Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A&E Documentary Tries to Help Us Understand Columbine

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A&E Documentary Tries to Help Us Understand Columbine

Article excerpt

Byline: Nancy McAlister, Times-Union staff writer

It has been three years since two teens killed a dozen fellow students and a teacher at Columbine High School in Colorado, and experts are still trying to figure out the reasons for the killings.

In tonight's documentary Columbine: Understanding Why (10 p.m., A&E), forensic psychiatrist Park Dietz concludes that a major factor leading up to the shooting rampage by Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold was Harris receiving word he had been turned down by the Marines.

"That's the loss of all his hopes and dreams," Dietz says in the program during a roundtable discussion with other members of the Threat Assessment Group of Newport Beach, Calif. At the request of the district attorney's office in Littleton, Colo., the experts performed a "psychiatric autopsy" of the two teens.

But in results released this week to the public, the group emphasizes there was no single cause for behavior of the teens and so no single entity to blame. Forensic psychologist Steven Pitt called it a multi-system breakdown; there were multiple indicators that should have alerted a lot of people, from school officials and law enforcement agencies to friends and parents.

"To us, that's a big piece," Pitt said in a phone interview, referring to the Marine Corps rejection. "The fact we have it independently corroborated was good enough data for us. It makes us believe Eric knew prior to April 20, 1999, that he was not admitted." But there were other pieces to the puzzle, too, he said, including anti-social behavior of Harris and Klebold.

Pitt and fellow members of the threat assessment group, including a former FBI profiler, traveled to Littleton this fall as part of two years of research into why the killings occurred and how to prevent a similar event from happening again. …

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