StMU Research Scholars

Featuring Scholarly Research, Writing, and Media at St. Mary’s University

March 11, 2018

The Massacre at Columbine: How Boys Can Become Murderers

Winner of the Spring 2018 StMU History Media Award for

Best Article in the Category of “United States History”

Best Descriptive Article

It was April 20, 1999 in Littleton Colorado. Seventeen-year-old Eric Harris and his eighteen-year-old friend Dylan Klebold both drove separately on a Tuesday morning to play a couple of frames of bowling before heading off to school. Before departing in their black trench coats, the teens stuffed their backpacks and two duffle bags into the trunk of their cars. When they arrived at their school campus later that morning, the two adolescents proceeded into the school, carrying the duffel bags, which contained two propane bombs.1 They kept the bombs inside the duffel bags and carried them into the cafeteria, setting up the bombs throughout the room, where they were rigged to detonate at precisely 11:17 AM. After setting up the bombs, Eric and Dylan then proceeded back to the school parking lot, where they waited for the bombs to explode. The boys had grave intentions on that day. Their intentions were to shoot up their high school, resulting in the most destructive school shooting to ever occur in the United States at the time. Their high school is known as Columbine, the most famous high school in America, for the wrong reasons.2

Parking Lot of Columbine High School | Courtesy of Flickr

In January 1998, about a year before this horrific event unfolded, best friends Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were suddenly surrounded by an aggressive and terrifying group of football players in the school cafeteria. The players proceeded to squirt ketchup packets at the two friends. Unable to fight back against the dominant jocks, Eric and Dylan were forced to wear their ketchup-stained clothes all day until they were able to go home from school. Around the cafeteria at Columbine, there were different classes of tables: the athletes had their table, and the weaker, outcast students had their table as well. While walking over to their table to sit at lunch, the athletes often threw skittles at Eric and Dylan and their outcast friends. While sitting at a lunch table with their few friends, the jocks kicked Eric and Dylan’s chairs, knocked their food trays down, and lunged food at them in the cafeteria. Bullying was not only a common occurrence to Eric and Dylan, but it also occurred to other students as well. Weaker students were shoved into lockers, called vile names, and also body slammed. They were the targets of the predators of the school. Everyone in the school, including Eric and Dylan, were afraid of the intimidating jocks, and for good reason. They were members of the trench coat mafia, which was a group that the two teens belonged to, which consisted of pro-Nazi outcasts, such as Eric and Dylan, and who also held a strong hatred for Christians. Their other trench coat mafia friends were able to shrug off the constant bullying. However, the same cannot be said about Eric and Dylan. The two friends took it in and absorbed it all, and their anger grew.3

As a result of the relentless harassment throughout Columbine, before going on a school-wide mass shooting spree, Eric Harris decided to dose on cough syrup, which he said, “is the best thing after a hard day of being called ‘gay’ by a schoolyard full of fashionable jocks and cheerleaders.”4 The two boys were outcasts of their school and members of this trench coat mafia subculture. At lunch for weeks, Eric and Dylan fantasized about blowing up the school, but because being harassed at Columbine was so common for outcast students, it was not unusual for students to speak of such outlandish events. So, when Eric and Dylan said this, other students did not believe they were serious; however, the intentions of the two teens were indeed grim and were not to be underestimated.5

The constant hatred towards his peers caused Eric to devise the plan of the shooting of his high school. Eric did most of the planning, while Dylan followed his lead and did what he said. Eric went into the cafeteria and observed when it was the most populated. He discovered that there were around 488 people inside the cafeteria at 11:17 a.m. Since this was the most populated time, they planned to bring two black duffel bags, each containing a propane tank that they would rig to explode at 11:17 a.m. In addition, they bought weapons, made bombs, and hid them in their trench coats and in the trunks of their cars. They carefully planned the terrible act for over a year prior to the shooting.6

After months and months of constant planning, Eric and Dylan were ready to put their diabolical plan into action. On April 20, 1999, around 11:20 AM, after placing the bombs in the cafeteria, Eric and Dylan were most likely bored of waiting in the parking lot for the bombs to explode. After the bombs failed to detonate around that time, the two adolescents began the destruction of their high school. They unzipped their trench coats, pulled out their guns, and opened fire in the parking lot of Columbine.7

