BAILEY, Colo. – This small mountain community on Saturday publicly mourned a 16-year-old girl killed in a high school standoff as investigators learned more about the gunman, including a letter that warned of his impending death.
Several thousand people, many carrying flowers, poured into the memorial. Pink ribbons lined the road, tied to ponderosa pines.
On Friday night, a candelight vigil was held. "I think everybody's looking for answers," said Gray Anderson, a counselor who has been talking with residents. "People are just looking for reasons why."
The 14-page letter from Duane Morrison was postmarked Wednesday in nearby Shawnee — the same day he took six girls hostage and killed himself.
Morrison claimed in the letter that it was not a suicide note, Sheriff Fred Wegener said.
"However, many times, the letter references suicide," Wegener said. "This letter clearly acknowledges his pending death. It also apologizes to his family for his actions that will occur."
The letter contains no reference to Platte Canyon High or any other school, nor does it refer to a specific time or plans to harm anyone else, authorities said, leaving investigators with no known connection between the gunman and this town of about 3,500 people 35 miles (56 kilometers) from Denver.
Morrison, 53, sexually molested all six girls before SWAT teams stormed the classroom, the sheriff said. During a gun battle with police, Morrison shot 16-year-old Emily Keyes to death and then killed himself.
The letter "doesn't tell me a lot of why," Wegener said, but it does suggest "he probably intended to kill both the young ladies and then kill himself, or have us shoot him."
A copy of the letter was not released, but Denver station KUSA-TV reported that it alluded to Morrison being molested. The letter also made arrangements for Morrison's personal belongings, according to the station, which did not say how it learned of its contents.
Investigators identified Morrison as a petty criminal who had a Denver address but apparently had been living in a motel and possibly in his battered Jeep. They also traced the handgun used in the shooting to one of Morrison's brothers, who turned over the still-sealed letter Thursday.
The gunman spent time at a riverside clearing a mile north of the school. Wegener said an assault rifle found in the secluded spot apparently belonged to him.
"He'd obviously been in the area staking it out," said Randy Marsh, a hardware store employee who remembers seeing Morrison's Jeep as long as six weeks ago.
Video from cameras outside the school showed Morrison sitting in his Jeep in the parking lot for about 20 minutes and then mingling with students as classes changed, nearly 35 minutes before the siege began, KCNC-TV in Denver reported.
Lance Clem, spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety, said investigators were reviewing the surveillance tapes and emergency calls.
Authorities released a recording of a 2004 call Morrison made to a Harley-Davidson motorcycle dealership in the Denver area after he received a holiday catalog in the mail. His call led to a harassment charge.
"Hey, Duane Morrison here," the tape begins. "I just wonder if you (slur) are responsible for sending this to me. I'd sure like to get this stopped. I guess my last threat down there didn't carry very far."
Later, he says: "What do you think it will take to get this stopped? Uh, maybe a visit with an assault rifle? ... I'd sure hate for it to come to that."
Last year, someone broke into Morrison's apartment and stole more than a dozen handguns and rifles, according to a police report. Jesse Williams, 38, who worked as a maintenance supervisor at the Denver apartment complex where Morrison used to live, said he recalled seeing at least 20 guns during a visit to the apartment.
"We had a conversation about the right to bear arms. He really liked his guns," Williams said. "I thought it was a little odd that a guy would have so many guns."
Classes were canceled as the community tried to come to grips with the bloodshed, which evoked memories of the 1999 shooting rampage that left 15 dead at Columbine High School, less than an hour's drive away.