Up to 25 Die in Colorado School Shooting

By Tom Kenworthy
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 21, 1999

LITTLETON, Colo., April 20 -- Two heavily armed young men stormed a suburban Denver high school at midday today and, in a shooting rampage on a scale unprecedented in an American school, killed as many as 25 students and faculty members.

Police did not immediately identify the gunmen, but fellow students named them as Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. The two, who were described as disaffected outcasts by police and students, were found dead this afternoon in the library of Columbine High School in what police called a "suicide mission." A third young man, described as a friend, was taken into custody but not charged. At least 20 other students were wounded.

Approaching the 2,000-student school from a nearby soccer field about 11:30 a.m., just as the first lunch hour began, the gunmen opened fire, moving into the cafeteria and then through the school, shooting apparently at random as hundreds of students fled in panic and hundreds of others took shelter in classrooms and libraries.

"We heard gunshots and 200 to 300 people ran into the neighborhoods," said Paul Freeman, a freshman who was in the cafeteria. "I was running and I heard everyone scream, `He's in here,' " Freeman said. "Girls were crying and stuff."

The killings brought the country face to face once again with the tragic spectacle of seemingly senseless murder in the schools, renewing a horrific chain that since 1997 has included two killed at a school in Pearl, Miss.; three at a school in West Paducah, Ky.; five at a school in Jonesboro, Ark.; and two at a school in Springfield, Ore. Measured by the number killed, the shooting today was the worst by far.

After hunching in terror in their hiding spots, many of the students were rescued hours after the gunmen opened fire by SWAT teams from four local police forces. Authorities and students who fled the school said the gunmen also carried explosive devices, at least two of which they detonated inside the building. One girl was seriously wounded by shrapnel.

CONTINUED     1                 >

© 1999 The Washington Post Company