4/15/09 - cover up

In today's excerpt - the Columbine massacre, at which 13 students were murdered and many more injured. As reported by Dave Cullen, local law enforcement had a large amount of incriminating evidence on Eric Harris the leader of the massacre, months and years before April 20, 1999, the tragic day—including a felony arrest, evidence of multiple hate crimes, a venomous web site and the urgent complaints of other parents. However, they not only failed to follow up diligently on these, they denied their existence for years following the tragedy:

"Jeffco [Jefferson County law enforcement] had a problem. Before Eric [Harris] and Dylan [Klebold] shot themselves, officers had discovered files on the boys. The cops had twelve pages from Eric's web site, spewing hate and threatening to kill. For detectives, a written confession, discovered before the killers were captured, was a big break. It certainly simplified the search warrant. But for commanders, a public confession, which they had sat on since 1997—that could be a PR disaster.

"The Web pages had come from Randy and Judy Brown [parent's of Eric's classmate, Brooks Brown]. They had warned the sheriff's department repeatedly about Eric, for more than a year and a half. Sometime around noon, April 20, the file was shuttled to the command center in a trailer set up in Clement Park. Jeffco officials quoted Eric's site extensively in the search warrants executed that afternoon, but then denied ever seeing it. (They would spend several years repeating those denials. They suppressed the damning warrants as well.) Then Sheriff Stone fingered [the innocent] Brooks as a suspect on The Today Show.

"It was a rough time for the Brown family. The public got two conflicting stories: Randy and Judy Brown had either labored to prevent Columbine, or raised one of its conspirators. Or both.

"To the Browns, it looked like retribution. Yes, their son had been close to the killers—close enough to see it coming. The Browns had blown the whistle on Eric Harris over a year earlier, and the cops had done nothing. After Eric went through with his threats, the Browns were fingered as accomplices instead of heroes. They couldn't believe it. They told The New York Times they had contacted the sheriff's department about Eric fifteen times. Jeffco officials would insist for years that the Browns never met with an investigator—despite holding a report indicating they had.

"The officers knew they had a problem, and it was much worse than the Browns realized. Thirteen months before the massacre, Sheriff's Investigators John Hicks and Mike Guerra had investigated one of the Browns' complaints. They'd discovered substantial evidence that Eric was building pipe bombs. Guerra had considered it serious enough to draft an affidavit for a search warrant against the Harris home. For some reason, the warrant was never taken before a judge. Guerra's affidavit was convincing. It spelled out all the key components: motive, means and opportunity. A few days after the massacre, about a dozen local officials slipped away from the Feds and gathered clandestinely in an innocuous office in the county Open Space Department building. It would come to be known as the Open Space meeting. The purpose was to discuss the affidavit for a search warrant. How bad was it? What should they tell the public?

"Guerra was driven to the meeting and told never to discuss it outside that group. He complied. The meeting was kept secret, too. That held for five years. ... He described it as 'one of those cover-your-ass meetings.' ...

"At a notorious press conference ten days after the murders, Jeffco officials suppressed the affidavit and boldly lied about what they had known. They said they could not find Eric's Web pages, they found no evidence of pipe bombs matching Eric's descriptions and had no record of the Brown's meeting with Hicks. Guerra's affidavit plainly contradicted all three claims. Officials had just spent days reviewing it. They would repeat the lies for years."


Dave Cullen




Hachette Book Group


Copyright 2009 by Dave Cullen


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