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Image of Rachel Scott, Christian Victim of Columbine | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Outside of the school building on campus, seventeen-year-old Rachel Scott was eating lunch with her friend Richard Castaldo. Eric and Dylan came up to Rachel and Richard. The two shooters shot Richard multiple times in almost every part of his body, including his lungs. Then, they shot Rachel several times, hitting her thigh, left arm, and chest. They then turned their guns towards other fleeing students, shooting them as well. Rachel Scott laid on the ground, crying. Rachel, like many other victims of the shooting, was a Christian, which was the religion that the two pro-Nazi shooters despised. Eric went up to the poor and helpless Christian, and asked, “Do you believe in God?” Rachel said yes, and in response Eric said, “Then go be with Him,” and he shot her once again killing her.8 Rachel Scott died a martyr on that horrific day for her faith. Eric and Dylan resumed their carnage by entering into the school building itself. They went into the cafeteria, where most of the students had evacuated. While searching for students, the shooters began throwing bombs. Eric and Dylan then headed upstairs in the building. Coach Dave Sanders decided to stay back in the school to aid students, when Eric and Dylan ran into him. They shot Sanders in the back while he was fleeing, killing him instantly. After combing through the cafeteria, the shooters entered the library of Columbine, the deadliest room of the shooting. They began the bloodshed in the library by shooting behind the librarian’s desk. While in the commons, Eric and Dylan were taunting the students, yelling at them and cursing. They shouted at the horrified teens yelling, “All the jocks stand up!” They also targeted students who were wearing sports apparel. Isaiah Shoels was in the library on that nightmarish day. Isaiah was a football player at the school, which was not a good position to be in on April 20, 1999 at Columbine. Due to his African-American race, Eric and Dylan yelled racial slurs at Isaiah, and then they shot him. Unfortunately, there was more blood to be spilled. Eric then made his way towards Cassie Bernall, another Christian at Columbine, and asked her, “Do you believe in God”? Once again, just like Rachel Scott, Cassie firmly responded “yes,” and then they killed her. Just like Rachel Scott, Cassie Bernall became a martyr at the hands of Eric Harris while professing her faith. They did the same Christian interrogation to Val Schnurr, who admitted her faith and was killed for it. The outraged gunmen exited the commons, leaving ten students in the library shot in cold blood, and many others injured.9

Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold on a hunt in the cafeteria | Courtesy of Flickr’s The Commons

While roaming the school, the campus was being surrounded by police, ambulances, and even the National Guard. They knew they were not leaving that building alive. After deciding that there was nowhere else to run, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold returned to the library, where they shot themselves in the head, putting an end to the bloody massacre of Columbine High School.10

The suicide of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold may have seemed like a definite conclusion to the horrific shooting for some; however, for others, it was only just the beginning. Many families of those slaughtered victims at Columbine could not even begin to comprehend the weight of the situation. Many parents, whose sons or daughters became victims of the shooting, feared for their own marriages, let alone their mental status. One mother of one of the injured victims of the shooting committed suicide years later, due to her daughter being paralyzed and forced into a wheelchair for the rest of her life.11 However, despite the catastrophes of the families, to Eric and Dylan, this was a major success. They planned everything from entering the building, all the way to their own deaths. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were constantly harassed both physically and verbally to the point where they could no longer absorb any more humiliation and mistreatment from their peers. The constant bullying that the adolescents endured resulted in them dealing with severe depression disorders that few people were aware of. Even Dylan’s own parents were unaware of his suicidal behavior and of his ongoing depression at Columbine. Several arguments can be made about the cause of Columbine and what was truly going on inside the teens’ heads. Many claim the cause of the shooting was bullying, while others claim the shooting to be caused by the influence of violent video games, like “Doom,” and goth music artists, like Marilyn Manson. Whatever the true intentions of Eric and Dylan were, we will never seem to understand entirely. However, one point can be made about the disastrous shooting of Columbine on that horrid day. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold had a specific goal: to exact revenge on the students of Columbine High School.

  1. UXL Encyclopedia of U.S. History, 2009, s.v. “Columbine High School Shooting,” by Sonia Benson.
  2. American Decades, 2004, s.v. “Analysis: What the Two Young Colorado Gunmen Were Really Like,” by Cynthia Rose.
  3. Perspectives on Modern World History, 2012, s.v. “Columbine High School Had a Serious Bullying Problem,” by Ralph W. Larkin.
  4. Perspectives on Modern World History, 2012, s.v. “Columbine High School Had a Serious Bullying Problem,” by Ralph W. Larkin.
  5. Ralph W. Larkin, Comprehending Columbine (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2007), 131.
  6. Ralph W. Larkin, Comprehending Columbine (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2007), 131.
  7.  Wendy Murray Zoba, “Do you Believe in God?” Christianity Today, October 1999.
  8. Life Focus, “Rachel Scott Life Focus Documentary”, 12:45-13:24, February 15 2016,
  9. Wendy Murray Zoba, “Do you Believe in God?” Christianity Today, October 1999.
  10. Wendy Murray Zoba, “Do you Believe in God?” Christianity Today, October 1999.
  11. US News and World Report, “Columbine Shooting: 10 Years Later,” 0:00-3:39, April 19, 2009,

Tags from the story

Columbine High School

Dylan Klebold

Eric Harris

Rachel Scott

Recent Comments

Fatima Navarro

I won’t lie, at the beginning of the story as I was reading, I felt pity for Eric and Dylan. But after I kept reading and upon arriving at the part were they were “pro-nazi,” that pity faded. However, I do agree that bullying is a serious issue that needs to be taken more seriously. The schools seem to ignore this, even when such horrid stories such these of student shooting schools, exist in the history of this country. To this date, the shooting of Columbine hurts. Not only because of the fact that many innocent students were killed, but because it seems Columbine was not “enough” and arms are still out there easily obtained by anyone and that is why today, we’ve seen many more shootings that hurt us as a country.



