Facing Dylan and Eric: Ambush or Children Acting Bad
Thursday, April 22, 1999, early evening
Details were disclosed about events two days prior to the Columbine shooting. Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, the accused killers, had worked together at a local pizza shop. The media focused on the school's prom just the weekend before and on the people who knew Eric and Dylan.
While watching the newscast showing pictures of the accused killers and the pizza shop where they worked, I realized I had a recent experience with them. Nine months before the shootings at Columbine, I had responded to that pizza shop's request for telephone repair.
I arrived before the lunch rush. In the one large room that was separated into various workstations, a young man I later learned was Dylan was on the phone. As he hung up, he shouted to the pizza crew, "Eric is on his way back, and he's pissed."
Usually when a work crew hears the boss is returning soon, they increase their work activity. These teenagers froze, and then jumped to work at an extraordinary speed. That seemed to me a strange reaction and I wondered what caused their fear.
As I set down my tool case, Dylan asked me, "Who are you?"
"I'm here to fix the phones."
He aimed his index finger at me and said, "Eric is pissed at you, and he's going to kick your a**."
Dylan was a little taller and thinner than the average teenager and looked about sixteen years old. His combat boots stood out; most teenagers wore sneakers. I figured I was dealing with an arrogant child trying to intimidate me. Yet I also sensed possible danger. I had learned to recognize potentially dangerous situations, and I had seen children like him delight in senseless violent behavior.
At this point, other members of the work crew chimed in with a tone both of excitement and maliciousness that Eric was a bad a**. They were feeding on the fear, which they obviously hoped I felt. I contemplated leaving and calling management to report the extreme lack of courtesy. Instead, I repaired the phones, ignoring the danger I felt.
A few minutes later, Eric stormed in through the back door. Although shorter than Dylan, and about the same age, he acted like he owned the place. At the top of his lungs, like a bad drill instructor, Eric shouted at the two young men in the pizza preparation area. I knew then Eric wasn't a good assistant manager. I didn't hear exactly what he said to them because the acoustics of the walls muted his words. However the intense tone of his shouting cut through me, and the work crew flinched and trembled. Why did they let him terrorize them? I wondered.
I knew I was either dealing with a bad power game that could accelerate way over the top, or I was going to be physically assaulted. If Eric attempted to "kick my a**," I was taller and larger so I figured I could handle him, but if Dylan pitched in, with perhaps others in the work crew, that would have been very difficult. I also didn't expect any help from the rest of the boys because they were visibly locked in fear. I looked around the room for the kitchen knives and carefully watched for a gun.
Realizing a face-to-face confrontation would most likely result in an assault, I continued to work and deliberately turned my back toward Eric. If he, an underage teen, were to strike me, it would be better if he struck me from behind in case I had to explain to a judge why I defended myself.
Eric came toward me and Dylan whispered maliciously, "That's Eric. He's going to kick you're a**. Aren't you afraid?"
I wanted to slap Dylan's face. After all, I had carried an M16 before he was born. Instead, I said I was from New York and that I'd had all the fear beaten out of me a long time ago. The whole crew laughed.
"Eric doesn't want to mess with me," I said. "I don't work for this pizza shop," inferring that he could mess with the workers under him but not with me. "If he does mess with me," I said, "it'll make him a bad employee.
"Do you know the difference between a bad pizza-shop employee and a pizza?" I asked the idle work crew. The tension in the room went up, but the crew was delighted. This guy whom Eric was about to beat up was entertaining them.
"No," one of them said. "What?"
"The pizza doesn't scream when I throw it into the oven," I said.
They laughed, then silenced immediately. Eric walked up beside me and the tension peaked.
By this time, Dylan was on my left and Eric on my right. Eric said, "So you're from US West, huh?"
"No, I work for Telephone Warehouse."
The room remained silent. All eyes focused on me.
Eric sneered. "So you're some flunky from Telephone Warehouse, huh?"
I calmly replied, "No, actually I own the company."
"Oh, that's cool," Eric said with some respect.
The tension went down, and even though the boys had missed their first target, a US West repairman, and their second target, an ordinary worker, Eric and Dylan seemed satisfied with my entertaining reaction.
The crew went back to work and I spent five more minutes finishing the phone repair, and then deviated slightly from my usual exit procedure. I usually explained my completed work to a manager. In this case, I didn't recognize anyone in authority. Because of his behavior, I realized Eric wasn't even an assistant manager. He was only acting like a jerk. So, I went into the manager's small office and left a copy of the work order on his desk.
As I drove away, I felt very frustrated. Someone should do something about this situation. However, no laws had been broken and a report to management would have been useless since teenagers playing head games was nothing new.
Eric and Dylan had merely tried to stage an event to compromise some unlucky telephone worker. They had wanted to look like heroes against the big bad phone company who was known for poor repair service and had a bad reputation with the public.
I had faced physical fear with Eric and Dylan. Yet, thank God I had not shown any fear, because a predator can smell fear and attacks any sign of weakness.
I had stood up to the threat, but I didn't confront Eric or Dylan because the situation could have flared up and gotten out of control, and I was concerned for the safety of all the young workers in the pizza shop.
Now, after Columbine, I wonder if I could have made a difference and prevented the massacre.
If I'd had a gun, I do believe a different chain of events would have resulted, not necessarily a shootout but I would have felt more capable. Without the confidence of a concealed firearm, I could not act with command authority and challenge Eric or Dylan.
