the roof. …”, said Jake Apoeaca, 16, according to an AP article written by Robert Weller, dateline 4/20/99; 7:39 p.m. EDT.
The AP article continues:
“Three young men in fatigues and black trench coats opened fire at a suburban Denver high school Tuesday…A third young man was led away from the school in handcuffs more than four hours after the attack, and student Chris Wisher said: ‘He’s one of the ones who shot at us.'” (Chris Wisher has repeatedly told investigator John Quinn in phone interviews that he personally saw a third shooter on the scene and that friends of his saw a half-dozen trench-coated assailants with weapons — see “John Quinn” section for more info).
“Police escorted one handcuffed young man away from the school. It was unknown why he was detained,” said CNN. “We had three names, we’ve got two bodies that belong to two of those names up there, and the third name — that person was not in the school,” said Jefferson County Sheriff John Stone of the assailants.
“A young man identified by officials as an associate of two alleged gunmen,” according to APB News, is pictured above in two high-resolution photos recovered by CRTF. The photos were found in the APB News archive on the Columbine shooting. We have received a report that this young man was video taped later in the day on April 20th exiting a white van at the Harris home in the company of Eric Harris’s father, Wayne Harris.
An article from The Denver Rocky Mountain News on June 28th lends a clue as to the identity of the above pictured person. The article focuses on the parents of Nate Dykeman, who was a friend of Klebold and Harris. Dykeman’s step-father, Victor Good, complained of the tragic events of April 20th, and is quoted as saying, “We had already watched on television as police led Chris Morris away in handcuffs.” Chris Morris worked at Blackjack Pizza with Klebold and Harris and was a direct member of the Trench Coat Mafia. He was later cleared of any wrongdoing by officials.
A Denver Post report says assailant Eric Harris removed his trench coat later on in the shooting thus revealing a white T-shirt he was wearing. The newspaper said, “Harris had taken off his trench coat sometime earlier, and was wearing a white T-shirt. Klebold, who wore a vest and ammo belt over his dark T-shirt, had dropped his trench coat onto the library floor.” The white T-shirt does not explain away the numerous reports of a third-gunman, however.
The Rocky Mountain News reported, “Adam Thomas, 16, a freshman, said he was outside the lunchroom area when two people in trench coats started shooting. ‘They dropped their trench coats and pulled out what I thought were AKs. He shot my friend, Michael Johnson, in the leg,’ Thomas said.” AK-47s do not look similar in any way to a Hi Point 9mm or TEC-9.
The Rocky Mountain News also reports in another story, “Sophomore Amanda Stair was in the library when she heard a commotion in the hall. ‘We hid under different tables,’ Stair said. ‘Two guys in black trench coats walked in. They said get up or they would shoot us. I heard a lot of shots and one guy put his gun down on the desk I was under.'”
The above indicates: 1) the two shooters were outside near cafeteria first (as has been reported), removed their trench coats and shot for a while, then put their trench coats back on and went upstairs to the library; 2) that there were two sets of shooters, or a number of shooters, some with trench coats on, the others without.
Kim Sander is a mother of a student who had escaped early in the attack. During the massacre, at 12:10 p.m., Kim was interviewed on KUSA-TV, carried by MSNBC. During that interview Kim described what her daughter had just told her she had seen:
Kim Sander: “She looked up and saw a gunman in a black trench coat with a very huge gun in front of him…. He had dark brown hair, thick, bushy eyebrows and was very ugly. She said he was a white male. …”
News Anchor: “Kim, did your daughter say if the gunman that she saw was a student at the school?”
Kim Sander: “She didn’t recognize him as a student. No. Not as a student.”
Both Harris and Klebold had light brownish-blond hair and did not have “thick, bushy eyebrows”. This report suggests this gunman may have been someone else.
A source reported to us by way of email his observation from viewing the shooting on television, “I remember many students saying they didn’t know who was responsible for the shooting, ‘because the men were wearing masks.'” (Source name on file)
The following is a revealing quote from Newsweek explaining teacher Dave Sanders’ heroics and ultimate demise. It appears Sanders, after seeing a gunman outside the cafeteria, run upstairs only to be confronted by Harris and Klebold. Who was outside shooting?
“More would surely have died had it not been for Dave Sanders, a popular business teacher and basketball coach. He was standing near the cafeteria doors when the first students went down. Sanders went running into the cafeteria shouting loudly: ‘He’s got a gun! Get down!’ The urgency in his voice broke through the lunchtime din, and hundreds of students fell to the floor. There was a hail of gunfire, and Sanders and other teachers shouted at the kids to keep moving.
Instead of seeking safety, the 47-year-old Sanders ran upstairs toward the library and science rooms to warn other students. It proved fatal: he found himself face to face with Harris and Klebold. They shot him in the chest.”
All of above material indicates clearly that other gunmen may have been involved. The sheriffs office subsequently confirmed those reports during the weeks and months after the shooting (see below timeline). However, since July of 1999, the office has dropped the “third gunman theory” and claims unequivocally that only two gunmen were present during the shooting due to CBI ballistics evidence.
Most of the students were unclear as to how many shooters there were or who the shooters were (they usually didn’t say how many there were). Most reported seeing black trench coats, many reported gunmen wearing masks, others reported seeing Klebold and Harris.
According to a CNN report, a “school district official said school Principal Frank DeAngelis ‘actually saw one of the gunmen and was able to push some students into a location to protect those students.’ Jonathan Ladd, another student, said he heard a loud noise like an explosion and then gunshots. He said the shots were coming from the back of the school toward the school office.” (Ed. note: The school’s office is clear on the other side of the school in relation to the cafeteria and library area where the shooters’ rampage was reportedly concentrated — it has been confirmed that the school office received enormous damage and a window was shot out near the front of the school early on the shooting. This clearly indicates there may have been someone shooting near the front of the school).
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