Mass student protests expected over NRA meeting in Denver
May 1, 1999
LITTLETON, Colorado (CNN) -- With emotions still raw over the deaths of 15 people at Columbine High School, the National Rifle Association is expected to draw a huge protest at its annual meeting, which convenes in Denver Saturday.
Hundreds of high school students are expected to take part in forming a human chain around the hotel where the firearms- rights lobbying group is meeting.
"Our message to the NRA is simple: Your agenda of gun proliferation in our state is not welcome. Not now, not ever," said Ted Pascoe of the Colorado Coalition Against Gun Violence.
The NRA has decided not to go ahead with a gun show previously scheduled but has refused to cancel its meeting.
Tensions in the city were escalating as it emerged that police and school officials were warned more than a year before the April 20 massacre that one of the gunmen, Eric Harris, was detonating pipe bombs and talking about killing people on his Web site.
But no charges were filed because investigators could not locate the Web site. And even if they had, it is apparently not illegal to post threats on the Internet, said Lt. John Kiekbusch of the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department .
"We could not get to the point where there was a crime that could have been identified," Kiekbusch said at a press conference Friday. "At that time, everything we did with that case ... was reasonable within the workload and the policies of the department."
But in the wake of the Columbine tragedy, local police are now tracking down and investigating any similar threats they receive, Kiekbusch said.
"We all learned a lesson on the 20th of April. Part of that is that we need to take these things in a more serious fashion," he said.
Police crack down on hoaxes
On Friday, authorities announced that they had arrested two people, one for an alleged bomb threat and another for a hoax related to the Littleton shootings.
Gary Sowell, 50, a hardware store employee who earlier this week told reporters and police that he sold propane tanks, wire, screws and other material to Harris and the other gunman, Dylan Klebold, faces a misdemeanor charge of making a false report.
After examining store sales records, police now believe those transactions never happened, said Jefferson County District Attorney David Thomas.
Also, Rae Holt, 34, was arrested for allegedly phoning in a bomb threat at another Denver-area school, Pomona High School, on Wednesday. She is charged with false reporting of explosives and felony menacing, which together could carry a sentence of up to 4 1/2 years in prison.
Thomas said Holt is the parent of a Pomona student who was angry with school administrators over the way her son had been treated. She allegedly left a message on the school's attendance line saying, "There goes the students, there goes the school. This is not a joke."
School officials recognized her voice, and she was arrested, Thomas said.
After enduring a rash of false reports in the wake of the Columbine murders, Thomas said authorities "are going to take a very hard line on this kind of activity."
"These two incidents ... have taken attention and resources away from this investigation," Thomas said.
Randy and Judy Brown, the parents of a classmate of Harris, filed a complaint with police in March 1998 and turned over messages from Harris' Web site in which he discussed making bombs and murder, including one that said "I can't wait until I can kill all you people."
While Harris was not arrested, Deputy Neil Gardner, who patrolled Columbine, was notified and began watching Harris and Klebold. The deputy also told a dean at the high school of the threats that had been made, Kiekbusch said.
A month later, the Browns filed another complaint, saying that their son had been threatened in an anonymous e-mail and was the target of a death threat on Harris' Web site.
Thomas said Judy Brown also sought help from an investigator in his office, who was a relative by marriage. Scott said the investigator told her to contact the sheriff's department and discussed obtaining a restraining order against Harris. There is no evidence that such an order was ever issued, Thomas said.
At the time the Browns filed their report, Harris and Klebold were in a "diversion" program for juvenile offenders after being charged with burglary. Because they weren't charged with a crime in connection with the threats, however, prosecutors were not notified of the complaint.
In response to Kiekbusch's comments, Randy Brown called investigators' claims "unbelievable." He said he and his wife were never told that the sheriff's office couldn't find Harris' Web page on the computer.
"My 15-year-old could have found it for them," Brown told CNN.
He also denied the sheriff department's statement that the Browns did not want Harris' or Klebold's families contacted.
"That's why we gave them the kid's names and the parents' names. We wanted them to contact them," he said.
Despite that, Brown complimented Gardner and said the important thing at this point, is "let's not let it happen again."
Harris, 18, and Klebold, 17, stormed into Columbine, killing 12 classmates and a teacher before turning their guns on themselves.
Correspondents Charles Zewe and Tony Clark contributed to this report.
Littleton authorities warned about Harris' death threats
National Rifle Association
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