Dave Cullen, author of Columbine 

Frequently Asked Questions

This page is broken into two parts:

Central Questions

1. Is there anything new to discover after all these years?

Actually, most of what you "know" about Columbine is wrong. It wasn't about jocks, Goths, bullying or the Trench Coat Mafia. (See myths: #3, below.)

Early portraits of the killers were simplistic. "Angry boys" explains little and "outcasts" is preposterously wrong. It took seven years for authorities to release Eric and Dylan's journals.

2. What was the biggest surprise?

Eric Harris didn't see Columbine as a school shooting. He had contempt for the earlier shooters. He envisioned a bombing, and his goal was to top Oklahoma City as the worst U.S. terror attack in his life. If he had wired the big bombs correctly, he would have dwarfed that tragedy.

(FYI: Chapter 8, "Maximum Human Density," lays out Eric's plan. What actually unfolded begins in Chapter 11, "Female Down.")

3. What are the biggest myths?

4. Where did the myths come from?

The media got most of the facts right, but began jumping to conclusions about how and why while the Columbine attack was underway. There was a kernel of truth to everything, but little more.

The "Media Crime" chapter traces how quickly the Columbine myths sprouted, and explains how they gained such currency.

5. Why did the killers do it? Did we ever learn?

Yes. But the question led most of us astray. They did not have a motive—Eric Harris had motives and Dylan Klebold had a vastly different agenda. They had polar opposite personalities, and completely different paths to murder. 

The question is far too broad to answer fully here, but you'll find the core of it on this site, in the intro video (top left), and the intro webpage to my book.

6. Did Eric & Dylan participate equally during the attack?

Eric fired near twice as many times as Dylan: 121 vs. 67. The real discrepancy was outside, where Eric fired nine times as many as Dylan, 47 vs. 5. Eried firedng relentlessy, getting off 47 shots in 7 minutes, or approximately one every nine seconds. (Note: Kate Battan has told me that because they were firing into open fields, it's probable that a few rounds may have gone undiscovered. But it's reasonable to assume the ratio of shots would remain constant.)

This suggests Dylan was slow to get fully involved. But once they were inside, it got much closer to even, with Eric firing just 20% more: 74 rounds vs 62. Here is a chart from the final report (I shifted the header around to make it fit.)

 

Detail Questions

7. Who shot whom? (Full details.)

The table of contents of diagrams in the Jeffco final report lists each shot where someone was killed or injured. In nearly all cases, it identifies Eric or Dylan as the shooter. There is one serious error. Danny Rohrbough's killer is misidentified there. After much controversy, the El Paso County Sheriff's Office thoroughly re-investigated that part of the attack. Its report published April 10, 2002 drew the firm conclusion that Eric killed Danny. You can download the PDF here.

8. Who were the Trench Coat Mafia? What was their role?

They had nothing to do with it. The Jeffco report provides a good, brief official summary of who/what they were.

9. Who was in the library? How many survived?

The final report offered this summary: "a total of 56 people present in the library at the time the suspects entered. Of the 56 people present, four were faculty/staff (all female), while the remaining 52 individuals were students. In terms of the 52 students, 24 were male, 28 were female." Twelve of the 58 were physically injured and 10 killed. That leaves 36 who escaped physically unharmed. Of course they all suffered terrible psychological trauma. A full list of those injured and killed in the library is included at that link.

10. Where can I find basic/bio info on Eric & Dylan

This site provides several good links, under the Killers section. The Jeffco final report also provides short profiles of each.

11. Why was Robyn Anderson never prosecuted for acquiring 3 of the 4 guns?

Mark Manes and Phillip Duran both plead guilty for their role in acquiring the TEC-9, and both served prison time. Yet Robyn Anderson acquired the other three guns and was never charged. The final report includes this passage concisely explaining why:

12. How unusual was the killers' early release from Diversion?

Very unusual. The final report states that 5% of perps are let out early. (It's at the very bottom of the section at this link).

13. Why are there so many false witness reports? What are common misconceptions?

The library team's summary in the Jeffco final report included this really insightful section on common perceptions and misperceptions of witnesses. Notice that it's nearly all misperceptions. The human brain's capacity to record history accurately with its memory capacity is greatly over-estimated by our same brains. In cases of severe trauma, its performance drops remarkably further. Here is the opening statement and bullet points copied directly from the report: