DENVER – Following is a statement by Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar on the release of a report investigating the 1999 Columbine High School massacre.
Today is a very important milestone in addressing the tragedy of Columbine. With the steadfast cooperation of Sheriff Ted Mink and District Attorney Dave Thomas, what is made public today is very important.
As painful as the various records and material surrounding the Columbine High School tragedy may be, my hope is that these efforts will shed light on the specific events leading to the shootings and the lessons to be drawn for the future for family awareness, school safety, counseling of children, and related matters.
In the end, none of the many efforts to open up the Columbine records, including today's activity, will mean much beyond passing curiosity if we cannot learn from this tragedy. We owe it to the memory of the children and teachers killed or wounded on April 20, 1999 to learn what we can about the Columbine assaults to make our schools and communities as safe as possible. Lessons learned can be valuable to parents, teachers, administrators, law enforcement, government, and the public at large.
Attorney General Investigation
The report released today details the investigation of my Office regarding a 1997 citizen report made to the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office concerning Eric Harris. It was at the time the earliest known contact with the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office concerning either of the Columbine killers. That report was discovered by Jefferson County Sheriff's personnel in October 2003. Sheriff Mink subsequently requested that the Attorney General's Office investigate the origins and history of that report in order to ensure an unbiased investigation. Our investigation revealed there were a total of 15 Jefferson County Sheriff's Office contacts related to Harris and Klebold prior to the Columbine shootings. These contacts initially involved incidents such as snowball throwing and a phone-prank call, but progressed to threats via the Internet and a van break-in.
Our investigation (1) clarified the contents of the 1997 report, (2) determined that Aaron Brown, a son of Judy and Randy Brown, is the person who contacted the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office resulting in the generation of the report, and (3) traced the history of the report once it was generated. Our investigation also uncovered that a later Sheriff's Office file concerning Eric Harris cannot be located at this time, although the content of that report is fairly well known based upon interviews and reviews of other documents. The Attorney General's Office intends to pursue the whereabouts of that file and we will issue a supplemental report concerning that file.
The compilation of videos released today have not previously been made public. The vast majority are mundane and non-controversial. The disturbing video titled "Hit Men for Hire" is indeed a sobering and disturbing view of the mindset of the Columbine killers. My Office, at the request of Sheriff Mink, independently reviewed each of the videos and compared them with the compilation videos released today to ensure full disclosure of those videos.
Evidence Review and Archival of Documented Physical Evidence
The evidence and records made available to the public today by the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office is the evidence possessed by that Office related to the Columbine shootings and related investigation. Some of it is graphic and horribly sad. This unprecedented viewing of evidence is occurring today due to the courage and leadership of Sheriff Ted Mink.
Finally, we are proceeding with efforts to archive the documents and evidence related to the Columbine investigation. The lessons we can learn from the Columbine tragedy can be learned only if the records of the tragedy can be studied and reflected upon. This terrible event in Colorado's history, and these records, are of national and international historical import as well. As many Columbine records as possible will be collected and preserved in the Colorado Archives. The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office evidence viewed today by the public will in the near future be placed in the Colorado State Archives. We also hope to obtain records from other agencies to place in these archives. All the records generated by my Office, and all the records of District Attorney Dave Thomas' Office, and those created or compiled by the Columbine Records Task Force will also be placed in these archives.
The records that are now public will remain public in the archives. The records that are confidential -- under court order or for other reasons -- will remain confidential unless and until the orders or reasons are changed. And, should other evidence and reports associated with the Columbine tragedy currently under judicial custody be released in some fashion, it is my hope that those additional documents will be archived as well.
The Jefferson County School District has also agreed to place its attorney-client privileged report in the Colorado Archives. Because it is a privileged document, it will be placed in the archives under restricted access. Significantly, the District and its employees have agreed to cooperate in providing information in connection with the creation of a report on "lessons learned" from Columbine.
Lessons Learned: Expert Review and Report
The archiving of the Columbine records represents an opportunity to conduct, for the first time, a comprehensive review of much of the available documents and records relevant to the Columbine tragedy. Dr. Delbert Elliott, a nationally recognized expert on youth violence and prevention and author of the 2001 Surgeon General Report on Youth Violence in America, has agreed, at my request, to conduct this review and produce a report on "lessons to be learned" from the Columbine tragedy. Those efforts will include access to the Jefferson School District and its employees as described above.