What you never knew about Columbine

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Dave Cullen's "Columbine" is a chilling page-turner, a striking accomplishment given that Cullen's likely readers almost certainly know how the tragic story ends. Twelve students and one beloved teacher died at the suburban Denver high school on April 20, 1999, the worst school shooting rampage until two years ago, when Cho Seung-Hui slaughtered 32 classmates at Virginia Tech....

In "Columbine," Cullen is surprisingly but appropriately modest (appropriately, because it makes the book better) about his own role in exploding trite Columbine myths. You'll read his book and learn that the smartest crime investigators were frustrated and bedeviled by national and local media jumping on specious favorite theories about the killers and their victims — theories that investigators knew from the beginning weren't true. The killers weren't part of the Trench Coat Mafia, they weren't gay, they didn't target jocks or minority students. Eric Harris was a psychopath, but Dylan Klebold was a depressive who'd shown little capacity for hatred and violence.

Maybe most explosive, against the backdrop of the strong suburban Denver evangelical culture, was the story that student Cassie Bernall was killed because of her Christian faith, after she said "yes" when Dylan Klebold asked if she believed in God. The tale simply wasn't true, despite the fact that Bernall's mother, Misty, and the girl's evangelical church launched an campaign around Cassie's martyrdom that culminated in Misty Bernall's moving memoir, "She Said Yes," which wound up on the New York Times bestseller list and won her interviews with "Larry King Live" and "The Today Show."

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