From Westword (Denver): They were the most notorious yet least-seen artifacts from one of the worst school shootings in American history — roughly four hours of home videos made by two teenage killers-to-be, shot in the last weeks of their lives and offering glimpses into the methods and motives behind the 1999 attack on Columbine High School that killed thirteen people and seriously injured two dozen more. The so-called “basement tapes” of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold have been the subject of intense litigation and media speculation, morbid curiosity and outrage, half-baked psychoanalysis and earnest requests from violence-prevention researchers to make them available for study.
And now they’re history — but not the way the gunmen thought they would be.
Law enforcement officials have always regarded the tapes as a particularly infectious form of toxic waste, a primer in mass murder that could inspire more violence and must never be released. That’s no longer a problem: A spokesperson for the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, the agency that took custody of the videos hours after the shootings, recently confirmed that every known copy of the basement tapes has been destroyed.
“I am not aware of any copies that are out there in anyone’s hands,” says Jacki Kelley, the JCSO public information director. “We actually held on to a lot of evidence from the Columbine investigation longer than our retention policies require.”
Kelley says Sheriff Ted Mink approved the destruction of the tapes — along with shell casings, weapons and other remaining Columbine evidence — in early 2011. The obliteration of the videos was only acknowledged recently, though, after a private party filed an open records request seeking access to the basement tapes. A response from the county attorney’s office noted that the sheriff’s office “no longer has any documents in its possession responsive to your request.”
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