Eric David Harris was born April 9, 1981 in Wichita, Kansas, to Wayne and Kathy Harris. At age 18, he killed himself on April 20, 1999 after slaughtering 13 and wounding dozens more at Columbine High School.
The Harris family moved from state to state, city to city before Eric reached high school, ultimately settling in Littleton, Colorado in 1993. Eric was 12 and had already attended numerous schools in several states.
The Harris’ were a middle class military family, nomads for years. Rootlessness was a problem for Eric Harris and he wrote about it in school papers. It angered him. He felt alone and lost, he wrote. Later, in his journals, he’d write extensively about not fitting in.
Much of what is known about Harris comes from the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office’s official report on the Columbine Massacre.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Harris Family Moved From State-to-State Finally Settling in Colorado in 1993. Eric Harris Later Wrote the Moves Left Him ‘Alone,’ ‘Lost,’ & ‘Agitated’
Wayne Harris was a decorated Air Force pilot who flew transport and refueling tanker aircraft. The family moved every few years: Ohio, Kansas, Michigan, and New York among the stops. In 1983, they moved to Beavercreek, Ohio. Harris was stationed at Wright Air Force Base. Eric and Kevin attended Valley Elementary School. In 1989, the family moved again, this time Harris was stationed at Wurtsmith Air Force Base on Lake Huron.
Wayne and Kathy Harris told investigators that as a child, Eric played soccer and baseball, and by middle school, he developed an interest in computers and soon, computer games and videos.
The family left Michigan and relocated to Plattsburgh, New York where Harris was stationed at Plattsburgh Air Force Base. While there, Eric attended Stafford Middle School where he was recalled as typical but extremely shy. After a few years there, Wayne Harris retired to Littleton, Colorado in 1993. Kathy took a part-time job in the food service industry and Wayne trained pilots at FlightSafety, then in Englewood, Colorado.
By that time, Eric had already attended five different schools.
In writing he did as high school English assignments, he described the schools, the friends he made, the fun he had and then the sadness and anger when he’d lose those friends to another move. In February of 1997, he wrote for Mrs. Caruther’s class a paper where he described the good times he had and then, the inevitable.
“It was the hardest moving from Plattsburgh. I have the most memories from there. When I left (his friends) I felt alone, lost and even agitated that I had spent so much time with them and now I have to go because of something I can’t stop. It doesn’t take long to make a friend but it takes only two words to lose one. Those are we’re moving … Losing a friend is almost the worst thing that can happen to a person especially in the childhood years. Every time I lost one I went through the worst days of my life …”
Harris, as transcribed from the Basement Tapes, blamed his father for moving the family forcing him to “start out at the bottom of the ladder,” in new schools as he tried to make friends. He said kids mocked him for his appearance and clothing.
2. A Few Years After Settling in Littleton, Harris Began Showing Signs of Being a Troubled Teenager
Settling in Colorado, Eric started classes at another new school, Ken Caryl Middle, where he met Dylan Klebold. The two would become close friends. They were into computers, video production and had a fascination with firearms, violent video games and as part of the Trench Coat Mafia gang, unhealthy preoccupation with Hitler. They planned the massacre to coincide with Hitler’s birthday.
In 1998, they were arrested and criminally charged after breaking into a van and stealing computers and computer parts. The charges were criminal mischief, breaking and entering, and theft. After convincing authorities that they were remorseful, the two were offered to have their criminal cases expunged if they successfully completed a juvenile diversion program, attended anger management classes and counseling and performed community service.
Afterward, the charges were dropped.
Harris wrote a letter of apology to the owners of the vehicle. But in his journal, he wrote, “Why shouldn’t we, the gods, have the right to break into a van that some motherfuc*er left in the middle of nowhere?!”
According to FBI reports, Harris was also stealing computer parts from the school.
3. Harris Began Writing in His Journal After the Arrest Where he Shared his Hatred of People & His Intentions to Kill
Wayne and Kathy Harris told investigators that Eric was “content to be by himself but also had close friends in high school.” His journals and online writing contradicted that account.
During the spring of 1998, a year before his and Klebold’s murderous rampage, Harris began writing a journal where he documented his hatred of mankind, his love of his own anger, his own superiority and his intentions to kill.
“I will sooner die than betray my own thoughts, but before I leave this worthless place, I will kill whoever I deem unfit…”
Harris said his desire to kill was no one’s fault but his.
“It’s my fault! Not my parents, not my brothers, not my friends, not my favorite bands, not computer games, not the media, it’s mine.” Harris wrote he was “…full of hate and I love it.”
4. Nicknamed ‘REB,” Harris Had Threatened a Friend, Brooks Brown. Police Investigated But Were Unable to Substantiate the Threats. Harris & Brown Reconciled & on the Day of the Massacre, Let Brown Escape
On March 18, 1998, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office took a “suspicious incident” report from Randy Brown, stating that his son, Brooks, had received death threats from Harris. These threats were reported to have been contained in Harris’ web pages. On his web pages, Harris also allegedly wrote about making and detonating pipe bombs and using them against people.
Brown requested that he and his family remain anonymous in making the report for fear of retribution, particularly to his son.
Sheriff’s investigators could not access Harris’ online pages and couldn’t substantiate reports of pipe bomb detonations. Harris and Brown later reconciled and on April 20, 1999, Harris allegedly told Brown, immediately prior to the shootings, to leave the school “because he (Harris) liked him (Brown).”
5. Harris Wrote His Parents Were Unaware of His Intentions, His Father Told 911 he Believed His Son Was Involved. A Criminal Psychological Profile Found Eric Harris to be a ‘Malevolent Psychopath’
The JCSO report includes numerous references to Harris’ journal entries and the entire journal has been transcribed and published. Read more about the journal here.
In a chilling entry, Harris wrote in his student planner a list of “things left to do” and in the calendar space for Mother’s Day for May of 1999, he wrote, “Good wombs have born bad sons.”
For more than a year prior, Wayne Harris had begun keeping a diary in a steno notebook titled simply, “Eric,” where he documented and opined on his son’s troubles. He wrote about the Brown allegations and the court case.
In the notebook, Wayne dismissed the allegations by classmate Brown who told police Eric was dangerous. Wayne Harris not only took his son’s side, but alleged that Brown was the problem and Eric an innocent.
“…we don’t want to be accused everytime something supposedly happens …Eric is not at fault. Brooks had problems manipulative & con artist.”
Before the massacre, Harris drew a diagram and timeline adding a notation: “I want to burn the world, I want to kill everyone except about 5 people… if we get busted any time, we start killing then and there…I ain’t going out without a fight.
On the morning of the rampage, Wayne Harris made a call to 911.
“Uh …my son is Eric Harris and I’m afraid that he might be involved in the shooting at Columbine High School.”
A 2009 College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University criminal personality profile of Harris, found that, based solely on his journal and online writing, that his behavior was consistent with sadism, “malignant narcissism, pathological narcissistic personality disorder with borderline and antisocial features, along with some paranoid traits, and unconstrained aggression.”
“With his core sadistic personality pattern, infused with antisocial and narcissistic features and a possible overlay of incipient paranoia, Eric Harris appears to be a close match for a malignant personality composite …’the malevolent antisocial,’” researchers concluded.
Harris’ journal confirms that he’d been planning mass murder for a year before April 20, 1999.