13-years after the killings at Columbine high school rocked the nation, and the sleepy mountain town of Littleton, Colorado. Many questions still remain unanswered, as one man tries to put the past behind him.
On April 20, 1999 the nation fixed its sights on Columbine high school. Watching as two boys, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold went on a 50-minute killing spree that left 12 students and one teacher dead, before turning the guns on themselves.
Brooks Brown, now 31 years-old was a senior at Columbine during what was considered to be the worst school shooting in U.S. history. He was also very close friends with the killers. Brown can recall the final encounter he had with one of them the morning of the massacre.
After one of his classes, Brown went outside to smoke a cigarette. A habit he said he routinely followed throughout the year. When he noticed Eric Harris pull into the school parking lot. He immediately walked over to scold Harris for missing a test that morning. The conversation he said, still haunts him to this day.
“I don't know why he didn’t shoot me right there,” Brown said.
One year prior to the massacre at Columbine. Brown and Harris had a falling-out, when Harris threw a block of ice at his car, chipping Brown’s windshield. Shortly after, Brown discovered that Harris had also posted a death threat directed towards him on a web-page.
On his web-page, Harris wrote out a fantasy where he planned to plant explosives throughout Littleton and begin shooting people as they ran through the streets in panic. He also described a shoot-out with police.
“I don’t care if I live or die,” Harris wrote, “All I want to do is kill and injure as many of you as I can, especially Brooks Brown.”
Brown showed his parents the web-page that also featured descriptions of pipe bombs Harris and Klebold claimed to be making. The Browns filed a report with the sheriff’s department. And according to Brook’s father Randy Brown, the department said they had enough evidence to begin drafting an affidavit for a search warrant on Harris’ home. But the warrant was never issued.
“I have theories about why he didn’t want to kill me that morning.” Brown said, “Psychologically he was trying to 'kill the school', and not any specific person. I was a specific person so he couldn't think about killing me.”
Instead, Brown said Harris told him “Brooks, I like you now. Get out of here. Go home.”
Brown quickly left the school unaware of his friend’s intentions. Feeling puzzled by Harris’ words, he walked away from the parking lot. Then a few moments later could begin to hear the first sounds of gunshots behind him. Fearing that his friend Klebold was also involved, Brown ran to a neighbor’s house to contact the police.
In his book, no easy answers: the truth behind death at Columbine. Brown writes he was later accused of being involved in the massacre by Jefferson County Sheriff John Stone. Brown’s parents believed Stone used their son as a scapegoat while he planned to silence them from shedding light on the report they filed about Harris just one year prior—it was just the beginning of Brown’s hellish nightmare.
Soon he received death threats from people on a regular basis. Often feeling like an outsider, Brown was shunned from his community. He eventually complied with police, undergoing a lie-detector test which he passed.
From day one, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s department had been scrutinized for its overlapping shortcomings the day of the shooting. Parents of victims blame the department for not responding quickly enough the day of the attack, misinforming the media and the public on the number of the dead, and not contacting parents of children who had been killed.
Brian Rohrbough did not find out his son Daniel had been shot to death until the next morning. Once he saw a picture of his son’s lifeless body on the front page of a newspaper.
In Nov. 2000, the Jefferson County sheriff’s Department was ordered to release evidence about the investigation. In response to the court order, they released an 11,000 page document packed with evidence previously withheld from the public. Among the evidence, were hand-written journals from both Harris and Klebold.
However, the evidence failed to provide a sense of closure to some victim’s families, including the Brown family. Who eagerly awaited the release of the report they filed on Harris just one-year prior to the massacre. But that day never came.
In 2001, a judge finally ordered the release of the drafted affidavit search warrant on Harris’ home. But the Jefferson County Sherriff’s department allegedly could not locate the document. Claiming it had simply “disappeared.” To this day, the whereabouts of the document that could have potentially saved a dozen lives, and prevented the massacre from even occurring, are unknown.
Since that horrific day at Columbine, in the affluent suburb of Littleton, CO. Brown has tried to make sense of the final conversation with Harris just moments before the shooting. Even after being called a murderer for being friends with both the killers, and later accused of being involved simply because he was let go. Despite all of that, Brown has managed to put that terrible day at Columbine and the personal hell that followed, behind him.
“Time,” he said “Time and caring, and wonderful friends who helped me grow past it.”
Although, he admits there isn’t a day that goes by when he isn’t reminded of those haunting last words.
“Brooks, I like you now. Get out of here. Go home.”