Skip to main content /US /US


Subscribe to one of our news e-mail lists.
Enter your address:

CNN Mobile

CNN Websites



CNN International



Columbine report faults police

Columbine High School students on April 20, 1999  

DENVER, Colorado (CNN) -- Two years after the nation's bloodiest school shooting, a commission appointed by the governor to review the tragedy at Columbine High School Thursday faulted the initial police response to the incident.

William Erickson, chairman of the Columbine Review Commission, criticized law enforcement officers for not heeding complaints about gunman Eric Harris. If they had, he said, the bloodshed could have been averted.

In addition, Erickson was critical of how law enforcement officers handled the April 20, 1999, shooting while it was in progress. Instead of going into the school and searching for Harris and Dylan Klebold, they set up a perimeter and waited "for the assault to end." Fifteen people died in the rampage, including the teenage gunmen, who committed suicide.

Columbine Review Commission Report, May 2001 (from Colorado State Government)

"The procedures that have been developed now are that when you have a shooting of this type, your duty for law enforcement is to locate, contain and confine the shooters. That was not done in this instance," said Erickson, the former chief justice of the Colorado Supreme Court.

Clues ignored

The report's recommendations, Erickson said, are designed to ensure "this won't happen again" and include encouraging kids to tell authorities about any threats.

"For nearly a year, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold worked on a conspiratorial plan to kill as many people as possible at Columbine High School," Erickson noted.

There were clues, Erickson said, that authorities ignored, including a Web site set up by Harris that contained threats to kill a fellow classmate, Brooks Brown. In addition, Harris and Klebold amassed an arsenal of weapons and bombs in the months ahead of their assault that killed 12 fellow students and one teacher.

The Columbine Review Commission, appointed last year, held 15 public hearings, reviewed 13,000 pages of documents and interviewed more than 140 witnesses to the shooting.

One of those who did not appear before the commission was Jefferson County Sheriff John Stone, who was in charge of the law enforcement response at Columbine. He told the commission that because of pending lawsuits by Columbine victims and families, he could not speak freely to the commission.

Other commission recommendations:

-- Statewide hot line for students to report threats.

-- Emergency crisis plan for each school.

-- Annual crisis drills to rehearse emergency plans at schools.

-- More police SWAT team members with emergency medical training.

Gov. Bill Owens said there is no specific timetable for these recommendations to be implemented.

• Jefferson County, Colorado, Public Schools
• Profile: Columbine High School
• Columbine High School Tributes
• National School Safety Center

Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.


Back to the top