- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 16, 2000

GOLDEN, Colo. A minute-by-minute account of the Columbine High School shooting released yesterday showed that the 12 students shot by the two gunmen died 16 minutes after the worst school shooting in U.S. history began.

Even so, those wounded in the attack waited hours before help arrived. During that time, teacher and coach William "Dave" Sanders bled to death in a science room as students tried desperately to stanch his gunshot wounds.

The Jefferson County Sheriff's Department's final investigative report on the Columbine shooting, released yesterday to the media on CD-ROM, could either help or hurt the department's case in defending its actions during the April 20, 1999, massacre.

The time line, which begins with the gunmen driving up to the school at 11:13 a.m., shows that the shooting was well over before SWAT teams had a chance to arrive and mobilize outside the school.

But the report also states that the gunmen committed suicide at 12:08 p.m., when Mr. Sanders was still fighting for his life.

Had police reacted sooner, perhaps Mr. Sanders could have been saved and the injured students would have received critical medical treatment more quickly, according to lawsuits filed against the department last month.

Critics accused the department yesterday of issuing a report designed to buttress its claims that authorities acted as promptly as they could to stop the carnage.

Plans to storm the building were delayed by a noisy fire alarm that hindered communication and conflicting reports from witnesses inside the school, according to the report.

"What we're seeing here is a subjective investigation," said Randy Brown, father of Columbine student Brooks Brown, who escaped the carnage but was later accused by Sheriff John Stone of collaborating with the gunmen.

"If you're preparing for a lawsuit, one of the most major lawsuits in the United States, do you think you're going to give everything out?" said Mr. Brown, who attended yesterday's press conference. "I think you're going to release the best version for your [case] that it was a quick death for the students and the sheriff's department couldn't have done anything."

The Browns have not filed a lawsuit against the department, but plan to act as friendly witnesses for the families who have.

The report, with about 700 pages of text, photos, video and audio clips, shows pages from the two gunmen's diaries and footage from the cafeteria video camera.

The report also rules out the possibility of a third gunman. Seven persons reported seeing someone assisting Harris and Klebold, but investigators concluded they were actually seeing Harris, who was wearing a trench coat early on but later took it off.

Based on 5,000 witness interviews and 10,000 pieces of evidence, the report was released 13 months after the shooting, and then only after a judge set the May 15 deadline over the department's protests.

Sheriff's spokesman Steve Davis refused to comment on the report yesterday, citing the pending lawsuits. But Dave Kopel, research director of the Independence Institute, called the timing of the report "suspicious," noting that the lawsuits were required to be filed by April 20.

"It allows them to craft a report to best refute the allegations already in the lawsuits," said Mr. Kopel. "The report has been suspiciously delayed I mean, they were talking about releasing it last October."

According to the time line, the gunmen spent just a few minutes smuggling bombs into the school in backpacks and duffel bags and planting them in the cafeteria. When a bomb failed to go off at 11:17 a.m., the two began firing at students outside the school.

They entered the library scene of the worst bloodshed at 11:27 a.m. They spent 7 and 1/2 minutes in the library, where they killed 10 students and wounded 11, then entered the cafeteria to fire shots at their unexploded pipe bombs.

After roaming the cafeteria and the school, they then returned to the library and killed themselves, just 57 minutes after the shooting began.

"While this report established a record of the events of April 20, it cannot answer the most fundamental question why," said Sheriff Stone in a statement.

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