District attorney asking for a coroner's inquest into 1999 death of Columbine student

Tuesday, January 15th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

GOLDEN, Colo. (AP) _ Prosecutors have requested a coroner's inquest into the death of a Columbine High School student whose parents claim was accidentally killed by an officer during the 1999 massacre.

Daniel Rohrbough's parents say he was shot by a Denver SWAT team member who rushed to the school after teen gunmen Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold began their April 20, 1999, assault. The sheriff's report on the shooting says Rohrbough was shot by Klebold.

Coroner Carl Blesch said he hoped to decide on the inquest request by Thursday.

Barry Arrington, the parents' lawyer, said Monday he would ask the coroner to delay an inquest until other investigative methods have been exhausted.

He said he favors the creation of a legislative commission that could issue subpoenas and take testimony in private, allowing witnesses to be more candid.

Jefferson County District Attorney Dave Thomas had earlier declined to call a grand jury. He said the coroner would have subpoena power, though not as extensive as a grand jury.

Daniel's father, Brian Rohrbough, said the call for an inquest ``is simply one more way to try to derail our efforts at finding the truth.''

Relatives of Columbine victims also have asked for a federal grand jury to investigate the slayings of 12 students and one teacher.

Jeff Dorschner, spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Denver, said the decision to request an inquest would not affect whether a grand jury would be convened.

Rohrbough claimed Denver police Sgt. Dan O'Shea told a school administrator he feared he may have shot a student, according to court papers.

But O'Shea's lawyer, David Bruno, said Monday his client didn't shoot anyone at Columbine and that the conversation with the administrator was misheard.

``What he said was, when there's a crowded building and shots are fired, his greatest fear is that he shot somebody,'' Bruno said.