Eric Harris School Shooting
On April 20,1999, 17-year-old Dylan Klebold and 18-year-old Eric Harris committed a mass shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. At 11:10, “The two then walked into the school cafeteria, where they placed two duffel bags each containing a 20-pound propane bomb set to explode at 11:17 a.m.” (History.com, 2009) These students entered the school around 11:00am and killed 13 people, injured over 20 people, and then ended the massacre by committing suicide.
These boys are classified as mass murderers’ due to killing a large amount of people within one area. A sub category that they also fell into was the group of choosing specific targets to kill that had caused conflict and stress for them. The boys knew where most of the people that they wanted dead would be. They set up bombs in the cafeteria because that is where most of their victims would be. The bombs didn’t go off so they then went back into the school and begun a random killing spree.
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According to research done, it was shown that Eric and Dylan had spent over a year planning this massacre. They were shown to be outcasts of the school who were bullied, they were members of “The Trench Coat Mafia”. Through their planning they decided to target the jocks and Christians. The jocks were the ones who typically did the bullying and therefore Eric and Dylan wanted to seek revenge.
The boys idolized Adolf Hitler and actually carried out their massacre on his birthday. The boys were known to wear clothes with swastikas and would raise their arm to salute and say, “Heil Hitler!” They seemed to try hard to try to inflict terror in the people around them from the Nazi symbols, to the things they said, and the things they did. Often times they would talk about the people they hated and how they wanted to kill them.
While reading this semester I came across Antisocial Personality Disorders. This seemed to explain Dylan and Eric extremely well. They were bullied a lot and that pushed them to form their own group together and with other people like them. These boys were part of the Trench coat Mafia and found themselves always playing violent video games, trying to scare others with German language, and being fans of Hitler. According to Walsh, “A pervasive pattern of disregard for, and violation of, the rights of others that begins in childhood or early adolescence and continues into adulthood.” (Walsh, 2018)
Something else that may explain what was going on with Dylan and Eric is the integrated cognitive antisocial potential theory. This theory is, “a person’s risk or prosperity to engage in crime, and cognition, which is the thinking or decision-making process that turns potential into actual behavior.” (Walsh, 2018) Eric and Dylan spent a year planning to kill a large amount of their classmates with full details. They knew that they were either going to end up in jail or dead. This did not bother them because they saw it as they were getting revenge on the people who always bullied them.
The “Super Traits Theory” also really applies to the Columbine High School shooters. “Robert Agnew says there are five life domains that can influence crime within people: personality, family, school, peers, and work.” Although Eric and Dylan were only 17 and 18 I believe a lot of their conflicts fell into this category. Their personality effected who they were as individuals which led their peers at school to make fun of who they were. This can be traumatic for a lot of people and unfortunately, they never had anyone to help them and they couldn’t move on from it. The only way they saw possible to fix this problem, was to commit a mass shooting.
All of these theories seem similar when you look at them as a whole, but when you break it down individually you see that they are different. I believe each of the boys had very serious antisocial personality disorders which caused them to stay away from others which then caused others to see them as “outsiders”. The integrated cognitive antisocial potential theory caused them to spend a whole year planning this massacre and then allowing themselves to put it into play. Finally, the Super Traits Theory impacted them because it talks about how your personality, family, school, peers, and work can all be conflicting for different individuals.
Something that surprised me about this whole thing is that Eric and Dylan had fans after this whole situation. “Their iconic stardom with copycat shooters is undeniable: 17 school shootings have been directly connected to the Columbine massacre as well as 37 planned or attempted shootings, resulting in a total of 66 deaths and 49 wounded.” (‘Fans of Columbine shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold’, 2015)
After the Columbine High School massacre, multiple families sued the Klebold and Harris families. There was a lot of conflict about if the families saw any signs or if they had any knowledge of this potentially happening before it did. It was ruled that the families did not know about what was going to happen. There were two other accomplices, Mark Manes and Phillip Duran, who were charged for helping with the weapons. According to the New York Times, “the Harris’ and Klebold’s will contribute $1,568,000 through their homeowners’ policies to the victims’ families and guarantee that an additional $32,000 would be available for any future claims. Mr. Manes will contribute $720,000 and withhold an additional $80,000 for future claims. Mr. Duran’s share is $250,000 with an additional $50,000 available.” (Janofsky, 2001)
After learning more about this massacre, it seems like Eric and Dylan wanted things to turn around for them so they wouldn’t follow through with the massacre. In a journal Eric Harris kept, he wrote, “if people would give me more compliments, all of the might still be avoidable.” There were so many clues that were discovered after the shooting that if someone would have noticed, all of these people could still be alive today. They wrote graphic stories, made killing to do lists, and spoke about how they wanted to kill individuals. These were things no one caught on to and just thought they were weird. It is strongly encouraged around the world and in schools that if you hear or see something, you need to say something to someone who can help.
- Andrew Ryan Rico. (2015). Fans of Columbine shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. Transformative Works and Cultures, Vol 20 (2015). https://doi-org.ezproxy.libraries.wright.edu/10.3983/twc.2015.0671
- Chen, C. Y., Purdie-Vaughns, V., Phelan, J. C., Yu, G., & Yang, L. H. (2015). Racial and mental illness stereotypes and discrimination: An identity-based analysis of the Virginia Tech and Columbine shootings. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 21(2), 279–287. https://doi-org.ezproxy.libraries.wright.edu/10.1037/a0037881
- Glick, D., Keene-Osborn, S., Gegax, T. T., Bai, M., Clemetson, L., Gordon, D., & Klaidman, D. (1999). Anatomy of a Massacre. (cover story). Newsweek, 133(18), 24. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.libraries.wright.edu/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=mih&AN=1769954&site=eds-live
- I (2009, November 9). Columbine Shooting. Retrieved November 18, 2018, from https://www.history.com/topics/1990s/columbine-high-school-shootings
- Janofsky, M. (2001, April 20). $2.53 Million Deal Ends Some Columbine Lawsuits. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2001/04/20/us/2.53-million-deal-ends-some-columbine-lawsuits.html
- Meadows, S. (2006). Murder on Their Minds. Newsweek, 148(3), 28–29. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.libraries.wright.edu/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ehh&AN=21506995&site=eds-live
- Morrow, W. J., Vickovic, S. G., Dario, L. M., & Fradella, H. F. (2016). Assessing the influence of the Columbine shooting on federal sentencing outcomes. Criminal Justice Studies, 29(4), 378–396. https://doiorg.ezproxy.libraries.wright.edu/10.1080/1478601X.2016.1238826
- Opsata, R., & Achten, G. (1999). Not in Our Neighborhood: Racial Bias in the Littleton Tragedy. Conference Proceedings — National Communication Association/American Forensic Association (Alta Conference on Argumentation), 511–519. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.libraries.wright.edu/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ufh&AN=20766579&site=eds-live
- Thompson, C. (2014). Our Killing Schools. Society, 51(3), 210–220. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.libraries.wright.edu/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=s3h&AN=96203578&site=eds-live
- Walsh, A., & Jorgensen, C. (2018). Criminology: The essentials (3rd ed.). Los Angeles: SAGE.