Excerpts From Columbine: A True Crime Story, a victim, the killers and the nation's search for answers

Excerpts from Columbine: A True Crime Story, a victim, the killers and the nation's search for answers by Jeff Kass
Reprinted with express permission of the author

Excerpt, from Chapter One

On the day of Columbine seventeen-year-old Dylan Bennet Klebold is wearing a black T-shirt with "Wrath" printed in red letters across the chest. The red matches the blood that will later gurgle out of his head to form a jagged halo when he lies dead on the floor of the high school library.

Under Klebold's black trench coat is an Intratec Tec-DC9, semi-automatic pistol attached to his body with a shoulder strap. Around noon, Klebold will place the gun to his left temple and fire a 9mm bullet through his skull, exiting the right temple. Tucked away in his black cargo pants is a Stevens 12-gauge sideby- side double-barrel shotgun cut down to about twenty-three inches, which Klebold will have to reload after every two rounds.

Klebold wears his beloved black baseball cap, with the Boston Red Sox logo, backwards. His long, puffy brown hair flares out below the cap and one student thinks he looks like a clown. Klebold has also grown a goatee and mustache. On his left hand is a black, fingerless glove, while his left ring finger has a silvercolored ring with a black stone. The rest of Klebold's wardrobe consists of white socks, black boots and blue-green plaid boxer shorts. On his left boot is a red star medallion containing a hammer and sickle.

Eric David Harris, eighteen, is wearing black cargo pants and a white T-shirt that reads "Natural Selection." Under his black trench coat is a Hi-Point 9mm carbine rifle on a strap. He also carries a Savage Springfield 12-gauge shotgun with the stock and barrel cut off. It is twenty-six inches long, and Harris can cycle and fire five rounds before having to reload. Later in the day Harris will wrap his teeth around the shotgun's single barrel and pull the trigger.

Harris completes his outfit much like Klebold: fingerless black glove on his right hand, white socks, black combat boots and green plaid underwear. Harris and Klebold have hand signals, and one imagines them jotting down the gestures before the massacre with a mixture of excitement and exactitude; serious about the carnage, but giddy to kill. The signals include:

Bombing-wave fist Cops sighted-wave hand Suicide-point to head with gun

Like children overloaded with candy, Harris and Klebold fill their cargo pants with CO2 bomblets, but save space in their pockets and utility belts for shotgun shells, and 9 mm cartridge magazines. A backpack and a duffel bag hold more bombs.

They carry at least four knives. Two are small, including one that resembles a dagger and has an ‘R' scratched into the black handle, assumedly for Harris's nickname, Reb. Another, hulking knife looks to be about a foot long. A fourth is a contraption like brass knuckles but with spikes jutting out, and a wedge-shaped knife attached to one end. The sheriff concludes Harris and Klebold do not use their knives, but they discuss it, saying "I've always wanted to use a knife."

Their cars match their persons. Harris's dream car is a Hummer, but he calls his 1986 gray Honda Prelude the best gift he has ever received. He fills it with a pipe bomb, gas cans, and a twenty-pound propane tank. The trunk holds two large, black containers police believe are full of gasoline. One cop suspects a white plastic gallon jug labeled kitchen degreaser is homemade napalm. A pint bottle of bleach and a metal can of charcoal lighter round out the collection. Klebold's 1982 black BMW holds similar booty, along with a newsletter from the Firearms Coalition of Colorado: "Dear Firearms Activist: The Firearms Coalition of Colorado is working for you!" The newsletter urges people to make a contribution, or contact state legislators to lobby for pro-gun legislation: "When you call or write, be polite and respectful, we want to win friends, not make enemies."

The sheriff figures the car bombs, which never detonate, are set to blow up the officers and paramedics responding to Columbine.

Around 11:15 a.m. investigators believe Harris and Klebold carry two duffle bags into the cafeteria and place them beside lunch tables. Each duffle contains a twenty-pound propane bomb set to explode at 11:17 a.m., when Harris and Klebold figure "500+" will be in the cafeteria. They return to their cars and wait for the bombs to explode so they can mow down surviving students and staff who try to flee.

Peter Horvath, the dean who had once busted Harris and Klebold for stealing locker combinations, had lunch duty that day. It was his job to patrol the cafeteria. But he was late. He wonders: if he had been on time, if he would have noticed Harris and Klebold setting down the duffle bags. If he would have said something. If he would have prevented Columbine.

Brooks Brown is the on-again, off-again friend of Harris and Klebold, and says he comes across Harris minutes before the shooting. "Brooks, I like you now," Harris says. "Get out of here. Go home." Brooks leaves with the uneasy feeling that Harris is going to pull a prank. He walks down the street contemplating whether to skip fifth period and hears "a loud crack."