Remember Columbine? How old were you? I was 17, a Junior in high school. Like a lot of people, I watched the news for a few weeks and learned about the victims and the killers. What many people didn’t pay a lot of attention to was the law enforcement response. People who lived in Littleton and Jefferson county did, because it was local to them. Over the years I have taken the time to read more about the exact events of that morning, or as much as we can trust the official narrative, the events related through the official channels.
I’m going to remind you of some key points relevant to my little rant here.
April 20th, 1999
11:19 AM: The first shots are fired by Klebold and Harris outside Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado.
11:23 AM: First deputies arrive on scene
11:24 AM: Deputy Neal Gardner steps out of his patrol car, Eric Harris turns his attention from shooting into the west doors of the high school to the student parking lot and to the deputy. Gardner, particularly visible in the bright yellow shirt of the community resource officer’s uniform, is the target of Harris’ bullets. Harris fires about 10 shots at the deputy with his rifle before his weapon jams.
Gardner fires four shots at Harris.
Harris spins hard to his right and Gardner momentarily thinks he has hit him. Seconds later, Harris begins shooting again at the deputy. Although Gardner’s patrol car is not hit by bullets, two vehicles that he is parked behind are hit by Harris’ gunfire. Investigators later found two bullet holes in each of the cars.
Harris then turns and enters the school through the west doors.*
Here is where the controversy begins. Because though the shooters are known to be actively killing students, and though they have been visually identified by law enforcement, officers on scene make no attempt to enter the building or pursue the shooters that they have exchanged fire with.
11:28 AM: Numerous students, running from the school, seek safety behind Taborsky’s patrol car on the school’s west side. The students tell the deputies that gunmen are inside the school randomly shooting at people with UZIs or shotguns and throwing hand-grenades. They describe the younger of the two gunmen as possibly high school age and wearing a black trench coat and a hat on backwards. The second gunman is described as “taller, a little older” and also wearing a black trench coat.
Now the gunmen have been described by students, accurately.
11:33 AM: Jefferson County SWAT commander Lt. Terry Manwaring, on his way to the high school, orders the Jefferson County SWAT team and the Sheriff’s Office command staff to be paged.
11:36 AM: Jeffco SWAT team commander Manwaring arrives at Pierce and Leawood and advises dispatch that the command post and the SWAT staging area will be set up at that location.
As time continues to pass, confusion about the number of suspects, their location, their activities and their identifying clothing sets in and chaos surrounds the response from law enforcement. More calls from inside the school contribute to the confusion. Law enforcement covers students evacuating the school, however only those who are leaving on their own. They make no attempt to enter the school to rescue students.
11:46 AM: Klebold and Harris manage to partially detonate the bomb in the cafeteria, starting a fire. The fire is noted by Deputy Searle.
11:49 AM: Denver SWAT arrives on scene, the second SWAT to arrive.
11:52 Jefferson County Undersheriff John Dunaway arrives at the command post and authorizes SWAT to make an immediate entry into the school (28 minutes after first contact between law enforcement and the gunmen).
12:03 A television reporter interviews the mother of a student who told her about gunmen dressed in black in the high school’s commons area. The station also reports that, according to information gleaned from its police scanners, the school is being evacuated.
The school was not being evacuated, the students were fleeing for their lives while officers provided cover along the escape routes outside the building. Evacuation implies that it is being directed by an authority inside the building.
12:02 – 12:05 PM: Littleton Fire Department paramedics rescue Sean Graves, Lance Kirklin and Anne Marie Hochhalter as they lay wounded outside the cafeteria. Because the scene is not safe, law enforcement deputies and officers move in closer to provide cover for paramedics Mark Gorman, Monte Fleming and John Aylward and emergency medical technician Jerry LoSasso as they retrieve the victims.
Gunfire erupts from the second story library windows above the cafeteria as the paramedics rescue the wounded students outside.
Deputy Walker sees a muzzle flash from a library window and returns fire.
Deputy Gardner fires three shots at the gunmen.
Denver police officers also provide suppression fire to the library windows.
Note here that 40 minutes after law enforcement first engaged with the gunmen, they get a second chance to identify exactly where the bad guys are, and elect to fire blindly into the school (know your target and beyond).
