Seachers turn up big bomb

Propane-gas device hints at killers' intent: 'Destryoing the school'

Follow-up sweep for clues

Colorado School Shooting

April 23, 1999|By JON MORGAN | JON MORGAN,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

LITTLETON, Colo. -- Investigators scouring bullet-riddled Columbine High School yesterday for clues to Tuesday's murderous rampage discovered the largest and potentially most deadly bomb planted in the building -- one that had escaped the notice of bomb squads who had declared the building safe for other officers.

The sheer size of the bomb -- a homemade explosive found in a kitchen off the school's cafeteria -- suggests that the assailants planned more than killing.

"The evidence supports that these individuals not only were on a shooting spree, but also were intent on destroying the school," said Jefferson County Sheriff John Stone.

Had the bomb exploded, "It would have been devastating," said sheriff's Sgt. Jim Parr.

Fourteen students -- including the two assailants -- and one teacher were killed, and 28 people were taken to hospitals Tuesday, after a pair of heavily armed students tossed homemade bombs and opened fire with semiautomatic weapons and shotguns as they moved through the building settling adolescent scores.

The two, identified by police as Dylan Klebold, 17, and Eric Harris, 18, then apparently took their own lives, police say.

At Columbine, shrines to the victims have grown to mounds of flowers, poems, teddy bears and other remembrances piled in a park off the school's parking lot.

Tents were set up yesterday to protect the offerings from a half-foot of spring snow. There was even a tent erected over the maroon car of Rachel Scott, one of the Columbine dead, which was still in the parking lot and fast becoming obscured by bouquets of flowers.

Students and friends made pilgrimages to the park site, many traveling arm in arm in small groups. Some knelt to pray and others hugged and sobbed.

More bombs possible

The bomb found inside the school yesterday consisted of a 20-pound cylinder of propane, familiar to owners of gas barbecue grills, and a one- or two-gallon can of gasoline. The two bottles, along with an apparent detonation device, were found inside a duffel bag, rigged to go off in tandem.

Bomb squads using remote-controlled robots and dogs trained to detect explosives had swept the building once but were in the process of rechecking areas when they discovered the new bomb.

Police investigators were sent from the area while explosives experts rendered the device safe.

Parr said it is possible that more bombs will be found in the thousands of backpacks, boxes, briefcases and bags that were strewn throughout the building during the melee.

"There were 2,000 students in the building that ran out of here in a panic. Some of them ran out of their shoes," he said.

The size of the latest discovery heightened suspicions among investigators that more than the two shooters were involved, possibly helping to carry the armaments into the building.

At least 30 explosives have been recovered from the building and parking lot, ranging from small pipe bombs to yesterday's large device.

It could be that Harris and Klebold made more than one trip with the gear, but one or more accomplices is "a very distinct possibility," Parr said. Spent shell casings indicate that all the firing was done by the guns found with Harris and Klebold, police said.

Investigative net

Parr said he could not confirm reports that another student's home had been searched, but investigators said their net was widening.

Parr confirmed that investigators seized a note during their search of the Harris home that they believe is related to the incident. He declined to characterize the contents of the note.

Meanwhile, juvenile court records released by Jefferson County District Court described Harris and Klebold as young men with bright futures.

Klebold and Harris were caught breaking into a van last year and allowed to complete a juvenile-court rehabilitation program to clear their records. They finished in February with flying colors, a court official wrote.

Dylan Klebold was "a bright young man who has a great deal of potential." Eric Harris was "intelligent enough to achieve lofty goals as long as he stays on task and remains motivated," the officer said in the documents compiled.

The officer, whose name was blacked out by court officials, wrote of Klebold, "If he is able to tap his potential and become self-motivated he should do well in life. Dylan has earned the right for an early termination. He is intelligent enough to make any dream a reality but he needs to understand hard work is part of it."

Harris' received anger-management counseling, which he enjoyed, the officer wrote.

Both teens also completed 45 hours of community service, received individual counseling and wrote an apology letter.

As investigators continued to search Columbine, students in the rest of Jefferson County -- the state's largest school system -- returned to classes for the first time since the shootings.

Although no violence occurred in any of the other 141 schools, many of them were immediately "locked down" when the shooting began and have subsequently been searched.

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