Late Tuesday afternoon of April 20, crime lab
personnel for the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office met with representatives
from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Federal Bureau of
Investigation (FBI) to begin planning the details for the thorough processing
and reconstruction of the crime scene at Columbine High School.
Of utmost importance was to maintain the integrity of the scene and
ensure the ability to reconstruct the events of April 20.
It was decided that teams would be formed to include
experts in the field of blood spatter, firearms and ballistics, and general
crime scene processing. Teams would
be comprised of personnel from different agencies, including experts from CBI,
FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, Jefferson County Sheriff’s
Office, Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office, and Arvada, Wheat Ridge, Denver,
Greenwood Village, Thornton and Littleton Police Departments.
All teams would have at least one person from the
Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office assigned to them. This individual would take custody of the evidence collected
from the teams and then transport the evidence to the temporary evidence vault
located on scene. This was done to
maintain the “chain of custody” of the evidence.
Because of the number of bombs still in and around
the high school that first day, all forensic team members were told to clear the
scene around midnight and to return by 6 a.m. the following morning.
On April 21 an initial walk-through team consisting
of Sheriff’s Office Sergeant Randy West, Lead Investigator Kate Battan,
Incident Commander Lt. David Walcher, Jefferson County Coroner Dr. Nancy
Bodelson, and lab supervisor Chris Andrist entered the scene to gather
information for the identification of victims and the briefing of the forensic
teams as to conditions inside the school.
After the initial walk-through, two teams of forensic
specialists were assigned to enter the school and take initial photographs and
videotape the interior. Each team
separately documented the scene with video and photos to avoid any equipment
At about noon, a meeting of all forensic personnel was held to assign
individuals to various teams and appoint team leaders.
Seven teams were created and each team was assigned an area to process.
|Team 1 - East Side of Library:||Team Leader Barry Goetz
|Team 2 - West Side of Library:||Team Leader Thomas Griffith
|Team 3 - Hallway in front of Library, Cafeteria:||Team Leader James Crippin|
|Team 4 - Science Area, South Main Hallway:||Team Leader Robert Lloyd|
|Team 5 - Main Entry, West Entry, North Main Hallway:||Team Leader Barbara Ray|
|Team 6 - Exterior of School, Cafeteria:||Team Leader Carl Schlaff
|Team 7 - Administrative Area:||Team Leader Gary Hoffman
Team leaders were responsible for ensuring their
teams followed standard guidelines for crime scene investigation and assigned
individual tasks to team members.
Processing of the scene involved collection of
numerous evidentiary items such as casings, bullets, bomb fragments and the
examination of bullet or projectile holes for ballistic reconstruction.
Teams 1 and 2 examined over 140 bullet or projectile holes for
reconstruction. They collected more
than 160 projectile/fragments and over 60 casings or spent shotgun shells.
The teams reconstructed events for 10 of the victims and both suspects.
Team 3 reconstructed over 10 ballistic events,
examined more than 50 explosive related items and documented two areas.
In the cafeteria they examined and identified more than 400 backpacks.
Team 4 examined over 50 bullet or projectile holes for reconstruction and
collected more than 40 projectile/fragments along with over 15 casings or spent
shotgun shells. They reconstructed
events for one of the victims, and documented and examined over 1,000 backpacks
located in the science, math, and social studies areas.
Team 5 examined over 140 bullet or projectile holes
and collected more than 60 projectile/fragments and 30 casings or spent shotgun
shells. Team 6 collected over 150
casings or spent shotgun shells, and reconstructed events for two victims.
Upon completion of the exterior of the school, they documented and
processed the cafeteria area along with Team 3.
While forensic teams worked on their designated areas, the ATF K-9 teams
continued to clear the school, checking for bombs that might be located in
lockers, backpacks, rooms, and vent units.
Throughout the crime scene processing, daily briefings of all forensic
personnel were held each morning. All
information was reported to the coordinator/facilitator for the crime scene and,
in turn, reported to Lt. John Kiekbusch of the Sheriff’s Office Investigation
The evidence team, comprised of Jefferson County
Sheriff’s Office personnel and led by team leaders Deputy Al Simmons, Vicky
Spelman, and Sgt. Pat Woodin, set up an evidence collection area on the east
side of the high school’s main entrance.
A portable evidence vault was brought to the scene for the storage of
items as they were collected. Tables
staffed by investigators were set up with heat sealers, markers, and evidence
tags. Each forensic team was
assigned a series of evidence numbers from the booking team. Each piece of evidence was photographed, measured, assigned a
number, sealed, and logged to become part of the more than 10,000 items
collected and 10,000 photographs taken.
The crime scene investigation began April 21, 1999
and continued into June. On June
15, Columbine High School, with the exception of the library, was turned over to
the Jefferson County R-1 School District. The
entire school was turned over to the school district on July 12, 1999 for the
repair of damages done to the building by the events of April 20.
Federal and state agencies assisted in the
examination and analysis of the evidence collected. Firearms evidence and latent print processing was
accomplished by CBI. The
Explosive evidence was examined and processed by the ATF. The FBI assisted with the crime scene documentation, particularly in the creation of a three-dimensional model (shown below) of the school library and cafeteria areas. They also produced event by event diagrams of the events of April 20. Photos of both of the projects are contained in this report.