12:06 PM: (42 minutes after first contact with the shooters) The first SWAT team, on foot behind a Littleton fire truck, arrives at the east main entrance to the school. Manwaring, leading the ad hoc team, splits the group into two teams and directs Jefferson County SWAT Deputy Allen Simmons to take his team into the school. It is estimated that at 12:06 p.m., Simmons’ team of five officers enters Columbine High School through the southeast doors. Manwaring will lead the second team, using the fire truck as a shield, to the west side where students are reported “down” and gunfire occurring.
12:08 PM: Klebold and Harris kill themselves.
12:34 – 12:39 PM: (18 minutes after authorization to enter the school) Manwaring’s SWAT team reports that it is now on the west side at the back entrance, upper level. The first objective of Manwaring’s team is to rescue two students lying in front of the west doors. Using the fire truck as a shield, the team of Jefferson County and Denver SWAT officers inch the truck as close to the west doors as possible. They rescue 2 students who are still alive, and discover that Rachel Scott and Daniel Rohrbough are dead. Manwaring’s SWAT team then requests a floor plan of the school.
Creeping back and forth under the cover of their full tac gear and a fire truck, they still do not enter the school.
12:43 PM: Deputy Simmons, leader of the first SWAT team that entered the 250,000-square-foot school, requests additional SWAT for the east side. Due to the size of the school, the numerous rooms and hallways that have to be searched, and the amount of students and faculty being rescued, Simmons calls for more assistance.
For the next two and a half hours, SWAT clears the school. Think about that for a minute. Two and a half hours. That’s the entirety of Dances with Wolves. And the clock starts on that two and a half hours a full hour and twenty minutes after law enforcement made first contact with the shooters. So that’s almost four hours spent figuring out what to do and getting it done. Four hours while bombs explode, fires burn and teacher Dave Saunders bleeds to death. And it was another hour before the entire school was cleared.
15:22 – 15:37 PM: The first team to enter the library is Williams’ team of four Jefferson County SWAT members. A Denver SWAT officer holds the doorway. The four Jefferson County members spread out and work their way through sections of the library. Williams’ team reports that they have found 12 dead. Among the 12 are two males on the floor in the southwest part of the library who appear to have self-inflicted gunshot wounds to the head. Guns and numerous explosive devices lay on the ground beside the bodies. Williams advises the command post that the two males match the description of the suspects.
Remember, when seconds count, the police are 4 hours away.
“I heard the thumping on the door, then I heard screaming, and then I heard, ‘get on the ground!’,” a 19-year-old sister said, as she described the chilling moments when two thugs could have killed her entire family.
The teenager was inside the home with her mom, a 24-year-old brother and younger brother, 10, when two men walked in through an unlocked front door.
“I ran up to them and I said, ‘what are you doing,’ and the man in the ski mask pointed a shot gun to my face, and told me to get on the ground,” the older brother said.
Family members explained, their mother was hiding in a room with her 10-year-old son, trying to hold the door closed when the intruders busted through it, and grabbed the mom.
She was held with a gun pointed against her head in the living room, when her 10-year-old son lunged at the intruder with full force and tackled him to the ground.
At that moment, the suspect shot the boy point blank in his arm, below his elbow.
With a gun in his face, a 10 year old boy goes Viking on a home invader to protect his mother, and takes a bullet for his bravery.
“He’s a hero,” his dad said. “He just mentions it over and over, ‘I got shot but I jumped in front of the bullet, I got shot but I saved mom,’ but he’s proud, he’s proud of himself.”
You’re goddamn right kid, you are a hero. You should be proud.
Cops demand your respect from behind their badges, their guns and their tasers. When the students at Columbine needed a hero, they got tactical idleness. They got administrative planning. They got 4 hours of terror and death. Klebold and Harris won that day because Denver and Littleton’s finest didn’t have the balls to pursue the killers when they had the chance. A family in New Mexico is safe tonight because a 10 year old kid had balls of brass and stood unarmed in front of a loaded gun and attacked.
Remember that the next time the Fraternal Order of Pigs calls you asking for a donation. Or when you are asked to believe their side of the story when they gun down a retarded kid in his own home. Or when a SWAT team shoots a homeless man in the face with rubber bullets. Or when you read about a cop needing to kick a pregnant woman in the stomach for “officer safety”.