Findings of the Threats Team

    On April 26, 1999 the Columbine Task Force was developed and teams of responsibility were designated to handle different aspects of the investigation. One of the teams was the Threats Team.  Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office Sergeant Richard Webb led this team.

    The team’s responsibility was to immediately respond to critical incidents and threats, which were fed into the investigation command post through a variety of sources.  Immediately after the shooting on April 20, the command post received numerous reports of additional attacks that were to occur at other schools in the metro area as well as schools outside the state.  Each of these incidents was followed up to assure each report was resolved.  It is important to mention that many threats and problems that arose in the aftermath of the Columbine shootings were not reported to or handled by the Columbine Task Force.  The majority of these incidents, nationwide, were followed up by the jurisdiction in which they occurred.

    Of particular note, three other school shootings occurred shortly after the Columbine shootings.  The first was in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on April 23; the second was in Taber, Alberta Canada on April 28, and the last was in Conyers, Georgia on May 20, 1999.


    The Threats team followed up on 256 leads, resulting in eight arrests.  Two arrests were the result of bomb threats at two local high schools and one arrest was for manufacturing bomb components at another local high school.  Another arrest was made of an individual trespassing at Columbine High School while it was still a crime scene.  A Columbine High School student was arrested for inciting destruction of life and property after threatening to “finish the job” and another individual was charged with disorderly conduct after making several statements about blowing up his former high school.  Two arrests were made in Canada for uttering threats towards a high school in Ontario. 

    Additionally, the leads investigated by the threats team resulted in 11 students being expelled from local schools for making inflammatory and inappropriate statements which alarmed staff and / or students.

    As the investigation continued, additional evidence was obtained which indicated Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris had identified numerous individuals who they had disliked for a variety of reasons.  The names were found on computer generated lists, in Harris’ 1998 yearbook and referenced in videotapes made by Harris and Klebold. 

    The names of these 67 individuals were compared to those injured and killed at Columbine to determine if they were victims. Only one was actually injured.  He suffered injuries to his hand and knee.

    Other responsibilities of the threats team were to respond to bomb threats at other schools, threats of additional assaults, suspicious activity, threats to witnesses, and individuals believed to have prior knowledge of the shooting.  The threats team also followed up on Internet threats which were reassigned by the Computer / Internet Team. 

    After the shootings at Columbine High School, many individuals from across the nation claimed to be associates or members of the Trench Coat Mafia (TCM).  The task force had already determined that the TCM was a loose group of individuals who were current or past students of Columbine High School. The small group of friends had been given the name in 1998 and was not a gang as commonly defined.  The Associate Team investigated those individuals who were actually associated with Harris and Klebold and the threats team followed up on those individuals who were most likely not associates of the TCM.

    During the first three weeks after the shootings, numerous bomb threats were called in to schools within Jefferson County.  The command post was also notified of other bomb threats to schools within the state as well as nationwide.  Several of these threats claimed association with the Trench Coat Mafia; however, no connection was found in any of the threats.

    In October 1999, Sheriff’s deputies initiated a threat investigation after a Columbine student reported hearing another juvenile claim that he intended to attack the school.  As word of the threat spread, many students decided not to attend school the day of the planned attack.  Investigators interviewed the juvenile suspect and collected evidence that led to the filing of felony criminal charges with the District Attorney.  The juvenile case has since been concluded.

    Also in October, threatening communications were sent to the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office and Columbine High School.  An Assistant United States Attorney brought federal charges against Arthur Leon Thomas of Houston, Texas, who was interviewed and admitted to writing and mailing the two threat letters as well as sending a threatening internet message to an individual in Broomfield, Colorado.  In January of 2000, Thomas appeared in Denver federal court and entered a plea of not guilty.  Thomas is scheduled to appear on May 4 in a hearing for a change in his plea.

    Another internet threat was made to a Columbine High School student by a Florida man.  Michael Ian Campbell of Cape Coral, Florida, was charged with one count of transmitting a threat in interstate communications and was subsequently arrested.  He pled guilty in Federal District Court on February 9, 2000 to the same charge. Campbell was sentenced on Friday, April 28, 2000 to 4 months in Federal Prison, and 3 years of probation after release from prison.    Campbell was banned from using any Internet or electronic messaging service.

Lead break down for the Columbine Task Force Threats Team