My first thought when I realized my safety could be compromised was that I didn't have a concealed pistol. My training may have prompted the instinctual reaction; however, I believed the Lord had laid the thought on my heart months earlier, just after facing the home intruders, that I should apply for a concealed weapon permit because I would need a pistol in a future situation.
The idea that God wanted me to carry a weapon possibly conflicts with some people's religious or moral beliefs. I can appreciate their point of view, however, when I consider how God helped David acquire the skill needed to use a sling-shot against Goliath, and how important that skill was to the battle's outcome, I can not be so sure the pacifists are always correct. So when I say that I believe God led me to acquire the skills and training needed to handle firearms and to face fearful situations with self-control, I feel my belief has some moral merit.
A Most Costly Sin
Did my failure to obey the Lord (by not applying for a concealed weapon permit and not reporting Eric and Dylan's altercation with me) contribute to fifteen people dying on April 20, 1999? I will always wonder if a report resulting in intervention therapy could have helped Eric and Dylan change their behavior.
Many people, including clergy, told me they did not believe I had sinned. I believe they were wrong. I did sin. My failure to spend a few minutes in private with Eric and Dylan, to discuss their behavior, meant my time was more important to me. Not reporting the incident was also wrong.
"Therefore, to one who knows the right (moral) thing to do and does not do it, to him it is a sin." (James 4:17, NASB).
One of the biggest problems in America is that people don't acknowledge their sins. Sin is always around us, and we have become desensitized to it. People sin every day without even realizing it.
When I look closely at even one of my day's activities, I see my many sins; for example, a traffic violation. Just because I don't get caught doesn't mean I didn't sin. (When I see someone else sinning and don't point it out, I am also sinning.)
I did Sin, but my sin did not cause the Columbine Tragedy. I have come to realize this - however, does that excuse my actions or non-actions?
What should I have done? Could I have made a difference?
Others could have also made a difference - friends, teachers, parents, and police. But they are not me. I am responsible for my own sins.
My sin was being apathetic which led to an indifference to where someone's sin may lead and as a result indirectly encouraging them to sin.
"If what I eat is going to make another Christian sin, I will never eat meat again as long as I live - for I don't want to make another Christian stumble." (Corinthians 8:13, NLT).
The sins of others are their own responsibility. Each of us chooses what we will do or not do. However, by our mutual sins we create a society in which such choices continue, sometimes falsely believing there is no recourse, sometimes not standing up, not taking the time, and not making the effort. Sins that go unchallenged condone that sin. Such apathy, especially about our children's problems, has contributed to the moral decline in American society.
I believe my sin led to the death of fifteen people but did not cause their deaths.
No one can take the guilt of this sin away from me. Only God can do that. When I recognize that I have sinned, I credit the Holy Spirit with making me aware of my transgression and guiding me to seek forgiveness. When I confess my sin to God, turn it over and seek His forgiveness, the Lord fills my heart and mind with serenity.
I wonder what America will do with sin? Will our society get better or worse? When we really want to be healed, we can — by changing our ways.
"If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from Heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land." (2 Chronicles 7:14, NIV).
I believe that if we care and are willing to act without fear (because we have looked to God for guidance) we can change society — by discouraging predatory behavior from developing in children.
Many good people are afraid of speaking out when they see children misbehaving. Perhaps they fear retaliation or do not consider it their own responsibility to point out other people's mistakes. Being apathetic to minor criminal behaviors has led to horrible tragedies. We have created a society that would rather tolerate minor criminal behavior than get involved.
American society has allowed our children to become dangerous. Children who grow up emotionally outcast, physically abused, or intentionally ignored will often develop a wounded spirit. An untreated wounded spirit can manifest later in life in the form of alcoholism, drug abuse, spousal abuse, criminal behavior, evil tendencies, and predatory actions. Many times those with a wounded spirit behave defiantly without knowing why.
"The human spirit can endure a sick body, but who can bear it if the spirit is crushed?" (Proverbs 18:14, NLT).
Perhaps the killers themselves didn't know how their crushed and wounded spirit influenced them until it was too late. Millions of loving people have prayed for something good to come out of the Columbine tragedy. Perhaps a positive legacy can be enhanced by preventing a wounded spirit in the children from manifesting into predatory behavior we know. We should never forget that fifteen people died that day and an element of innocence also died, hopefully not in vain.
After the tragedy many adults and adolescents all over America pleaded for change in our society and began seeking meaningful solutions to today's youth violence. To help those seeking answers Darrell Scott, father of two victims of the Columbine High School shooting, Craig and Rachel Scott, shared his testimony before a House of Representatives subcommittee on crime on Thursday, May 27, 1999.
Darrell Scott said, "I am here today to declare that Columbine was not just a tragedy - it was a spiritual event that should be forcing us to look at where the real blame lies! ...
I wrote a poem way before I knew I would be speaking here today.
Your laws ignore our deepest needs.
Your words are empty air.
You've stripped away our heritage.
You've outlawed simple prayer.
Now gunshots fill our classrooms.
And precious children die.
You seek for answers everywhere,
And ask the question "WHY"?
You regulate restrictive laws.
Through legislative creed.
Add yet you fail to understand.
That God is what we need!
"We do need a change of heart and an humble acknowledgment that this nation was founded on the principle of simple trust in God."
"Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding. In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; reverently fear and worship the Lord and turn [entirely] away from evil." (Proverbs 3:5-7, THE AMPLIFIED BIBLE, AMP).