Klebold family plans to sue Jeffco
Parents say Columbine attack was preventable
By Kevin Vaughan
Denver Rocky Mountain News Staff Writer
Dylan Klebold's parents intend to sue Jefferson County for failing to prevent their son from carrying out the Columbine High shootings.
Families of the following people have filed notices that they intend to sue either Jefferson County or the Jefferson County School District:
Richard Castaldo, wounded.
Steven Curnow, killed.
Kelly Fleming, killed.
Sean Graves, wounded.
Patrick Ireland, wounded.
Matthew Kechter, killed.
Lance Kirklin, wounded.
Dylan Klebold, gunman.
Jeanna Park, wounded.
Daniel Rohrbough, killed.
Kacey Ruegsegger, wounded.
Valeen Schnurr, wounded.
Isaiah Shoels, killed.
Mark Taylor, wounded.
Evan Todd, wounded.
Lauren Townsend, killed.
Kyle Velasquez, killed.
In three cases, paperwork hadn't been filed with authorities on Friday but could be in the mail.
County officials were "reckless, willful and wanton" in the way they handled a 1998 police report about Eric Harris' Internet ravings, according to a "notice of intent to sue" filed Friday by Susan and Thomas Klebold.
"It's rather astonishing that the Klebolds would hold the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department responsible for their own son's behavior," said Bill Tuthill, assistant county attorney.
Lisa Simon, a spokeswoman for the Klebolds, said the family would not discuss their claim. The Klebolds' attorney, Gary Lozow, could not be reached for comment.
Dylan Klebold carried out the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history with another Columbine student, Eric Harris. They killed 13 people and wounded more than 20 before killing themselves.
The Klebolds' notice makes extensive mention of a March 1998 police report filed with the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department.
In the report, Randy and Judy Brown accused Harris of threatening to kill their son, Brooks. The Browns also reported that Harris was operating a Web page, on which he wrote about building pipe bombs and carrying out mass murder.
The Klebolds said that the sheriff's department failed to act on the report. Had deputies followed through, the Klebolds contend, the parents would likely have "become aware of dangers of which they were not aware" and that they would have stopped contact between their son and Harris.
Sheriff's officials declined to comment.
Friday was the deadline for serving a notice of possible legal action in the Columbine High tragedy, which is required under Colorado law before a civil lawsuit can be filed.
Jefferson County and the school district have received claims on behalf of 14 people killed or injured in the attack on the school. Three other families said they would file the documents, though they weren't received by officials Friday.
Documents sent by certified mail postmarked Friday are considered filed by the deadline.
The Klebolds, who have already been sued by the family of Columbine victim Isaiah Shoels, said they may seek damages "no greater" than those sought against them.
Judy Brown, a family friend of the Klebolds, said she supports the Klebolds' stance.
"I'm glad, because the sheriff's department has been withholding some information about the Web pages, and maybe now the truth will be forced to come out," she said, accusing authorities of withholding portions of the police report.
Brian Rohrbough, whose son, Daniel, was killed outside the school, said the Klebolds' claim "seems reasonable to me."
"I understand why they think that, and I think they have a legitimate reason to have that point of view," he said. "Clearly, if the sheriff's department had done what would have been expected of them, I think everything that happened April 20 would have been avoided."
Shoels' family, however, was outraged.
Sam Riddle, spokesman for the family, called the notice "totally ludicrous."
"The Klebolds are out of order," he said. "The only way they could have prevented this is had they been in control of their household."
Officials for Jefferson County School District had no comment.
Some other families decided not to keep the option of a lawsuit alive.
"We talked about it -- just keeping our options open -- but decided not to do it," said Shane Nielson, whose wife, Patti Nielson, suffered a gunshot wound in the April 20 attack.
The family of Cassie Bernall, who was killed in the Columbine library, also did not file a notice.
"We just made a family decision," said Brad Bernall, the girl's father.
Additional reporting by staff writer April M. Washington.
October 16, 1999