Colo. killers envisioned N.Y. jet crash

Gunman's diary tells of grandiose scheme

April 27, 1999|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

LITTLETON, Colo. -- The two teen-age gunmen who went on a murderous rampage at a suburban high school here wanted to kill 500 classmates and neighbors, then hijack a plane and crash it into New York City, authorities said yesterday.

The details were discovered among hundreds of pages of diary entries found in a ledger in the bedroom of Eric Harris, 18. Police say he and Dylan Klebold, 17, apparently planned the attack at Columbine High School more than a year ago.

Yesterday, investigators finished interviewing an acquaintance of Klebold -- an 18-year-old woman who is suspected of buying an assault weapon used in last Tuesday's attack. Twelve students and a teacher were murdered before the gunmen apparently killed themselves.

Steve Davis, a spokesman for the Jefferson County Sheriff's office, said the young woman has been released. "There is not enough evidence for her to be classified as a suspect," he told reporters yesterday afternoon.

Police have said a gun used in the killings may have been bought by her at traveling gun show. The weapon, a TEC-9 semiautomatic 9 mm pistol, was outlawed by the federal 1994 assault weapons ban, though guns made before the ban can be sold. The other weapons were two sawed-off shotguns and a High-Point 9 mm carbine.

The Jefferson County Coroner's Office said yesterday that toxicology tests on the bodies of the two youths did not show traces of drugs or alcohol. In addition, Davis said that investigators had not found any illicit drugs or drug paraphernalia at their homes.

The parents of one Columbine student said they repeatedly warned local police about Harris' hateful rantings on the Internet, including a statement that he wanted to "kill everyone in Denver."

Randy and Judy Brown said sheriff's investigators ignored their complaints. Yesterday, sheriff's officials acknowledged receiving a warning from the Browns last year. The Browns will be interviewed again, the officials said.

Nearly week after the shootings, residents of this Denver suburb continued to mourn and bury their dead. Four funerals were held yesterday, and a makeshift memorial outside the school continued to grow and covers an area larger than a football field.

One of the largest tributes at the school memorial was for Dave Sanders, a coach and business teacher who lunged across cafeteria tables to knock students out of the way of gunfire. He was hit twice and bled to death in the arms of students more than three hours after the siege began.

Hundreds of cards and poems about Sanders adorn the school memorial site, along with a softball jersey and a request from one of his players: "Put me in coach, I'm ready to play."

More than 2,700 overflowed the Trinity Christian Center where Sander's funeral service was held yesterday. During the service his daughter, Angela, called her father a hero. "You hung on well past the end and saved so many lives," she said.

Six days of mourning and a national memorial service held Sunday has not eased the community's pain.

At another funeral yesterday, 17-year-old Cassie Bernall was hailed as a martyr to her faith. According to witnesses, one of the gunmen demanded to know if she believed in God. "Yes, I believe in God," she said. The gunman then shot her in the head.

Lines of people continued to bring flowers and remembrances to the school memorial yesterday, including a poster by Amorous Grogan, who attends a nearby elementary school.

"Why must people shoot?" the youngster wrote on the poster on behalf of his classmates. "Why must people hit and hurt instead of getting along? I don't know the answers to these questions, although I must ask."

In another tribute to the Littleton victims, trading was halted for one minute at noon yesterday on the New York Stock Exchange, the American Stock Exchange, Nasdaq and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

Police said they are continuing to investigate whether Klebold and Harris had help in distributing more than 30 bombs around the school.

Three male friends of Harris and Klebold have retained lawyers, but police continue to insist they are not suspects. Politicians, including Colorado's governor, have raised the possibility of charging the gunmen's parents for not stopping their children.

Members of a so-called "Trenchcoat Mafia," Harris and Klebold felt they were outcasts at Columbine, who had been bullied and ridiculed by the "jocks" who reportedly ran the school. Harris and Klebold carried out their attack on Hitler's birthday and also targeted blacks.

The Web sites maintained by Harris and his diary show that the attack was in the works for some time -- since March 1998 -- and that it was to have been on a much grander scale.

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