Eric Harris wasn’t a problem student, so Columbine High School Principal Frank DeAngelis never met him.
But when he finally did encounter him, Harris was in a hallway blasting windows with a gun.
“I have flashbacks every time I walk down that corridor,” DeAngelis on Thursday told a state commission studying the April 20, 1999, massacre. “I thought I was going to die.”
Twelve students and one teacher were killed when Harris and Dylan Klebold opened fire. The teenage gunmen then committed suicide.
DeAngelis told the Governor’s Columbine Review Commission he had met Klebold when the teen was helping out with lighting for a school play. Both youths did well in class, participated in some extracurricular activities and stayed out of trouble at school, DeAngelis said.
“These kids were not an attendance problem. They had good grades, they integrated nicely,” he said.
No Prior Knowledge of Attack
When questioned about “red flags” — including essays and video depicting violence — that may have signaled the teens’ intent, DeAngelis said he had “the utmost confidence” that authorities had no prior knowledge of a planned attack.
DeAngelis gave a riveting account of the day’s events, beginning with an audiotape of the fire alarm, which rang for 4 ½ hours during the shootings and rescue.
After being alerted about the attack, DeAngelis said, he walked into a hallway and headed toward the library, where he encountered the student shooting at windows. He was wearing a white T-shirt, black vest and a baseball cap turned backward. DeAngelis said he later learned the gunman was Harris.
The principal is one of several members of the Jefferson County School District and law enforcement agencies who have been sued by the families of slain and injured students.
The victims’ relatives allege authorities should have heeded warning signs that the two students were going to take action and that the rescue was mishandled.
Sheriff John Stone and members of SWAT teams involved in the incident have refused to testify before the commission because of the lawsuits.