Who Were the Columbine Killers? - Research Paper Example

2021-08-26 10:01:02
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George Washington University
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Research paper
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Serial killers and mass murderers have dominated news reports whenever they strike since the sheer audacity of their heinous crimes comes as a significant shock. In the aftermath of an attack, psychologists are always awash with theories, and opinions on what could have caused these killers to strike. Understanding the underlying factors could help the relevant authorities to avoid similar attacks in the future while addressing the cause of the matter.

Background

Dylan Klebold was a shy but brilliant student who came from a well-off family in Columbus, Ohio. He attended Normandy Elementary school in Colorado before transferring to Governors Ranch Elementary after the first and second grade. Dylan got into for the CHIPS program, which is designed for exceptionally talented children. He moved on to the Ken Caryl Middle school where he met Eric Harris. Both boys later moved to Columbine High School in the ninth grade alongside two other friends.

The two high school students had no underlying medical issues, and hence it was a major shocker to most students when the news of the heinous crime dropped. However, as investigations showed, Eric Harris displayed a superiority complex. He feigned suicide when a girl from school refused to go out on a second date with him before writing, "I am God" in the yearbook (Cullen, 2009). Material recovered after the incident indicated that the murderous spree had been planned in great detail by the two. Records also showed that they had been arrested for breaking into a van where they stole electronic equipment. They received a twelve-month juvenile detention sentence where they performed community service and attended counseling. They left the program with positive reviews precisely ten weeks to the date of the massacre.

Dylan and Eric were obsessed with the exploits of Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy McVeigh. The duo bragged about how they were going to dwarf the death toll recorded by McVeigh. Dylan kept a dossier of sorts where he wrote down his feelings and emotions under the influence of alcohol. He was a fierce believer in God and religion despite his parents not being active members of any church (Cullen, 2009). Notes from his book indicate that Dylan harbored anger issues as well as suicidal tendencies. His depression caused him to flirt with suicide, but he never attempted.

Eric also kept a journal, but his ideas and objectives were more definite than Dylan's. He was foolhardy and wanted to be remembered, unlike Dylan who was somewhat reserved. The recovered tapes showed that Eric was coercive and the lead planner. He talked of declaring war on the human race and kick-starting a revolution. Students at Columbine high reported that the duo screamed out, Heil Hitler! every time they rolled a good ball during bowling class (Cullen, 2009). A gaming site created by the two later turned into a manual on making explosives and Eric started a blog where he explained his growing anger towards society.

The Crime

April 20, 1999, is a sad and unforgettable date due to the events that took place at Columbine High School. Eric and Dylan had devised plans where they planned on murdering at least 2000 people in what they termed as Judgement Day (Cullen, 2009). Eric had designed about seven bombs using information from an online copy of the Anarchist Cookbook. On the morning of the fateful day, the two rose early and acquired the eighth and final propane tank from the store. Each of their cars was meant to carry two tanks while the remaining ones were evenly distributed between the cafeteria and the decoy. The plan was to detonate the decoys, placed further away from the school, to divert the attention of the police.

The two got to school at around 11.10, parked their cars, and went to the dining room unnoticed. Each had guns and pipe bombs in their large bags. After getting out, they went to their vehicles and prepared their arsenal. The decoy bomb had failed to detonate after fizzling out, but the two were unaware. Eric was concerned since he expected to have heard the decoy explosions. He quickly realized the bomb had failed and swung into action alongside Dylan. They took their semiautomatics and rushed to the west exit of the dining room where Eric opened fire indiscriminately on the students, at 11.19.

The lunch crowd panicked after hearing the shots. The bombs placed in the cafeteria had failed, and there were no more easy targets to aim at since every student had taken cover. Eric had shot the most people with Dylan showing some reluctance even in the cafeteria when he had students in his sights. Eric had fired 47 times from his rifle while Dylan had got off just three shots from his guns (Cullen, 2009). The first respondent was deputy sheriff Neil Gardner of Jefferson County at 11.24. The seemingly continuous shooting had quietened down to sporadic gunfire. In the ensuing silence, police discovered that the two killers had committed suicide by training the guns on themselves shortly past noon. The death toll stood at thirteen with twelve students and a teacher.

Theories

The psychological theory best fits this case because the tendencies of Dylan and Eric had grown during their formative years (Hall, 2011). The duo was known to quote Hitler and compare with Timothy McVeigh. Eric had a superiority complex while Dylan filled his mind with ideas of suicide. They, especially Eric, were bent on shocking the world by racking up a massive death toll. They were never victims of bullying, and both came from well-to-do families. Eric was a bright and affable individual, but psychiatrists later termed his behavior as psychopathic. Eric Harris was the primary influence and instigator of the Columbine massacre and fits the bill of the psychological theory. The two appeared completely normal in all aspects until the day of the crime (Hall, 2011).

The Aftermath

The community of Littleton was shaken to its core by the massacre as schools across America declared zero tolerance on any disruptive tendencies or threats from students. There was a major investigation to try and identify the motivation of the two boys. The shootings also kick-started a nationwide debate on gun control as people came to terms with how easy it was for the two to acquire firearms and ammunition.

References

Cullen, D. (2009). Columbine. New York: Twelve.

Hall, E. (2011). A Biological, Psychological, and Sociological Examination of Crime Causation. Criminologyjust.blogspot.co.ke. Retrieved 7 February 2018, from http://criminologyjust.blogspot.co.ke/2013/02/a-biological-psychological-and.html#.WnrGm66WZxA

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