Ten years on, what really happened at Columbine

Colorado-based reporter Dave Cullen began reporting from Columbine on the very day that Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris entered the high school and started shooting. He spent the next nine years combing through police reports and the killers’ private journals, and conducting hundreds of interviews. Granted unprecedented access, he has emerged with a comprehensive, compulsively readable profile of the killers, the victims, and the surrounding community.

Cullen can be scathing: He suggests that the Jefferson County Sherriff’s Office covered up incriminating documents and accuses local evangelicals of using the massacre to draw converts. Nor does Cullen let himself off the hook — like other members of the media, he misreported a great many facts. But the book is no jeremiad. Cullen’s Klebold is a lonely depressive, and all too easily manipulated. Harris is a genuine psychopath, a natural-born killer. And yet, both boys emerge as three-dimensional human beings. Throughout, Cullen refuses to sensationalize: As an indirect participant in the day’s actions, he too has things to repent, and Columbine — which comes out on the eve of the massacre’s tenth anniversary — is his own, small act of contrition.

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