Live

Watch CBSN Live

Did Cops Miss Columbine Tip?

Jefferson County's new sheriff wants investigators to interview a former deputy who apparently was told years before the Columbine High School massacre that the gunmen bragged about making pipe bombs and were looking for a "ground zero."

A report discovered last week indicates then-deputy John Hicks was given information in 1997 about a Web site that included the boast and the "ground zero" reference by Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold.

Sheriff Ted Mink, who took office in July, said Wednesday the investigation of the Web site apparently went no further.

Mink asked Attorney General Ken Salazar to investigate why the 1997 report was never reviewed as part of the probe into the massacre.

Mink said he wants investigators to talk to Hicks, who left the department in 2000 and whose whereabouts were unknown. Salazar's spokesman Ken Lane would not comment on the investigation.

Harris and Klebold killed 12 students and a teacher before taking their own lives on April 20, 1999.

Mink said an anonymous tip in 1997 had led another deputy to the Web site, run by Harris. The deputy filled out a report and sent it, along with printouts from the Web site, to Hicks, who was in charge of computer-related crimes.

The report was found last week tucked inside a training manual that belonged to Hicks.

"The obvious implication is that the sheriff's office had some knowledge of the activities of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold in the years previous to the Columbine shootings," Mink said.

"It is difficult to believe this turn of events, and difficult to stand here and discuss them with you, but I feel it is the right thing to do," Mink said.

On the Web site, Harris and Klebold described building pipe bombs from scratch.

"Now our only problem is to find the place that will be 'ground zero,"' they say, according to the report.

Some families have been sharply critical of the sheriff's office and one of Mink's predecessors — Sheriff John Stone — for the handling of the Columbine investigation. They have accused authorities of ignoring or missing warning signs that Harris and Klebold planned to kill.

Sue Petrone, whose son, Daniel Rohrbough, was killed at Columbine, said she was astonished to see the year 1997 on the report.

"That's another chance that someone had to keep my son alive," she said.

"It leaves me knowing if this would have been followed up Columbine wouldn't have happened," Bruce Beck, whose stepson died in the attack, told CBS Radio News.

Earlier this month authorities released videotape, made just weeks before the massacre, showing target practice by Harris and Klebold.

The video shows the Columbine gunmen chuckling as they fire four different weapons, including automatic rifles, shotguns and a pistol, at trees and bowling pins.

The video, taken on a shaky handheld camera on a snow-covered hillside in a national forest south of Denver, is the first made by the gunmen themselves to be released to the public.

Among other scenes, the video shows a smiling Harris blowing across the upturned muzzle of a shotgun like a gunslinger. Both teens wear trench coats, and later show the camera hands made bloody by a gun butt.

"Guns are bad. When you saw them off and make them illegal, bad things happen to you," one says. The two then point at a gun and mockingly spank it as Klebold says, "no, no, no."

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.