July 6 — The following excerpts from the Columbine shooting 911 tapes, just released, show the confusion, anguish and attempts by law enforcement to deal with the unfolding situation:
Call from teacher Patti Nielson hiding in library with children.
Nielson: The school is in a panic. And I’m in the library. I’ve got students, under the table. Kids! Kids under the table! Kids are screaming …. We need police here. …
Nielson: He turned the gun straight at us and shot and my God, the window went out. And the kid standing there with us, I think, I, he got hit. (Sound of gunshots.) Oh God! Oh God! …
Nielson: He’s outside of this hall … He’s in the hall … There are alarms and things going off, there’s smoke, my God, smoke is like coming … I’ve got the kids under the tables here, I don’t know what is happening in the rest of the building.
‘Stay on the Line’ Dispatcher: I just want you to stay on the line with me, we need to know what’s going on. O.K.?
Nielson: O.K … (shouting) I want every student in this library on the floor and you better stay on the floor!
Dispatcher: Is there any way you can lock the doors?
Nielson: Smoke is coming in from out there and I’m a little afraid. (Sound of gunshots.) The gun is right outside the library door. O.K.? I don’t think I’m going out there.”
Dispatcher: We have paramedics, we have fire and we have police en route.
Nielson: I can’t believe he’s not out of bullets. He just keeps shooting and shooting and shooting.
Dispatcher: We’ve got a police officer on scene. Just try and keep the kids in the library calm. Is there anyway you can block the door so no one can get in?
Nielson: I do not …. Yeah, I guess I can try to go, but he’s right outside that door. I’m afraid to go.…
‘I Can Hear Them Screaming’ Some time later, police officers talking to each other by phone, a mix of voices.
We have found so many explosive devices … including several car bombs, things like that. We’re waiting to clear those …. We sent SWAT in with some paramedics and everybody that’s inside the school is confirmed D.O.A. … and we’re going to have another SWAT team do one last search of the school, because … I’ve heard two three and four suspects. We have two dead suspects in there. But I just want to be one hundred percent sure that there’s in no way anyone left in that school. … Apparently a faculty member inside the school talking to police, describing the situation facing some of the students who are hiding and speaking to the students at the same time.
Police officer: Yeah, there’s a lot of screaming right outside their door…
Teacher on phone, overheard talking to students: Get down.. Stay down. Stay down until the police come to you.
Officer to teacher: We don’t have anybody in custody.
Teacher: I can hear them screaming. …
‘Don’t Let Him Close His Eyes’
Call between teacher who is hiding with students and communicating with other hidden students in the science area. Those students are trying to save the life of teacher Dave Sanders.
Teacher: O.K. They are in the science area in rooms one, two and three.
Dispatcher: Rooms one, two and three. O.K.? About how many people?
Teacher: There are about twenty to thirty students and faculty members there. They’ve got the rooms locked up. The kids who are running with the shotguns also have Molotov-type cocktail bombs. … One of the faculty is injured; he was shot in the jaw. And they are having very much difficulty in controlling the bleeding.
Dispatcher: O.K. So he was shot in the jaw?
Dispatcher: O.K. Where is he now?
Teacher: He is in science room number three.
Dispatcher: Are they applying some pressure to the jaw area?
Teacher: Yes, they are.
Dispatcher: Is he breathing?
Teacher: Yes, he is. They’ve got him elevated…the best they can. They’ve got some Band-Aids. They’re not Band-Aids, but they have cloth …to try to control the bleeding. But they are having difficulty stopping the bleeding. He’s bleeding out of the mouth.
Dispatcher: Don’t let him close his eyes. …
Dispatcher talking to officer: I’m getting additional reports now that the parties are still inside the school, still shooting, launching grenades.
Police command to officers: Have SWAT when they get to headquarters, pick a staging area down south …
Dispatcher talking to officer who is talking to hidden kids on cell phone: My officers that are in the school trying to find the kids … on the cellphone.… Tell them to start yelling so he can find them.…
Ambulance traffic addressing SWAT teams searching for Sanders: We are still in contact with some patients via cell phone in the school. … The tact team is aware of their location, it’s just going to be a while before they get to them.