DENVER — The gunmen in the Columbine High massacre, not the sheriff's officers who responded to the rampage, should be held liable in the lawsuits filed against the officers by victims' families, the officers' attorney said Friday.
The attorney's position was a response to the lawsuits, which allege that negligence by the officers permitted the two gunmen to wound and kill students and a teacher at the Littleton, Colo., school in April 1999.
Friday's filing, a designation of an allegedly responsible person who is not listed as a defendant, is a standard legal means for trying to hold a non-defendant liable in a lawsuit, said an attorney familiar with the cases.
If the designation is successful at a trial, jurors would be able to hold Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the student gunmen, totally or partly liable for damages to the victims' families, the attorney said.
Fifteen Columbine families have sued the Jefferson County sheriff's officers, claiming that they failed to act sufficiently on early warning signs about Harris, 18, and Klebold, 17, and that the officers' response on the day of the rampage was so inadequate that victims were wounded or died needlessly.