Columbine prepares to mark second anniversary of attack

Friday, April 20th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

DENVER (AP) _ Beth Nimmo tries to avoid television news coverage of the Columbine High School shooting anniversary. The painful memories of losing her daughter, Rachel Scott, are too much to bear.

``It's hard to really believe that two years have passed since we haven't had Rachel,'' Nimmo said. ``We have to be in this for the long haul, it's not a quick fix.''

Nimmo and other relatives and friends of the victims hoped to continue the healing process during a memorial service at a park near the school Friday, the second anniversary of the deadly attack. A moment of silence was to be observed at 11:21 a.m., the time the shooting rampage began.

Students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold stormed Columbine High, near Littleton, on April 20, 1999, scattering gunfire and setting off pipe bombs. They killed 12 classmates and a teacher and wounded 26 before committing suicide in the school's library.

The anniversary comes one day after nearly three dozen families of Columbine victims agreed to a $2.5 million settlement of their lawsuits against the gunmen's parents and the providers of a gun used in the massacre.

Attorney Stephen Wahlberg said the timing of the settlement so close to the anniversary was coincidental.

``Whenever you deal with 36 families, five defendants and eight or nine insurance companies, things don't move that quickly.''

A parent who did not settle, Brian Rohrbough, said the timing was cruel.

``My son's dead. I don't care if this takes me 20 years to get the answers. I'm not going anywhere,'' said Rohrbough, who lost his son Daniel in the shootings.

The families are also in settlement talks with Robyn Anderson, a friend who legally bought the other three weapons used by Harris and Klebold at a gun show four months before the attack.

Lawsuits are pending against the sheriff's office, the school district and the operator of the gun show.

New information about the shooting also has come to light in recent weeks.

Jefferson County sheriff's officials have released, under a court order, a search warrant for Harris' home that was drafted a year before the attack. Investigators were hoping to link Harris to violent Internet rantings and pipe bombs that had been set off in a nearby field.

Officials also released the transcript of an interview with school-based sheriff's deputy Neil Gardner, who told investigators hours after the attack that he did not recognize Harris when the two exchanged gunfire.

Days later, the sheriff's office issued a public statement that said Gardner had engaged Harris, Klebold and several of their friends in conversation prior to the attack.

Sheriff's spokeswoman Kathi Grider has declined to comment on the affidavit or the Gardner interview transcript, citing pending lawsuits.

Several family members who have sued the sheriff's office and school district hope the material will boost their allegations that they ignored advance warnings of the attack and mishandled the rescue. The two agencies have denied the accusations.

``This is the first tangible thing that the public has been able to see that cannot be explained away as some kind of mistake,'' Rohrbough said.

In a related development Thursday, two state lawmakers introduced a bill that would raise the legal age to 21 to purchase handguns in Colorado.

``On this somber anniversary, it only seems right to once again tackle the issue of reasonable and sensible gun control,'' Rep. Peter Groff said.