Prosecutors reject calls for grand jury over allegations police shot Columbine student

Friday, January 4th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

DENVER (AP) _ The family of a slain Columbine student will formally request a federal grand jury investigation into claims he was accidentally killed by a police officer during the 1999 massacre.

Federal and County prosecutors refused Thursday to look into allegations that Daniel Rohrbough was killed by the officer, saying there was no reason to believe any crime was committed.

Lawyer Barry Arrington said Thursday he would make an official request of U.S. Attorney John Suthers by Monday.

Arrington said the Columbine tragedy falls within federal bounds because it deals with an alleged conspiracy by the Jefferson County sheriff's office to conceal the family's constitutional rights.

``Deprivation of life is a violation of the Constitution,'' Arrington said.

Gov. Bill Owens also made a push for a grand jury investigation after prosecutors said they were declining to convene the panel.

``A grand jury investigation may be helpful in resolving the continuing controversies surrounding Columbine,'' Owens said in a statement.

U.S. Attorney John Suthers said no one had formally requested a federal investigation and no federal crimes have been alleged.

``You have to believe there was criminal conduct to convene a grand jury. We have no reason to believe there was anything criminal that took place during the investigation,'' said Pam Russell, spokeswoman for Jefferson County District Attorney Dave Thomas.

Columbine students Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris killed 12 students and a teacher during the April 20, 1999, attack before committing suicide, authorities said.

The parents of some slain students have said they have proof that an officer accidentally shot Rohrbough and that authorities tried to conceal it.

During a news conference Wednesday, the student's father, Brian Rohrbough, played a tape recording of a voice he identified as Arapahoe County sheriff's Deputy Jim Taylor describing the shooting. The man on the tape says he was dispatched to Columbine when gunfire broke out.

``I'm right there and I see this through my window ... You could hear glass breaking, you could see kids running everywhere, and that's when I see the boy coming down the sidewalk, you know, and I see him just fall down,'' the voice says. The man says he recognized the boy as Rohrbough's son through a photo in a newspaper the next day.

Brian Rohrbough said the recording was made without Taylor's knowledge 11 months after the shootings during dinner with Daniel Rohrbough's mother, Sue Petrone, and her husband, a longtime friend of Taylor's.

In a statement taken by the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office on Monday, Taylor said the only thing he told the Petrones was what he had seen on television and read in newspapers. Taylor did not return calls left with the sheriff's office seeking comment Thursday.

Arapahoe County Sheriff Pat Sullivan said he was disturbed by the apparent contradictions and had asked to meet with Brian Rohrbough.