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2 Columbine Parents Sue Former Deputy

September 06, 2002|From Associated Press

DENVER — The parents of a student killed during the Columbine massacre are suing a former Arapahoe County sheriff's deputy who told them he saw the boy shot.

In the lawsuit, Daniel Rohrbough's parents, Brian Rohrbough and Sue Petrone, accuse James Taylor of lying when he told them he saw Daniel shot during the April 20, 1999, attack and in later denying that he ever said he witnessed the boy's death.

Taylor's statements about the shooting, secretly recorded by Petrone a year after the shooting, were part of the evidence that led Rohrbough and Petrone to allege that their son was fatally shot by a Denver police officer.

The assertion prompted an independent investigation by the El Paso County Sheriff's Office. It determined that Eric Harris, who helped plot the massacre, fired the fatal shot.

The lawsuit accuses Taylor of telling "false and outrageous lies" to Rohrbough and Petrone about the death of their son and for failing to recant the statements once it became clear they would be the basis of a federal lawsuit. It seeks unspecified damages and a trial before a jury.

Taylor could not immediately be reached for comment.

Daniel Rohrbough was 15 years old when he was shot and killed along with 11 other students and a teacher. Harris and Dylan Klebold also wounded more than 20 others before killing themselves.

According to the lawsuit, on several occasions Taylor told Rohrbough and Petrone, longtime family friends, that he saw the boy shot and killed. He said he didn't know it was Daniel until the day after the rampage, when Petrone showed him an aerial picture in a newspaper of the boy dead on a sidewalk outside the school.

In the April 2000 taped conversation, Taylor told the same story. Though Taylor never said he saw a police officer fire, his version of events, including the timing of the boy's death and the location of officers at the school, led the parents to form their theory, according to the lawsuit.

Based in part on that conversation, Rohrbough and Petrone sued Jefferson County authorities, accusing an unnamed law officer of accidentally killing Daniel in the confusion of Columbine. They did not name Taylor as their source.

After a federal judge dismissed the lawsuit, the couple tried to revive the suit by naming Taylor. Taylor then told his boss that he never said anything to the Rohrbough family about seeing shots fired at Columbine. He was fired after Rohrbough and Petrone produced the tape.

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