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Report Raises Questions in Columbine Teen's Death

April 13, 2002|JULIE CART | TIMES STAFF WRITER

DENVER — The independent investigation charged with determining how Columbine student Dan Rohrbough died during the 1999 school shooting reportedly concludes the 15-year-old was not shot at close range. That finding allows for the possibility that Rohrbough was accidentally killed by police as the boy's parents contend.

The 1,200-page report from the El Paso County sheriff's office has not been released publicly, but the Rocky Mountain News reported Friday that Rohrbough's parents have been informed the new report contradicts a key finding in the original investigative report from Jefferson County officials.

That original report said Rohrbough fell to the ground, wounded, outside the school cafeteria. Then, the report said, gunman Dylan Klebold approached the teen and shot him at close range, killing him.

If the newspaper's report is true, it opens the possibility Rohrbough could have been caught in police cross-fire, from law enforcement officers at various positions surrounding the school.

Twelve students and one teacher were killed at Columbine, the worst school shooting ever in America. The two student gunmen, Klebold and Eric Harris, roamed the school, tossing bombs and gunning down classmates before taking their own lives in the school library.

Rohrbough's parents have long maintained their son was felled by friendly fire. It was their insistence on further investigation that prompted the current one.

In December, Jefferson County Sheriff John Stone asked El Paso County Sheriff John Anderson to conduct an independent investigation into the circumstances of Rohrbough's death.

The newspaper said it was not clear whether the report draws a conclusion as to who killed Rohrbough. Officials with El Paso and Jefferson counties would not comment on the report.

The significance of the new finding could launch more lawsuits from an incident that has already spawned dozens.

A lawsuit brought by Rohrbough's parents in which they allege an officer shot their son was dismissed in November in federal court here. But the family filed another suit a month later, naming a Denver police officer as the shooter. The officer has denied the allegation.

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