Multiple Deaths at Colorado High School
Sheriff: As Many As 25 Dead, Including 2 Gunmen
By ROBERT WELLER
.c The Associated Press
LITTLETON, Colo. (April 20) -- Two young men in fatigues and black trench coats attacked students with guns and explosives in a suicide mission at a suburban Denver high school Tuesday, and the sheriff said 25 people may have been killed. The gunmen were found dead in the library.
Several students said the killers - believed to be former students at Columbine High School - were gunning for minorities and athletes.
The gunmen were found dead with devices on them that authorities said could be bombs.
''It appears to be a suicide mission,'' Sheriff John Stone said.
At least 20 people were wounded at the 11:30 a.m. attack. Shots ricocheted off lockers as the gunmen opened fire with what students said were automatic weapons. One girl was shot nine times in the chest.
''At first we thought it was fireworks, then we saw them shooting,'' said Jake Apoeaca, 16. ''He saw us and then he started shooting at us. Then a guy in a white T-shirt threw two hand grenades on the roof. We hit the ground and then we started running.''
Many students dived to the floors and sprinted for the exits. Dozens of students hid in classrooms before escaping with the help of police in an armored car. Others were trapped for hours while SWAT teams searched for the gunmen.
At one point, a bloodied young man dangled from a second-floor window, his right arm limp, and was helped down by two SWAT team members. His condition was not immediately known.
The sheriff said 25 people may have been killed, students and teachers alike. But by early evening, officers had yet to remove any bodies because of the danger of explosives and the need to preserve evidence. FBI agents and police SWAT teams slowly made their way through the building.
A third young man was led away from the school in handcuffs more than four hours after the attack. Sheriff's spokesman Steve Davis said that suspect was believed to be a friend of the gunmen but did not take part in the attack.
Wes Lammers, 17, was among several students who said the gunmen were targeting minorities and athletes at the 1,800-student high school.
Other students said the killers might have been part of a group of eight to 10 students who wear black trench coats every day and are known as the ''Trench Coat Mafia.''
''They are jerks,'' said Jason Greer, 16. ''They are really strange, but I've never seen them do anything violent.''
For hours after the attack, wounded victims lay inside the building and police were unable to get to them.
Outside, hundreds of officers from throughout the Denver area surrounded the school. Frantic parents were sent to a nearby elementary school, where they searched for word of their children. Some students had called their parents on cellular phones from inside the building.
Teen-agers hugged parents and each other and wept and they recalled the shootings.
As TV images of the scene were broadcast nationwide, helicopter ambulances used a sports field as a landing pad, and officers in helmets and camouflage gear took cover behind squad cars. Students who fled the building wept and held their hands above their heads while police frisked them.
Three youths wearing black - but not trench coats - were stopped by police in a field near the school. The Colorado Bureau of Investigation said the three were friends of the gunmen who were being taken in for questioning.
Witnesses said the shootings took place around the school, including in the cafeteria and library.
''We heard the gunshots and we were running,'' said Kaley Boyle, a junior.
''They walked down the stairs and they started shooting people,'' said a student who gave her name as Janine. ''We didn't think it was real and then we saw blood.'' Her voice broke with anguish as she spoke.
She said it was two young men, wearing black trench coats.
''They were shooting people and throwing grenades and stuff,'' she said. ''Me and my friends got to my car and drove off. ... We saw three people get shot. They were just shooting. Then something blew up.''
Columbine High is in the middle-class suburb of Littleton, population 35,000, southwest of Denver. Nearby schools were locked down, with students prohibited from entering or leaving for hours.
Littleton became the latest American community shocked by school violence. Since 1997, a series of school shootings have led to calls for tighter security and closer monitoring of troubled students.
Two people were killed in an attack at a school in Pearl, Miss., three at West Paducah, Ky., five at Jonesboro, Ark., and two in Springfield, Ore.
Baseball's Colorado Rockies and basketball's Denver Nuggets postponed their Tuesday night games.
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