Live

Watch CBSN Live

Could Columbine Have Been Prevented?

Nineteen-year-old Richard Costaldo tries not to think about life before Columbine, before a bullet confined him to a wheelchair. But now he's facing the realization that the massacre could have been stopped before it started, reports CBS News.

"It's kind of sad to think that it probably could have been prevented and it wasn't," said Costaldo.

Brian Rohrbough, who lost his only child Daniel that day, is more certain the attack shouldn't have happened, particularly after new evidence came to light as part of a CBS News investigation.

"He should be here today," said Rohrbough. "He absolutely should be here today."

The Affidavit
60 Minutes II obtained the affidavit pertaining to the Web site after families of the victims and CBS News complained that some documents were missing from the 11,000 pages Jefferson County District Judge Brooke Jackson ordered released last year.

Warning: document contains graphic language.

The evidence shows that more than a year before the rampage sheriff's investigators were trying to link Columbine shooter Eric Harris's violent Web site to pipe bombs found near his house. They filed an affidavit for a search warrant but it was never issued.

Within days of the April 20, 1999, shooting, in which 13 were killed, investigators were asked about the report of Harris' Web site.

At that time, Jefferson County, Colo., Sheriff's Department's Lt. John Kiekbush said merely: "We got some information about some kids who didn't get along. Some information that was provided on a Web page that we could not verify. Kids in virtually every high school in the country at times don't get along."

But after a court battle, 60 Minutes II obtained the affidavit (Warning, document contains graphic language) pertaining to the Web site which suggests the sheriff's department may have known more.

The document indicates that in March, 1998, sheriff's investigators were checking out a Web page put up by Harris on which he threatened to blow up a number of people in the Denver area.

A month before, investigators had been called to a field and found a pipe bomb. According to the affidavit, one investigator matchd the bomb to details provided on Harris Web page.

"Investigator Grove described the device as a one-and-a-quarter inch by 6- to 8-inch PVC pipe with a red fuse," the affidavit reads.

One of the issues in lawsuits filed by shooting victims and their families is whether deputies could have prevented the massacre if they had fully investigated warnings as well as a violent essay Klebold wrote for his English class.


Click here to learn more about the Columbine massacre.

On Friday, Jefferson County District Judge Brooke Jackson ordered Sheriff John Stone to release drafts of affidavits deputies had prepared in hopes of getting a search warrant.

Jackson had ordered Stone and the district attorney to release the entire case file last November. He issued the new order Friday after families of the victims and CBS News complained that some documents were missing from the 11,000 pages released last year.

Stone declined a request for an interview but issued a statement saying his office never tried to hide the affidavit and it was dropped because "there was insufficient information in this case to meet the required (legal) standard."

But that's not enough to satisfy victims like Brian Rohrbaugh.

"Even with poorest level of police work there was enough information in that affidavit to ask a lot of questions," said Rohrbaugh. "And if there wasn't enough for a search warrant at that time, it certainly would have been very easy to get enough.

Jefferson County District Attorney Dave Thomas has announced plans to open an investigation into how this case was handled by the Sheriff's Department. Families here say they deserve answers and demand accountability.

Connie Michalik, Richard Costaldo's mother, said "It just makes me wonder were they lazy, did they not want a problem, did they want to turn a blind eye? Did they want to think, 'Oh we live in Littleton and nothing ever happens in Littleton, this is our safe little haven.'"

©MMI Viacom Internet Services Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report

View CBS News In