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Fire breaks out near school on Columbine killings anniversary

The Southwest Plaza Mall is evacuated after a small fire erupts in the food court on the 12th anniversary of the Columbine High shootings in Colorado. Authorities find two propane tanks and a pipe bomb.

April 21, 2011|Nicholas Riccardi, Los Angeles Times

Reporting from Denver — On the 12th anniversary of the Columbine massacre, authorities evacuated a busy mall near the infamous high school Wednesday after extinguishing a small fire in the food court and finding two propane tanks and a pipe bomb.

There was no public evidence tying the act to the 1999 shooting spree at Columbine High School, in which two student gunmen killed 13 people before committing suicide. But the linkage was on the minds of local officials.

"It's hard to ignore that it's an anniversary," said Jacki Kelley, a spokeswoman for the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department.

The fire at the Southwest Plaza Mall started just before noon. The sheriff's department evacuated the mall, which at its peak has about 10,000 shoppers, after finding the propane tanks and bomb near the fire.

Jefferson County put 25 of its schools on lockdown, allowing people to enter and leave only through one entrance. Columbine High was already closed for the anniversary of the rampage, in which Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 12 students and one teacher before turning their weapons on themselves.

Federal agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were at the mall Wednesday evening. Investigators were reviewing surveillance tapes to try to determine who started the fire and left the devices.

nicholas.riccardi@latimes.com

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