Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Outcasts Sank into a Netherworld Teens Thrilled by Violence, Nazi Symbols

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Outcasts Sank into a Netherworld Teens Thrilled by Violence, Nazi Symbols

Article excerpt

They hated jocks, admired Nazis and scorned normalcy. They fancied themselves devotees of the Gothic subculture, even though they thrilled to the violence denounced by much of that fantasy world. They were white supremacists but loved music by anti-racist rock bands.

Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were bright young men who became social outcasts at their suburban Denver high school, and then built their own internal society by plucking strands from the pop whirlwind of cyberspace and fantasy games, the soundtrack of American youth and a netherworld that glamorizes Nazi symbols and terrorist violence.

In the aftermath of a tragedy that demands explanation, Harris and Klebold -- the two Columbine High School juniors who killed 12 classmates and a teacher before killing themselves -- appear in death to have been anything but consistent. They were confused, angry kids drowning in a sea of lurid imagery and frightening violence.

`BIG SIGN OF TROUBLE'

An initial sketch of Harris and Klebold and the Trench Coat Mafia to which they claimed membership emerged yesterday from interviews with friends, fellow students and neighbors, and from police and school officials.

If the boys left behind any detailed explanation of their horrific final crimes, no one has found it yet.

Their peers thought them weird, and the boys made no effort to hide their obsessions. They wrote death poetry -- for their English class. They made a video about their new guns -- for a class at school. They shouted murderous slogans -- and posted them on America Online. They loved explosives and guns -- and talked about it to anyone who might listen.

In recent days, the pair seemed even odder than before -- at least in retrospect, students said.

"You would see them sort of marching down the hall together with their berets, dark glasses, their boots and their makeup or whatever it was," said Michael Staver, a 17-year-old junior. "They would make those sharp military turns and knock into anyone in their way. To me, I thought it was a big sign of trouble."

But Jefferson County Sheriff John Stone saw no clear indication that the pair was headed for disaster.

"Their behavior was unusual," he said. "They were being picked on by other kids because of their behavior, and their garb was unusual . . ., but I don't want to put a lot into that because a lot of kids wear dark clothing and Doc Martens."

Stone said he knew of no motive for the massacre other than "anger."

REFERENCES TO `4-20'

Nineteen days before they were to graduate, Harris and Klebold seemed inseparable and troublesome. In Columbine's hallways, they spoke broken German and referred often to "4-20," Adolf Hitler's birthday and the day they chose to attack.

Last year, they were arrested on a felony count of breaking into a car; a juvenile court sent them to a school counseling program. …

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