Families of slain students, teacher, sue entertainment industry companies

Tuesday, April 24th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

DENVER (AP) _ The families of several victims in the Columbine massacre have filed a lawsuit against companies that create violent video games and sex-oriented Web sites, claiming their products influenced the gunmen.

The suit seeks $5 billion in punitive damages from 25 entertainment companies. It was filed on behalf of the family of slain teacher Dave Sanders and other Columbine victims in federal court.

Companies named in the lawsuit include Nintendo of America, Sega of America, Sony Computer Entertainment and Time Warner Inc., which is now AOL Time Warner, and ID Software Inc. and GT Interactive Software Corp., creators and publishers of the game ``Doom.''

During the investigation into the April 20, 1999, shooting, police found a videotape that shows one of the killers with a sawed-off shotgun on his lap he calls ``Arlene'' after a character in the ``Doom'' video game.

``Absent the combination of extremely violent video games and these boys' incredibly deep involvement, use of and addiction to these games and the boys' basic personalities, these murders and this massacre would not have occurred,'' said the lawsuit filed Thursday, a day before the two-year anniversary of the shootings.

Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold fatally shot Sanders and 12 students and wounded 23 others before killing themselves in the April 20, 1999, attack at Columbine High School.

ID Software Inc. of Mesquite, Texas, did not immediately respond Monday to a faxed request for comment. A Minneapolis phone number listed for GT Interactive Software Corp. was not in service.

A nearly identical lawsuit filed after Michael Carneal killed three Heath High School students in Paducah, Ky., in 1997, was dismissed last April. A federal judge there said video games are not subject to product liability laws.

Sega declined comment, issuing a statement that it had not seen the lawsuit. Nintendo said it does not comment on pending litigation.

``Doom'' is a target-shooting game. Other violent video games mentioned in the lawsuit include ``Quake'' and ``Redneck Rampage.''

The lawsuit also claims Klebold and Harris looked at sexually violent material on at least two Internet sites.