|NMU||COLORADO||Freedom of Information||Apr 19, 2000|
Judge orders limited release of Columbine evidence
- Families of victims in the Columbine High School shootings will be able to view reports and evidence before a final report is released, so that they may determine whether they want to sue officials over the handling of the events.
A state trial court judge has ordered the release of a preliminary report, videotapes and copies of Emergency-911 tapes to the families of the victims in last year’s shooting rampage at Columbine High School in Littleton.
Attorneys for the Rohrbough and Fleming families filed suit last week after the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office denied their request for the documents under the state’s Open Records Act. Families of three other victims also intervened in the case. The documents were needed, the families said, to determine whether to file suits against law-enforcement personnel before the one-year statute of limitations expired April 20.
The sheriff’s office said releasing the information before the investigation report was complete would be premature and could jeopardize on-going investigations.
On April 17, Jefferson County District Judge Brooke Jackson initially ordered the information released to the Rohrbough and Fleming families but said they could not make copies or discuss the information with others. Jackson later chastised the sheriff’s office for not making the report available until 11:30 a.m. on April 18. He also ordered that the information be released to the families of the other 11 victims.
The family of one of the victims, Isaiah Shoels, already has filed suit against the sheriff’s office, and other families are expected to follow this week. Some families have questioned whether the sheriff’s office and other law-enforcement and emergency personnel responded quickly enough to the shootings, in which teen-agers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 12 other students and a teacher before turning their guns on themselves.
In January, Sheriff John Stone filed suit in federal court in Denver seeking a determination of whether the school surveillance tapes and home videos made by the two gunmen were subject to the state’s Open Records Act or federal copyright law. No action has been taken in that case.
(Fleming v. Stone)
© 2000 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press