Descriptions vary of suspects

Denver Post, April 21, 1999
By Jim Hughes

LITTLETON - Outcasts and loners.

That's how schoolmates described seniors Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17 - the two students suspected of unleashing a firestorm of bullets and explosives in Columbine High School late Tuesday morning before killing themselves.

The two, who favored black, Gothic-like clothing, targeted minorities and student athletes, groups that the Trench Coat Mafia members may have felt excluded from or ridiculed by, students said.

But there were some clear contradictions: Neighbors described Harris and Klebold as quiet kids, one even said Klebold was a gifted and talented student who also participated in a fantasy baseball league. He and Harris also were enrolled in an early morning bowling class.

Police arrived at Klebold's South Cougar Road house at midafternoon Tuesday, and police tape later went up around the Harris house as a dozen neighbors gathered in the cul-de-sac overlooking Chatfield Reservoir. A bomb squad detonated a couple devices at the Harris home, and agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms assisted local detectives well into the night.

About 11 p.m. Tuesday, authorities hauled duct tape, matches, fireworks, gallon jugs, sections of PVC pipe, documents, posters and a computer from the Harris house. South Reed Street neighbors said the Harris family moved in about two years ago. They said the boy's father, Wayne, recently retired from the military. They said they think Eric Harris may have taken his father's guns for the massacre.

Over the past year, Harris started wearing all black, spoke German and obsessed over anything German of World War II vintage, said neighbor Matt Good, 16. Never "any problem at all".

Good said Harris and Klebold, who drove a black BMW, hung out in Harris' garage all weekend.

Klebold's parents "are good friends of ours, but they've never mentioned that he was any problem at all," said one neighbor who asked not to be named. She said Klebold attended Columbine, instead of Chatfield High School, where most neighborhood kids go, because he was gifted and talented.

"He's a very bright kid, and it's a very nice family," she said.

Two sheriff's detectives at the Klebold home said the parents had been told to leave but to remain available to authorities. The detectives said they were waiting for a search warrant.

Though classmates described Harris and Klebold as outcasts, they said nothing could have prepared them for Tuesday's massacre.

"It is shocking, but I can believe it," said Columbine senior Laura Stewart, 18. She was in a French class with Klebold. "He (didn't) behave very well in class. He was very disrespectful to the teacher, and he would never listen to anybody." Sometimes "lost his temper".

Nicole Dickey, 15, a freshman who survived the rampage's outbreak in the school cafeteria, also described Klebold as somewhat volatile. "A friend had a hunch it would be Dylan," she said. "He was quiet, but he sometimes lost his temper."

Mike Vendegnia, 18, a Columbine senior who stayed home from school Tuesday, played fantasy baseball with Klebold.

"He was into guns and stuff like that, but he was pretty nice to me," Vendegnia said of Klebold. "We'd talk and joke around."

Vendegnia said he and Klebold recently collaborated on a project for their second period video-production class. It was a comedy about radioactive clothing that attacks people, he said.

Another Columbine student who played fantasy baseball with Klebold last year said he had noticed Klebold's appearance and attitude change over the past year.

"He was just a normal kid. He never really got angry at anyone. He would talk to me and we'd joke around," said Joe Mallon. "But he seems to be less vocal than he used to be. He's changed since last year."

Mallon said Klebold adopted the "goth" - short for Gothic - appearance in the past year, wearing black clothing and growing out his once-short hair. The "goth" scene draws from satanic worship and medieval Europe barbarism.

Eric Harris' neighbors also said he was a quiet, unassuming teenager who came and went in his Littleton neighborhood with little interaction with his neighbors.

"Nobody here in the neighborhood really knew Eric at all," said Janet Reed said. "He was very quiet and very much to himself. It's a little shocking to most of the neighbors that this would happen in this neighborhood."

Harris and Klebold have juvenile records in Jefferson County District Court, according to a district court clerk. They both were implicated in a 1998 criminal trespass case. Klebold received a deferred sentence.

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