8:25 am

Sharriah Martinez

This article was such a great read, very well written and extremely descriptive. I felt as if I was a fly on the wall. Mass school shootings break my heart, to know that since this first school shooting in 1998 there have been hundreds more. It is truly sickening. This was a great read I had a different perspective hearing the shooters side of the story



8:25 am

Emily Velazquez

In the beginning of the article, I pitied to the two boys who were getting bullied but upon finishing the article I no longer felt any pity. I clicked on the article because I had heard of the Columbine shooting but not so much the details. I did not know of the two boys who were the cause of it. It’s sad to think of how far some people will go to try and rid of what they are feeling or simply express how they feel. There were so many students murdered for no reason and they were innocent. It even said that most of the people they killed were Christians rather than athletes and it was the athletes who bullied them. They however were pro-Nazi. The story of the Columbine shooting is well known and it still shocks me every time. Those two boys planned this for years and executed their plan perfectly. And since there have been many more school shootings. It’s sad that people are pushed to far they would want to kill innocent students. The two Columbine shot more Christians than athletes and the athletes were the ones who bullied them. Maybe the bullying and music and video games played a part in their motives but it seemed like these two were already deeply disturbed since they were proud Nazis.



8:25 am

Victoria Davis

This article gave such good, precise description about the boy’s actions. Although bullying is not right in any situation the revenge should not have gone this far. There are plenty more different routes to go that can dismiss the bullying. The knowledge of the mafia group that others had should have taken their comments and fantasy’s into account. These boys will never serve their time they deserve, like these families have to.



8:25 am

Saira Locke

In today society, school shootings are far from rare. I’m sure its accurate to say that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold started the rise of school shootings. It is possible that bullied and harassed boy just like them heard about the incident and they felt empowered by Eric and Dylan due to their suffering. These types of stories are so sad to hear but are also so real. This amazing insightful article should show any jock that they don’t need to be rude to the outcasts and to realize that everyone is different. Major bullying you do to people can potentially bring them into dark thought ending in a tragedy like this one.



8:25 am

Vanessa Quetzeri

Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold had so much hatred in their hearts. They were in a trench coat mafia, I can imagine being in that group was the only time they felt accepted. I can’t help but wonder how their parents didn’t realize how mentally disturbed their kids were: they were suffering from depressive disorder and constantly speaking ill of the high school. After this shooting, several changes and precautions were made and any threat to the school is now taken seriously. Although this story is incredibly sad, it has gone down in history as an event to learn from for future generations.



8:25 am

Sebastian Portilla

Very descriptive article. Like every mass shooting the “victims” claim it was due to bullying. Its a mental illness to conduct a shooting. It is no way to handle a situation. Just because people are ignorant and insensitive doesn’t mean they’re genuinely evil people. Evil people are another story. Those people cannot be helped but teenagers can. No one can ever feel the fright those students had. Most of them never did anything wrong to those 2 individuals. It very sad and heart breaking.



8:25 am

Thalia Romo

Having grown up hearing of Columbine and the tragedy that follows that name, it saddens me to hear of the back story and strategy of the two teenagers. They were in a terrible mind set and situation which all in all lead to the shooting. Although their disorders don’t necessarily excuse their horrific actions, one lesson to take from this is that bullying is never okay. Not only was bullying one of the main reasons they decided to plan out the act, but it was also what lead them to follow through with it.



8:25 am

Ashley Martinez

Today in our society school shootings have become the new normal which is absolutely awful to say. Schools should provide a healthy environment and be the safest area for students. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were constantly bullied throughout their years at Columbine which motivated them to shoot the school up. This story is extremely devastating because Eric and Dylan targeted innocent victims but also got revenge on those that had bullied them throughout school. It is important to be kind to all those that you meet. Everyone has their own ideals and beliefs pertaining to their religion but it is important to respect others’ views. I find it awful that these two individuals asked Rachel Scott and Cassie Bernall if they still believed in God while they were dying, and when they replied yes they were shot again. My heart goes out to all the victims family and friends.



8:25 am

Courtney Reeves

It’s saddening how these two boys planned out this massacre for years and nobody felt inclined to stop them if they had heard about the plan. However, this massacre took place in a time when people didn’t have to worry about tragedies like that. Our urge to take action when hearing threats such as shooting up a school is because of the consistent string of murders that have taken place at schools. Because of the news coverage pertaining to students harming other students, we become scared, some even desensititized since it seems like a never ending news story.



8:25 am

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