Tags: Columbine | Investigator: | 'Nobody | Acted' | Clues

Columbine Investigator: 'Nobody Acted' on Clues

Thursday, 17 May 2001 12:00 AM

William Erickson, a retired chief justice of the Colorado Supreme Court who led the review, also criticized the sheriff of Jefferson County, where the assault occurred, for not cooperating with the panel.

''What agency was responsible for enforcing the laws of Jefferson County and protecting the students from violence?'' Erickson asked in an interview this week. ''Was it reasonable for me to request cooperation?''

The 13 members of the Governor's Columbine Review Commission spent 16 months looking into the case. It is the first outside review of how police, school and emergency agencies responded to the attack April 20, 1999. Two students of the high school in Littleton killed 12 fellow students and a teacher and wounded 23 others before taking their own lives.

At a final meeting last month, Erickson said authorities had a ''massive'' number of clues and information, ''but nobody acted upon it'' before the killers' deadly assault.

Families of the victims and other critics say that the Jefferson County sheriff's office ignored warnings that Columbine students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were threatening violence. At one point, the department drafted a request for a warrant to search Harris' home, where he had stored explosives, guns and ammunition later used in the assault. However, the request was never filed.

Critics also questioned the pace of rescue efforts during the school siege. SWAT commandos took more than three hours to reach wounded teacher Dave Sanders, who bled to death as he and his students awaited rescue.

Last month, a federal judge here angrily lectured Jefferson County's lawyers about the cautious police response at a hearing on civil lawsuits filed by families of the dead and wounded. As an attorney argued that law officers shouldn't be liable for their decisions in a chaotic situation, U.S. District Judge Lewis Babcock interrupted: ''Well, they had time in the third hour!''

Gov. Bill Owens appointed the commission to review the police and emergency response, ''document lessons learned from the tragedy'' and recommend ways to help prevent similar calamities.

Commission member Troy Eid, the governor's chief counsel, emphasizes that the panel's duty was ''not to find fault or assess blame, but to try to learn practical lessons.'' Skeptics have said the commission is a toothless public relations gesture that won't have any practical effect. The commission had no subpoena power to compel witnesses to appear.

Jefferson County Sheriff John Stone declined three invitations to testify. He had said twice that he would appear, only to back out because of victims' lawsuits against him and his office.

Stone did not respond this week to a request for an interview.

Except for a general background briefing by two of Stone's deputies in December 1999, the sheriff's office refused to cooperate with the governor's panel. Even so, Erickson says the commission, which examined 15,000 pages of documents, held 15 hearings and questioned 140 witnesses, has assembled the most complete chronology yet of the case.

Eid says today's report will recommend changes in public policy, ''particularly in law-enforcement response and training issues.''

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William Erickson, a retired chief justice of the Colorado Supreme Court who led the review, also criticized the sheriff of Jefferson County, where the assault occurred, for not cooperating with the panel. ''What agency was responsible for enforcing the laws of Jefferson...
Columbine,Investigator:,'Nobody,Acted',Clues
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2001-00-17
Thursday, 17 May 2001 12:00 AM
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