Cradling a sawed-off shotgun in his lap, Eric Harris glares into the video camera. He takes a pull from a bottle of Jack Daniel’s and winces. Then he talks about the pathetic losers involved in school shootings in Oregon and Kentucky. The Westword weekly newspaper in Denver says the footage was shot in the weeks before the rampage at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999, that left fifteen dead and seriously injured two dozen more. The tapes have been sitting in an evidence vault for seven years, seen by almost no one — except, of course, a small army of cops, attorneys, reporters, victims’ families, expert witnesses, and assorted hangers-on.
The Colorado Supreme Court last fall has said that the tapes are part of the “records” generated by the Columbine investigation. Jefferson County Sheriff Ted Mink must decide if their dissemination is still “contrary to the public interest” — thus prolonging a five-year court battle with the Denver Post. Mink has postponed announcing his decision until after the seventh anniversary of the massacre next week — out of respect, his office says, for the victims’ families, some of whom have pushed for the release of the materials while others have opposed it. If history is any guide, he will oppose the release, sending the controversy back to court. “The Sheriff’s Office is fearful that release of this information would not help the public but could potentially cause another one of these attacks,” a prosecutor said in 2002.