Killer’s chilling profiles revealed
LITTLETON, Colo. (AP) – Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris hurled insults at Jews, blacks and Hispanics at Columbine High School. But they really hated the athletes, who had power and popularity – everything they didn’t.
”All jocks stand up!” one of the attackers yelled during their murderous spree Tuesday. ”We’re going to kill every one of you.”
They killed 13 people in the deadliest school massacre in recent years. Then Klebold and Harris turned their guns on themselves.
A horrible as their assault on classmates was, it did not come out of the blue: Klebold, Harris and others in a band of outcasts who called themselves the Trenchcoat Mafia had a long-running feud with Columbine athletes, including a recent confrontation in which the ”mafioso” showed up carrying swords and brass knuckles.
The Trenchcoat Mafia was no secret society. Members posed for a yearbook photo last year. They had their own special spot in the cafeteria, near the stairs. They wore black trench coats – no matter the season – and berets with Nazi crosses. They openly admired Hitler. They spoke constantly of war and guns, and Harris had made a video at school in which he bragged about his new guns.
After Paducah and Edinboro, Jonesboro and Springfield, how could such provocative behavior not raise alarm?
Rather easily, it turns out.
If fellow students at Columbine were concerned – and some now say they were – they said little to adults, figuring they could handle these troublesome misfits themselves.
If teachers and police noticed, they passed it off as teen-age rebellion, unpopular kids looking for a sense of belonging.
And if parents like Steve Cohn worried about their children’s safety, they rested easy knowing that Columbine High was the nicest of schools in the nicest of areas.
”We moved here 11 years ago because of the schools,” Cohn said. ”It’s been a great neighborhood. Until now.”
Cohn’s son, Aaron, 15, narrowly escaped execution Tuesday. Lying on his stomach in the library, Aaron cowered as one of the masked gunmen leveled a shotgun at his head. A few moments earlier, a girl had jumped on Cohn’s back, covering the baseball slogan on his shirt. The gunman moved on and chose another victim.
Student Andrew Beard said members of the group often came to school in steel-toed combat boots, some of them wearing Nazi crosses. Tuesday was the anniversary of Adolf Hitler’s birthday, and student Aaron Cohn said that was a significant day for Trenchcoat members, who would make references to 4-20. He said they often made anti-Semitic comments.
Beard said a dozen students joined the group last year, adopting the trademark dusters and sometimes wearing red or green berets, but the numbers dwindled to a half-dozen this year as the novelty wore off. He said he knew of no special significance for the dusters.
”Dylan said he hated the jocks, and how they could walk over people and thought they were tough,” Beard said.
Josh Nielsen, 17, a junior at the school, said he knew members of the group as well.
”They liked playing war games,” he said. ”That’s all they could talk about. They played war games and they liked to re-enact World War II battles.”
”He did it because he hated people,” fellow student Brooks Brown said. ”He loved the moment. He loved killing people, he liked that idea. He lived in that. That’s how I knew it would end the way this did – kill all the hostages and then themselves; I couldn’t see anything else.”
A few weeks ago, the big news at Columbine High was pranksters putting Superglue in all the outside door locks.
Most cliques here would be familiar on any U.S. high school campus: band kids, nerds, stoners, skateboarders and, at the top of the pecking order, athletes.
Harder to label were the dozen members of the Trenchcoat Mafia. Some fellow students described them as resembling ”Gothics,” sharing a penchant for black clothes and ghoulish makeup. Their long black dusters fit the Gothic style, but also that of Old West villains. Members of the group simply said the coats kept them warm.
Their interest in Hitler and World War II was well-known around school. Aaron Cohn, who lives five doors down from the tidy, two-story home on a quiet cul-de-sac where Harris’ family moved in a couple years ago, said Harris, 18, was nonetheless a quiet kid who hadn’t caused him any problems in the past. Other neighbors echoed that.
”He was a nice guy,” said Matt Good, 16, who lives two doors away. ”Shy person, didn’t say much. I’d see him walk from the car to the house, and that’s about it.”
Harris’ parents were nowhere in sight this week as reporters streamed past their home. Neighbors said they didn’t know much about the family, except that the father was a retired military man.
Harris and Klebold were arrested last year for breaking into a car and completed their probation in January.
Klebold, 17, and other Trenchcoats had reputations for being smart and skilled at computers. Choir teacher Lee Andres remembers the 6-foot-4, blond Klebold as a smart kid.
”They were extremely bright, but not good students,” Andres told the Denver Rocky Mountain News. ”They disliked authority. They did not like to be told what to do.”
By all accounts, they held a special hatred for athletes – a contempt returned in good measure. John Duven said his teen-age son, a jock, almost got into a fight with them last year, but Duven talked him out of it.
The hostilities resurfaced this year.
”A couple of months ago, the jocks were supposed to fight them,” said Good, a football player. They made a date to rumble: a Friday night at a baseball field. The jocks showed up, but the Trenchcoats were two hours late, and they went to the wrong spot, Good said. They also showed up carrying swords and brass knuckles – not the jocks’ idea of a clean fight. The rumble was never rescheduled.
”The jocks said forget it,” Good said.
School officials said they’d had no discipline problems with Klebold or Harris, and they passed under the radar of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department, said spokesman Steve Davis.
After the shooting, investigators questioned other members, but Davis said there was no indication other members took part in the actual shooting.
Steve Cohn finds it hard to believe that school authorities or police didn’t notice the group.
”Wasn’t it obvious, to someone?” he asked. ”All the kids knew about it. You’d think a teacher would notice. You’d think the sheriff’s department would know.”
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