LITTLETON, Colo. – Nearly five years after the Columbine High (search) massacre, officials will release a new report and thousands of pieces of evidence that may explain why authorities, parents and friends missed so many warning signs from the teenage killers.
Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar led the investigation into contacts between the gunmen and sheriff's investigators long before the attack. He will disclose his findings to victims' parents Wednesday and make them public the following day.
Eric Harris (search), 18, and Dylan Klebold (search), 17, marched through the school on April 20, 1999, scattering pipe bombs and gunning down 12 classmates and a teacher before taking their own lives. It remains the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history.
Some parents believe investigators, school officials, parents and others ignored signs that the two teens were dangerous. Salazar's investigation, in fact, began after an anonymous report about death threats made by Harris in 1997 turned up in a folder at the sheriff's department last October.
Among the material to be displayed this week for the first time are the murder weapons, ballistic reports and shell casings. There will also be a 38-minute sheriff's video of the crowd in a nearby park immediately after the shootings and a 94-minute patchwork of videos made by the killers before the attack, including footage shot inside the school.
"It will be all the physical evidence in the Columbine case," sheriff's spokeswoman Jacki Talman said.
What will not be released is the school's own investigation into the massacre and a deposition given by Wayne Harris, father of one of the killers. Both remain sealed. Some parents also believe authorities have withheld other evidence.
While parents hope Salazar will shed light on lingering questions, they are upset that some information will probably never become public.
"There is a ton of information that is being hidden, in some cases by a federal court," said Brian Rohrbough, whose 15-year-old son, Daniel, died at Columbine. "They are hiding things that are absolutely important to understanding this and preventing it in the future."
In 1998, Randy and Judy Brown repeatedly warned investigators when they learned Harris was making death threats against their son and others on a Web site. At about the same time, the two teens were placed in a probation program after pleading guilty to stealing electronic equipment from a car.
Other warning signs included violent videos made by Harris and Klebold for a class project and an essay by Klebold describing a Columbine-like slaying of "preps" in another class. In a probation report, Harris talked of violent and suicidal tendencies.
The Browns also say one of the teens' pipe bombs was found at a pizza parlor where they worked during the summer of 1997 and fellow employees heard them say they wanted to blow up the school.
"Look at all these people that knew, that knew, that knew!" Judy Brown said.
Of particular interest is an investigation begun by former Detective John Hicks in 1998 after the Browns complained about the Web site threats.
Judy Brown said she remembers calling Hicks and leaving a message saying she had seen Eric Harris in a supermarket buying a copy of a gun magazine just days after five people were slain at a school in Jonesboro, Ark.
She said she left a message on the detective's answering machine: "Eric's into guns. You have to call me back. It's going to happen here."
A warrant was drafted to search Harris' home, but it was never executed and the investigation was dropped. A report by Hicks found tucked inside a training manual last fall triggered the new investigation; at the time, Sheriff Ted Mink said it seemed obvious the sheriff's office knew of Harris and Klebold long before the slayings.
District Attorney Dave Thomas said his office did not know about the Browns' report. Still, he noted detectives were busy, including work on a triple ax murder.
"Do I think sometimes cases get pushed aside because more important things come up? In my opinion, yes, that's true," he said. "If it happened I can assure you it is not the only time it has happened. Sometimes we guess wrong."