Columbine Tapes Released to Public
Columbine Tapes Released to Public
P. SOLOMON BANDA
Apr. 27, 2000
GOLDEN, Colo. (AP) _ Large pools of blood soak into beige carpet, marked by yellow paper cards bearing victims' names. Calculators and pencils lie next to open books on tables. A computer monitor sits blown to bits.
To the horror of Columbine victims' families, authorities released videotapes Wednesday that offer the public the first glimpse of the high school's library at least a day after two students killed 12 schoolmates and a teacher before committing suicide on April 20, 1999. Ten of those students and the gunmen died in the library.
Authorities charged $25 for each tape.
The nearly three-hour tape, part of it set eerily to a pop music soundtrack that was added when it was turned into a training video, was mostly shot by firefighters. It also includes aerial footage taken by TV news teams that showed wounded and two slain students outside Columbine.
``For the first time today, I saw my daughter being dragged over to the fire engine. I don't need to see that and nobody else needs to see that,'' said Beth Nimmo, mother of slain student Rachel Scott.
``It's something you'd see on a gory music video,'' said Nimmo, her voice choked with anguish.
``It hurts. They have pictures from the helicopter of dragging Richard by his feet,'' said Connie Michalik, whose son, Richard Castaldo, was shot outside the school and left paralyzed.
Jefferson County Attorney Frank Hutfless released the videotapes to the victims' families Tuesday to comply with a court order. He said he then released them to anyone who asked for them ``to avoid additional lawsuits by the public or news media.''
With Sarah McLachlan's ``I Will Remember You'' playing in the background, the video, taken by firefighters, enters the library through open doors, flanked by windows that had been shattered by gunfire.
It shows books pulled to the floor. Chairs are askew, as if pushed out of the way hurriedly. Bullets have shattered windows and punctured walls. A window blind is still jumbled from the hurried escape of one student.
But it is the pools of blood on desks and on the earth-tone carpeted floor that most captures the eye. Folded yellow cards are carefully placed near the stains to mark the names of Lauren Townsend, Daniel Mauser, Corey DePooter and other victims. Numbered cards mark pieces of evidence.
``Each one of those pools of blood is where someone's child died or was seriously wounded,'' said attorney James Rouse, who represents some of the victims' families.
The video does not show bodies inside the school. It has scenes of the cafeteria, which was heavily damaged by gunfire and bombs, but it does not include the surveillance footage from a cafeteria camera that was broadcast on some news programs last fall.
The gruesome images are intertwined with typical school details _ trophy cases, desks lined in rows in classrooms, a neon light blinking messages about report cards and wishing spring sports teams ``good luck.''
Six victims' relatives had sued to gain access to the tapes to prove authorities mishandled the rescue and failed to heed warnings of the rampage. Authorities have denied those allegations.
But many Columbine families had hoped the tapes would not be released to the public as well.
``I'm totally disgusted they're selling the tapes for $25,'' Michalik said. ``Where is the $25 going? We had to fight like crazy to even get these tapes released.''
Other relatives were outraged that the videotape, adapted by a Littleton firefighter for the training of police and fire personnel around the country, contained added background music, including ``If It Were Up To Me,'' by Cheryl Wheeler.
Lyrics include the lines: ``Maybe it's the movies, maybe it's the books, maybe it's the bullets, maybe it's the real crooks, maybe it's the drugs, maybe it's the parents.'' It concludes: ``Maybe it's the end, but I know one thing. If it were up to me, I'd take away the guns.''
Rouse, the relatives' lawyer, said some families turned down the audio as they watched. ``I don't know why you'd call it a training video. It's more of a documentary with a musical background,'' Rouse said.
Officials with the Jefferson County sheriff's and attorney's offices would not comment.
Kelli Narde, a spokeswoman for the city of Littleton, defended the tape, saying it was put to good use in 82 training seminars in the United States and Canada.