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Victims' families outraged by release of shooting videotapes

Updated:
DENVER (AP) -- The families of Columbine High School shooting victims who fought for access to video taken during the massacre are outraged that authorities also are releasing a tape to the public -- with a music soundtrack.

"This shows no regard whatsoever for the feelings of the victims," said James Rouse, a lawyer for the families, after learning of the Jefferson County sheriff's department decision on Tuesday.

The videotape -- a Littleton Fire Department training tape that includes 25 to 30 minutes of footage from surveillance cameras in the school cafeteria, was to be made available to the public starting this afternoon for a $25 fee. The package also includes two to three hours of news helicopter footage.

Sheriff's department spokesman Steve Davis said he could not comment on the decision to release the videotapes because it involves the families' lawsuit. A spokeswoman for the county attorney's office did not immediately return a call for comment today.

Rouse said part of the training tape is set to a pop-music soundtrack.

One of the songs, "If It Were Up To Me" by Cheryl Wheeler, includes the lines "Maybe it's the movies, maybe it's the books, Maybe it's the bullets, maybe it's the real crooks, Maybe it's the drugs, maybe it's the parents," and concludes: "Maybe it's the end, but I know one thing. If it were up to me, I'd take away the guns."

None of the surveillance camera tape shows students getting shot, Rouse said.

But he said the cafeteria tape does show students scattering as the gunman detonate a bomb and begin shooting.

In addition to the cafeteria scenes, the training tape includes footage taken later in the school library, where two seniors killed 10 of their 13 victims and themselves on April 20, 1999. The bodies were removed before the later footage was made, but there was still blood on the carpet and police tape showing bodies' locations, Rouse said.

The parents are "absolutely outraged and horrified. Each one of those pools of blood is where someone's child died or was seriously wounded," Rouse said today.

He also complained about the television news footage shot from a KCNC-TV helicopter. "It does show dead and wounded kids on the ground and rescue workers pulling the dead and wounded kids by their legs," Rouse said.

The Jefferson County sheriff's office was ordered Monday to turn the tapes over to six families who wanted the footage to support their claims that officers mishandled the shootings. They did so on Tuesday.

County Attorney Frank Hutfless then surprised the families by announcing that copies of the tapes also would be made available to the public.

"We really have less than 24 hours for the victims' families to review it and get over the shock," Rouse said Tuesday.

Phyllis Velasquez, whose son Kyle was killed at Columbine, wasn't surprised by the decision to release the tape.

"This is just how it's been for the past year. This is life on a daily basis for us, waiting to see what's next," she told KUSA-TV.

Littleton Fire Department officials have shown the training tape about 50 times at presentations across the country, including an International Association of Fire Chiefs meeting in Kansas City, Kan., last May, city spokeswoman Kelli Narde told the Rocky Mountain News.

"They've been everywhere," she said. "They've been from coast-to-coast and back again."

In the past year, the sheriff's office has angered Columbine families by circulating a portion of the cafeteria surveillance tape which eventually ended up on television and the Internet.

A 90-second segment was broadcast in October when it was leaked to CBS after being shown as part of a training video at a firefighters' seminar in Albuquerque, N.M.

Jefferson County Sheriff John P. Stone later called the release of the training video an embarrassment and ordered all copies returned to his office.

In December, Time magazine published a cover story based on five of the gunmen's own videotapes that the sheriff's office showed to a reporter. Stone maintained they were shown only for background purposes, which Time has denied.
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