LITTLETON, Colo. (AP) â€” A week after observing the first anniversary of the Columbine school massacre, students and teachers were grieving today for a star basketball player who committed suicide at his home.
Six counselors were at the school to offer help, and substitute teachers were on call to fill in for staff members who wanted to stay home, said Jefferson County School District spokeswoman Rick Kaufman.
``It's a somber mood at Columbine High School,'' Kaufman said. He did not know how many students were absent, but said it was ``a fair number.''
The death Thursday of Columbine junior Greg Barnes, 17, was the latest tragedy to strike the school. A source who spoke on condition of anonymity told The Associated Press that Barnes hanged himself.
Kaufman confirmed the death, but declined to give details.
``We are bound by legal constraints of what the coroner was going to release,'' Kaufman said. ``I can tell you it did not happen at school, it did not involve guns, and the student was in school last year on April 20th.''
The sheriff's office and the Jefferson County coroner declined to provide additional details. ``Some things should remain confidential to the family,'' Coroner Nancy Bodelson said.
Varsity basketball coach Rudy Martin met with his players at the Barnes home.
``I didn't know what to tell them,'' Martin said. ``I don't know what to tell my own kids. For two years, their hero has been Greg Barnes.''
He said he had no inkling Barnes was suicidal. ``He stopped in and talked almost every day,'' Martin said.
Barnes told Sports Illustrated last year that he saw teacher and coach Dave Sanders, who died in the rampage, ``take two shots, right in front of me.'' He said he was in a science room and saw Sanders get shot through a window in the door.
Barnes was also a good friend of one of the dead students, Matt Kechter.
``Matt always waited by the mailbox for his little brother to come home from school,'' Barnes told The Associated Press after the shooting. ``He was the most innocent person I knew.''
``We're really praying for his family,'' said Kechter's mother, Ann. ``We know how incredibly painful this is going to be for his family and what they're going to have to go through.''
But grief counselors cautioned against automatically linking Barnes' death to the Columbine shootings, or to other tragedies that followed, including the suicide of a wounded student's mother and the slayings of two Columbine sweethearts at a restaurant.
``It's important that we recognize these things as separate incidents,'' said Tom Olbrich of the Jefferson Center for Mental Health.
Sophomore Jamie Conwell said several students who saw Barnes at about 11 a.m. Thursday saw no signs of despondency.
``When is all of this going to end?'' Conwell asked. ``It seems like every time we start to get over things, something else happens. This is all so unbelievable.''
The 6-foot-5 Barnes led Columbine's basketball team into the semifinals of the state championship and had a 26.2-points-per-game average. The Denver Post and the Denver Rocky Mountain News named him to their all-state teams.
Gary Osse, former basketball coach at Columbine rival Chatfield High School, said Barnes may have been the best player in the state heading into his senior year.