Littleton Shooter Was Rejected by Marines
By Tom Kenworthy and Dana Priest
LITTLETON, Colo., April 27 – Columbine High School shooting suspect Eric Harris was rejected for induction into the Marine Corps because he lied about having been prescribed a mood-altering drug, a Defense Department official said today.
Harris, who died with another gunman and 13 others in the massacre a week ago today, went earlier this year to a Denver recruiting station. He answered no when asked whether he was on medication, the official said.
In a subsequent initial screening, a recruiter found out from Harris's parents that he had been prescribed a mood-altering drug.
"Then right away when [the recruiter] found out he was on medication and had lied to him, he was disqualified," the official said.
As part of his agreement for acceptance into a juvenile diversion program last year after he was charged with breaking into an automobile, Harris had agreed to undergo a mental health evaluation and treatment if court officials thought it necessary. A spokesman for Jefferson County District Attorney David Thomas said tonight that Harris's medical records remain confidential and that the district attorney is still reviewing whether confidentiality laws apply to him now that he is deceased.
The disclosures came as police continue their pursuit of nearly 400 leads in a widening investigation of whether Harris and Dylan Klebold had help in carrying out their assault.
Authorities said today the two gunmen had prepared a total of more than 50 explosives for their assault, and that two of the four guns they used in storming the school had been purchased by Klebold's girlfriend.
Investigators are still trying to determine where Robyn Anderson bought the two sawed-off shotguns, but they suspect she got them at a local gun show. She was interviewed for two hours Monday and then released. She is being described by police as a cooperating witness.
Police investigators are also questioning a local hardware store clerk who told them that he sold a propane tank and material that could have been used as shrapnel to a group of teenagers on the weekend before the attack.
Meanwhile, local and federal authorities are now discounting information provided by a Colorado Springs gun dealer who said he believes Harris, three male friends and a teenage girl came to his store several months ago and attempted to buy a machine gun and a silencer, purchases that he said he refused to permit.
The dealer, Mel Bernstein of the Dragon Arms gun store about 60 miles south of Littleton, told authorities he believes the attempted transaction was captured on his store's video camera, but police here said the tape was of no value to them.
Investigators "were not able to recognize any of our suspects on the tape," said Jim Parr, a sergeant on the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department.
Though Parr said Bernstein's story "absolutely" may have credibility despite the lack of video corroboration, federal authorities are more dubious.
Dozens of crime scene investigators are continuing the tedious job of collecting and cataloging thousands of pieces of evidence inside Columbine High School, and at an afternoon briefing defended the pace of their investigation, saying they are moving as quickly as possible. But they also acknowledged today that they had substantially underestimated the number of bombs at the crime scene.
Investigators previously said the two young men who committed suicide after killing most of their victims in the school library had an arsenal of about 30 explosives, some of which were used or found in the school, some of which were discovered in cars in the student parking lot and others that were uncovered during searches of the suspects' homes.
To enhance area students' sense of security, the Jefferson County school board late Monday voted to ban the wearing of black trench coats at school and school activities. Harris and Klebold were part of a clique at Columbine known as the "Trenchcoat Mafia" whose members wore long black coats, were sometimes belittled by other students and had a fascination with guns and German military history.
That fascination apparently inspired Harris and Klebold to carry out their rampage. But whether Klebold's girlfriend, Anderson, knew of his plans is not clear.
A member of the school's honor society, Anderson attended the senior prom with Klebold just days before the attack. Possible criminal charges against her, police said, would likely depend on what she knew about the suspects' planned attack.
"There's a rainbow of charges there that you're talking about," said Davis, "all the way from supplying a weapon to a juvenile in the state of Colorado and, I suppose on the high end, if it's shown she or anyone else purchased the weapons with full knowledge of how they were to be used ... the district attorney has been pretty straightforward about that and his office would certainly be open to charging anyone accordingly, up to and including 13 separate homicide cases."
However, Bob Walker, the president of Handgun Control Inc. in Washington, said there is no federal or Colorado law making it a criminal offense to sell or transfer a long gun to someone under 18, though the transfer or sale of handguns to juveniles is illegal under both state and federal statutes.
In Colorado, it is illegal for someone under 18 to possess a handgun, but there are no restrictions on possessing long guns. Harris and Klebold allegedly used three long guns – the two shotguns and a 9mm rifle – as well as a semiautomatic 9mm handgun.
As the investigation continues, Coloradans around the state marked the one-week anniversary of the assault by pausing at 11:21 a.m. for a moment of silence, with church bells pealing and radio and television stations observing the silence.
That memorial was observed on a day when three more victims of the Columbine shooting were buried – Matthew Kechter, Kyle Velasquez and Corey DePooter.
Priest reported from Washington, Kenworthy from Littleton. Staff researcher Nathan Abse in Washington contributed to this report.
© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company