April 22, 1999
LITTLETON, Colorado (CNN) -- Classes in the suburban Denver school district where a gun and bomb assault took 15 lives were to resume on Thursday, except at Columbine High. For now, the school that became a killing field is a complicated crime scene that could take weeks to clean up.
And some of its 1,800 students, among them victims and witnesses, may also be potential suspects.
With the bodies removed from the school, authorities were expected to release the names of victims -- nine males, four females -- killed by Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, before the two high school seniors took their own lives.
All of the dead were students except one male who was a teacher at Columbine High.
More than 20 people were wounded in Tuesday's attack and most of the remained hospitalized on Thursday, some in critical condition.
Despite overnight snow in the area, schools in Jefferson County were set to reopen on Thursday with tightened security. Officers and school staff plan "sweeps" and greater security at entrances and exits, police said.
As part of their investigation, police turned to the community, interviewing acquaintances, classmates and relatives of the gunmen to find out why they did it -- and who else might be involved.
But authorities have repeatedly told reporters that they cannot imagine finding a rational explanation for the bloodbath.
Harris and Klebold killed themselves in a second-story library after roaming the halls of their high school with sawed-off shotguns, a semiautomatic rifle, a pistol and homemade bombs stuffed with nails and shotgun shells.
They left behind such a pile of ammunition and explosives that authorities wondered whether they had help.
"That's a lot for two boys to carry," said Jefferson County Sheriff John Stone, who said it's possible there were others involved in making the bombs or bringing them to school.
"It was at least a conspiracy between two people. How much broader than that I do not know," said Jefferson County District Attorney Dave Thomas.
Authorities still aren't sure -- or aren't saying -- where the boys obtained their guns; they made the bombs from materials that could have been bought at most hardware stores.
The probe was complicated by the massive, heavily damaged crime scene -- an entire high school and its grounds -- and the need to catalog every shell casing, every piece of shrapnel, every damaged ceiling tile.
Police also had to photograph the location of every body. The entire investigation is "going to be a long, long tedious job," Jefferson County Sheriff's Department spokesman Steve Davis told CNN on Thursday.
Despite wind and cold rain that set in before the snow, hundreds of friends, classmates and relatives kept a vigil late Wednesday night and into Thursday morning near the school, holding candles and flowers and trying to console each other.
The families of the killers issued brief statements that mixed apology with grief and, just as among the victims' relatives, an inability to comprehend the incomprehensible.
"Like the rest of the country, we are struggling to understand why this happened," Klebold's family said.
A statement from the Harris family called the killing spree "a senseless tragedy' and said "Please say prayers for everyone touched by these horrible events."
School officials said they'd had no discipline problems with Klebold or Harris.
Classmates said the two teens were part of an outcast group called the Trenchcoat Mafia and that they wore black and spoke German to each other. They believe their choice of Adolf Hitler's birthday for the attack was no coincidence.
Accounts from students indicated Harris was a leader, a boy who would come to class as if to war, in steel-toed combat boots and a German cross, while Klebold was a follower.
Investigators interviewed the parents of the suspects and searched their homes. They also were interviewing dozens, if not hundreds, of Columbine's students. Some were fellow members of the Trenchcoat Mafia.
Correspondent Greg LaMotte contributed to this report.
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