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Columbine Photo Shows Radio-Equipped Custodian Tried to Save the Day
Security video of the Columbine High School massacre shows a custodian talking on his portable radio in the cafeteria 2 minutes before Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold entered the school library where they murdered 10 students and wounded 12 others.
Although the custodian had valuable details about the panic and shooting rampage unfolding inside the school, his information could not reach first responders outside because his radio could not communicate with theirs.
Chuck Burdick, the first Incident Commander at Columbine on that day 12 years ago, presented the image to a 13-member House Education Committee as part of his testimony in support of new legislation introduced by Senator Steve King that would authorize Colorado schools to open a direct line of communication with first responders during a school crisis.
The image, a single frame from footage recorded by the cafeteria video system, also shows student backpacks and bags scattered among the tables, and the timestamp and date: "11:27:20-95 AM 04/20/99." Minutes before, Harris and Klebold had planted in the cafeteria two large duffle bags containing bombs set to explode at 11:17 am, then took position outside the school building to watch the explosion.
According to the 2001 Report of the Governor's Columbine Review Commission, Harris and Klebold intended to "kill as many teachers and fellow students as possible, first, by planting and detonating two 20-pound propane bombs in the school cafeteria and then by shooting survivors fleeing the inferno they hoped to create."
When the bombs failed to ignite, the shooters approached the school to execute their victims one-by-one at close range.
"Two minutes after this image was captured, Harris and Klebold embarked on an uninterrupted 7-minute shooting spree in the Columbine High School library," Burdick said as he submitted copies of the photo to the members of the Committee.
The inability of radio-equipped school staff to share what they knew with those who could rescue them prompted King to draft SB11-173, concerning interoperable communications in schools. After passing the Senate, the bill was brought before the House Education Committee by a bipartisan team, Representatives Rhonda Fields and Bob Gardner.
Following the testimony of Burdick and several other supporters and participating state agencies, the Committee voted unanimously in favor of the measure. The bill now advances to the House floor for second reading on Thursday.
The Education Committee Report, along with Burdick's video image and the 2001 Report of the Governor's Columbine Review Commission are available for download at SchoolSafetySummit.org, a website launched by King for Colorado school safety stakeholders and community partners.