Even as the events unfolded inside Columbine High
School on April 20, 1999, investigators began their investigation of the
shootings. Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office Directed Investigations Unit
Sergeant Randy West arrived at the school at about 11:45 a.m. and was briefed by
the incident commander, Lt. David Walcher.
Investigation Division Lt. John Kiekbusch arrived minutes later and began
to establish an investigation command post in the Clement Park parking lot near
the incident command post. After
consulting with Sgt. West, Kiekbusch assigned Investigator Kathleen “Kate”
Battan as lead investigator.
By noon, the majority of the Jefferson County
Sheriff's Office investigators were on scene interviewing the fleeing students
and faculty who provided vital information on what was occurring inside the
school and who might be involved. This
information was passed on to the incident commander to be relayed to the SWAT
teams searching the school. Several
investigators remained at the Sheriff’s Office headquarters in Golden to
assist with warrants and interviews taking place at the headquarters.
Investigation Division Captain Daniel Harris coordinated information
exchange with the school district and other agencies.
It was soon apparent that Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris were being named as possible suspects in the shootings at Columbine High School. Investigators and patrol officers were sent to secure the Klebold and Harris residences in order to preserve any evidence until search warrants could be obtained. When investigators arrived at the Klebold residence they contacted Thomas and Susan Klebold, the parents of Dylan and his brother, Byron. Also present was a family friend who had been staying in their guesthouse. A second team of investigators arrived at the Harris residence and contacted Wayne and Kathy Harris, the parents of Eric. A family friend was also at the residence. Investigators walked through the residences to ensure that no one else was present and discovered incendiary devices in both homes. The occupants were evacuated and bomb technicians were immediately dispatched to both homes. Meanwhile, the investigators at the school were giving critical information from their interviews to investigator Kate Battan who, in turn, telephoned headquarters and dictated search warrants for the Harris and Klebold homes. A Jefferson County judge subsequently signed the warrants, and the searches were conducted on both homes. Searches of both suspects’ residences were in progress before the bodies of the two killers were found inside the school.
Lt. Kiekbusch phoned Arvada and Lakewood police investigation commanders and requested assistance in interviewing victims taken to the metro area hospitals. Investigators were to obtain information on the injured students and to preserve and collect any evidence. Interviews were conducted with those injured students who were able and vital information on the suspects was obtained. Throughout the day investigators from nearly all the metro area law enforcement agencies arrived at Columbine High School and assisted in interviews, searches, and tracking down known and possible associates of Harris and Klebold. This activity continued for the next three days.
On Friday, April 23, 1999, over 100 investigators met in the band room at
Columbine High School and shared the critical information each had obtained
during the previous three days. Over
500 preliminary interviews were reviewed which named several critical witnesses,
associates of Harris and Klebold, background information on the Trench Coat
Mafia, and any indications of involvement by others.
On Sunday, May 2, 1999, Sheriff Stone and Undersheriff
Dunaway conferred with several key investigators, including Lt. Kiekbusch and
investigators from other jurisdictions, to discuss the information currently
known and to plan the direction of the investigation from that point.
The discussion ultimately led to the development of a
multi-jurisdictional task force that would investigate the incident, an
organization that would become the Columbine Investigation Task Force.
Undersheriff Dunaway assigned Kiekbusch to direct the investigation.
Over the weekend, Capt. Harris helped secure space in the Countys'
administration building for the task force operations.
Clerical support was provided by the FBI, the ATF and the Sheriff’s
Office. Forty computers were installed for report writing, Internet searches and
criminal history searches. The FBI
“Rapid Start” automated tracking software was installed on several computers
to assist in tracking leads. Rapid
Start required every lead that came into the task force to be written on a lead
sheet, entered into the computer, assigned a number and then given to an
investigator to follow up. The
investigator would complete the assignment, and only after the written report was
turned in, was the lead closed. The
Rapid Start program ensured that every lead was followed up and duplicate leads
were kept to a minimum. The task
force completed over 3,900 leads in addition to the initial 500 interviews.
