LITTLETON, Colo. — While cautioning that no arrests are imminent, authorities investigating the 13 slayings at Columbine High School said Monday that they have questioned and released an 18-year-old girlfriend of one of the shooters as a possible link for how some of their firearms were acquired.
Sgt. Jim Parr of the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department said that the young woman is not considered a suspect, and that her association with gunman Dylan Klebold was just one of 200 leads officers were pursuing Monday.
But Dave Thomas, the county district attorney, indicated the teenager may have provided the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms with some crucial information about how weapons--which included two sawed-off shotguns, a semiautomatic handgun and a 9-millimeter rifle--made it into the hands of Klebold and his friend Eric Harris.
"There is a female associated with one of the suspects who may have had an involvement in supplying one of the weapons," Thomas said.
But exactly how close she may have been to Klebold and Harris is unclear. Said Chief Deputy Dist. Atty. Mark Pautler: "We don't know the relationship at this time."
Nevertheless, the 18-year-old is the first person cited by officials as having some possible knowledge of Harris' and Klebold's behavior in the year that they reportedly planned the school assault.
Law enforcement sources said that several students at the Littleton school have told them that Harris, 18, and Klebold, 17, were angry at school athletes and had talked about exacting some kind of revenge against the "jocks."
But, the sources said, they have not found anyone with the kind of intimate knowledge that could have stopped the April 20 shooting, or anyone who was directly involved in assembling bombs and acquiring weapons.
"Our primary goal and our primary job . . . is the successful prosecution of any suspects who may be named down the line," said Sheriff's Deputy Steve Davis. "We have to be concerned with any future litigation or criminal proceedings."
Authorities made it clear Monday that it could be weeks--or longer--before this case is wrapped up, with or without suspects other than Harris and Klebold, who officials said killed 12 students and a teacher before turning their guns on themselves.
Complicating the process is the fact that there are thousands of bullet holes, shell casings, bomb devices and components, computer records and other potential evidence that needs to be reviewed--along with more than 500 people police want to re-interview.
"It's not a fast process," Parr said. "It's not flashy. It's tedious."
In other developments Monday:
* A diary found in Harris' home, which laid out his plans with Klebold for attacking the school, also suggested that the youths had discussed hijacking an airplane and ordering it to crash land in a large city like New York.
Such a grandiose idea, said Sheriff's Lt. John Kiekbusch, is evidence that the teenagers "romanticized" killing scores of people.
* Bullet fragments in the school's kitchen area suggest to investigators that Harris and Klebold may have fired their guns at a large propane tank bomb placed there in the hopes of blowing it up and burning down the two-story school building.
"There are indications that they possibly tried to fire on that bomb," Davis said. "Whether it was a coincidence that some of the rounds hit close to it, or they were trying to hit it, we don't know."
He added that the youths seemed bent on a suicide mission, nothing that the diary did not include a specific plan for getting out of the building.
"I don't know of any," Davis said. "But there were cars [belonging to the shooters] in the parking lot."
* Randy Brown, the father of one of Harris' former friends at Columbine, said he repeatedly alerted the Sheriff's Department to hate- and violence-laced language that Harris posted in e-mail messages before the shooting.
Brown complained that the department shelved his complaints.
Davis and Parr acknowledged that Brown had forwarded some material to the Sheriff's Department last year. But they denied that authorities purposely ignored the material.
"I wouldn't say it was overlooked," Davis said. "We receive so many calls like that, and we try to check out the ones we can, obviously."
* David Kirchhoff, a facility coordinator at the Lakewood Link Recreation Center near Littleton, said he supervised Harris and Klebold last summer when they worked 45 hours of community service.
The youths had been placed in a juvenile diversion program after being arrested for burglarizing a car. Their main job was cleaning up facilities for local athletes, and Kirchhoff said that Harris and Klebold never seemed unhappy about that.
"They would clean up bathrooms, vacuum, sweep floors, pick up trash outside," he said. Harris, in particular, he added, was a "great worker."