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Video From Columbine Massacre Aired
Scenes From School Cafeteria Shown on Network TV

Oct. 12, 1999

By Amy Worden

LITTLETON, Colo. ( -- A portion of the surveillance tape that captured images in the cafeteria of Columbine High School during the nation's bloodiest school shooting and was being held by authorities as evidence was seen by millions of Americans tonight on network television.

The edited two-minute tape, broadcast on the CBS Evening News tonight, shows the panic that ensued in the April 20 attack as scores of students dived under tables as the first explosives went off. Teachers are seen running for help and soon students begin fleeing the cafeteria. In the two most gripping moments, one of the gunmen dives across the floor just before an explosion occurs. Seconds later, another figure is seen firing a shot at what was believed to be a propane bomb.

School officials late today released a statement expressing regret that the tape was shown on television.

"We're very disappointed because we're concerned about the students and staff," said Marilyn Saltzman, a district spokeswoman.

She said students and staff have undergone post-traumatic counseling, and counselors have said graphic images of the incident could re-victimize them.

Part of safety seminar

The tape first aired in Albuquerque, N.M., at noon Monday on KRQE-TV after a news photographer on assignment at a safety seminar for school administrators wandered into an auditorium where the video was being shown.

Photographer Bill Diven said he had no idea as he started recording that the tape was going to be significant. "We didn't know that it hadn't aired yet."

The tape ran as part of a video on the conference on KRQE, not as an exclusive on the Columbine massacre. "We did not do the 'We have the video' story," he said.

Diven said no one told him not to shoot during the showing of the video, nor did anyone ask for his tape afterward.

Deemed newsworthy

KRQE News Director Dan Salamone said there was a "short discussion" about whether to air the tape Monday, but executives decided it was news and it was appropriate for their viewers.

"It's newsworthy," he said. "It's telling what transpired in the cafeteria. There are a lot of holes, but lots can be learned from it."

The CBS affiliate in Denver declined to air the tape out of deference to its viewers. KRQE's Salamone said he doesn't blame them for the decision, but "in Albuquerque we're more removed from it."

Not intended for the public

Officials with the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office confirmed to today that the tape was distributed specifically for a law enforcement seminar and was "never intended" for public use.

New Mexico Tech, where the video was being shown to about 35 school administrators and police personnel, said it had "no intention" of distributing the material to the media and general public.

"This material has not been released publicly out of respect for the victims and their families," the school said in a statement.

'It was compelling and dramatic'

But Salamone maintains by airing it at a university, the tape was already in the public domain. "It was compelling and dramatic and sobering. It is what it is."

In April, Jefferson County authorities sent the tape to the FBI laboratory at Quantico, Va., for analysis, but the conclusion was that it offered little in the way of helpful information about the shooting. Still, Jefferson County authorities said they would not release the tape until after the Columbine investigation was complete.

Diven said while the video shows no blood or carnage, it's "compelling because of the context, because everyone knows what happened."

No one died in the cafeteria, but in all, 15 lives were lost in the shooting.

Amy Worden is an staff writer ( Keith Coffman, an correspondent in Colorado, contributed to this report.