At the onset of this investigation it was apparent that no one agency could effectively handle the number of leads, interviews and evidence analysis which this case required. Approximately 80 investigators from a dozen city, county, state and federal law enforcement agencies formed the Columbine Task Force.
The main objective of the investigation was to
determine exactly what occurred at Columbine High School and to determine
whether anyone else participated in the shootings, assisted in the planning or
had prior knowledge of what Harris and Klebold did on April 20. Another
objective was to interview every student, faculty member and employee of
Columbine High School and determine where each individual was at the time of the
shootings and what they witnessed. The investigation also gathered background
information on Harris and Klebold, the Trench Coat Mafia and their
Seven teams were formed to deal with specific areas
of the investigation. Each team identified critical witnesses who provided
significant information or witnessed the actions of Harris and Klebold on April
20, 1999. Summaries were then prepared
detailing those critical witnesses.
The Threats Team, led by Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. JJ Webb, focused on the threat of additional violence that began pouring in within hours of the shootings. They responded to all threats in the metro area and provided assistance to other law enforcement agencies who were experiencing threats of copycat crimes.
parallel to this were Internet investigators that followed up on all Internet threats.
Associates Team, led by Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office Investigator Don
Estep and FBI Special Agent Mark Holstlaw, identified and interviewed all
friends and associates of Klebold and Harris.
Some of the associates submitted to polygraphs and had their computers
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF)
Team was led by Special Agents Marcus Motte and Matthew Traver. This
team traced the weapons and bomb
components, used by Harris and Klebold.
Outside Team, led by FBI Special Agent Mike Barnett and JCSO Investigators Jack
McFadden and Cheryl Zimmermen, determined the activities of Harris and Klebold
the morning of April 20 as well as interviewing all of the witnesses who were
outside during the shooting.
Cafeteria Team, led by FBI Special Agent Rich Price and Denver Police Department
Sergeant Calvin Hemphill, interviewed all the witnesses in the cafeteria and
determined when the two incendiary devises were placed there.
Library Team, led by Arvada Police Detective Russ Boatright, FBI Special Agent
John Elvig and JCSO Investigator Diane Obbema, interviewed all survivors in the
library and established a “second by second” sequence of events.
Computer/Internet Forensics Team, led by CBI Agent Chuck Davis, conducted all
the forensic evaluations and searches on the many computers, floppy discs and
compact discs belonging to Harris, Klebold and other individuals.
This team also identified and evaluated various Internet sites used by
Harris and Klebold and many Internet sites that formed after April 20 by those
sympathetic to Harris and Klebold.
these teams was a Documentation Team, led by Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office
Sgt. Chris Tomford, who organized and indexed all the reports according to where
each witness was on April 20. Many
of these same reports were organized according to background information on
Harris, Klebold and their associates. Initially, there were many duplicate reports in many
different books so that the reports could be quickly located. At the conclusion of the investigation, all the duplicate
reports were removed and all the information was cross-referenced.
Gateway provided computers, scanners and software with a sophisticated
database. The reports will be
scanned into the database so that the information contained in the reports
can be quickly located by making a simple query.
alongside these investigation teams was the Crime Scene Team, led by Jefferson
County Sheriff’s Office crime lab supervisor Chris Andrist, which was actually
a group of teams composed of members of different agencies and specialties.
Each of the seven teams had experts in blood spatter, firearms/ballistics
and general crime scene, and each team was assigned a specific area of the
school for crime scene processing.
As the investigation came to a conclusion, a timeline
was compiled detailing all the significant activities and events which occurred
on April 20, 1999. This is the timeline
used as a basis for this comprehensive report.
The information for the timeline came from many different sources to
include witness interviews, written reports, videotapes, 911 calls, law
enforcement and medical radio traffic, evidence, ballistic reports and autopsy
Although the investigation into the shootings at
Columbine High School reached conclusion in January 2000, the case remains open
in the event that any new information comes to light.