Eric Harris was born to parents Wayne Harris and Katherine ‘Kathy’ Poole Harris in Wichita, Kansas in 1981.
The family moved from state to state, city to city before Eric reached high school, ultimately settling in Littleton, Colorado in 1993. Eric was 12. His brother Kevin was three years his senior.
Not atypical, a former Midwest neighbor called them good people and a “nice looking family,” too.
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. But rather than moving forward, he was a slave to deepening resentment and anger and some have concluded, Harris evolved into a psychopath fixated on mass destruction.
Did Kathy and Wayne Harris suspect their son was a mass murderer in the making?
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Wayne Harris Was a U.S. Air Force Pilot & Katherine Harris Was a Stay-At-Home Mother. The Family Moved From State-to-State Finally Settling in Colorado in 1993
Wayne Harris was an 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.
Major Harris was a decorated airman earning the meritorious service medal, bronze service stars and oak leaf clusters.
When Eric was born in 1981, Wayne Harris worked at Boeing in Wichita, which closed in 2013.
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.
In a 2004 interview, former Harris family neighbor from Oscoda, Michigan, the Rev. William Stone, said that Eric attended third and fourth grades while in Oscoda. In the report, Stone said that while he didn’t know the kids well, he did know the parents, Kathy and Wayne describing them as “great neighbors” and a “good looking” family. Stone said Wayne was a good father who installed a “basketball net by the driveway and then he would be out there playing with his boys.” Stone said stay-at-home mother Kathy was “always friendly.”
“I always thought they were a wonderful family …I know the parents are just devastated over the whole thing,” he told a reporter, referring to the Columbine massacre.
Wayne Harris was a coach and Eric wrote about fishing with his father.
The family left Michigan and relocated to Plattsburgh, New York where Harris was stationed at Plattsburgh Air Force Base, a former United States Air Force Strategic Air Command base, which shuttered in 1995. While there, Eric attended Stafford Middle School where he was recalled as typical but extremely shy. Two years before it closed, Harris left the military after 20 years as cutbacks forced many into retirement. And so with his family, 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. Kevin Harris, 3 Years Older Than Eric, Graduated From Columbine High School & Then College, Joined the Military, Earned a Master’s Degree, Married & Had a Family
Wayne and Kathy Harris are also the parents of Eric’s older brother, Kevin. Three years older than Eric, when the family arrived in Colorado, Kevin enrolled at Columbine. There he played football. After graduating, he attended studied kinesiology at the University of Colorado, After graduating from college, he followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the military, albeit the Army and while enlisted, got his master’s degree.
Kevin married and has children.
3. A Few Years After Settling in Colorado, Wayne & Kathy Harris’ Son Showed 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 penned an apology letter 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?!”
Dad Wayne Harris documented the case and has repeated notations to counseling and psychiatric evaluations. It’s just not clear if those were endeavors to help Eric or fulfill his sentence.
According to FBI reports, Harris was also stealing computer parts from the school.
4. Wayne Harris Kept a Diary About Eric & His Troubles While His Son Was Building Bombs in the Family’s Basement, Creating an Arsenal & Planning Mass Murder
Wayne Harris kept a diary in a steno notebook. On the cover was printed “Eric.” The spiral-bound book documented and opined on Eric Harris’ troubles from allegations by neighbors about property damage to the felony case and repeated interactions with school officials, and, an issue between Eric and classmate Brooks Brown.
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.”
But the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, in its voluminous final report on the Columbine Massacre wrote that in March of 1998, it took a suspicious incident report from Randy Brown who said his son Brooks “had received death threats from Harris.” The threats were on Harris’ website and included descriptions about “making and detonating pipe bombs and using them against people …”
As has been widely reported and shared in Brooks’ book, he was often late picking up Eric Harris for school, which the latter wasn’t happy about. Brooks stopped giving him rides and Harris began a campaign of harassment including posting on his website, But authorities could not access his site and so were unable to substantiate the account. And that was that.
Brown and Harris would later reconcile and Harris allowed Brown to escape the massacre.
Brooks Brown would tell reporters that Eric Harris “lied about everything to his father and made him believe he was innocent and everyone else was the evil party.”
5. Parents of Massacre Victims & Survivors Said Wayne Harris Ignored Warning Signs. In His 911 Call, Harris Said he Suspected His Son Was Involved in the Massacre
Many were dubious that the Harris’ did not know what their son was up to. One, Brian Rohrbough, whose son Daniel was murdered by Harris and Klebold, pointed to the diary as being evidence that the father knew there was an issue with his son.
“It tells you this kid was dangerous. The premise that these are families that didn’t know what was going on in their homes is completely refuted by this journal…”
Harris said, as transcribed from the audio of videos he and Klebold made called The Basement Tapes, that his parents were either oblivious or chose to ignore what was occurring. He described when his father Wayne answered a phone call from a gun shop saying the “clips were in,” referring to ammunition. Wayne Harris said he hadn’t ordered clips and left it at that. And he spoke about carrying a bag, his “terrorist bag,” with a shotgun jutting out of the gym bag and his mother Kathy seeing it and saying nothing. He suggests she likely assumed it was a BB gun.
Many point to the 911 call made by Wayne Harris is all but an admission that he knew who his son was and of what he was capable.
“Uh …my son is Eric Harris and I’m afraid that he might be involved in the shooting at Columbine High School.”
Harris admitted that his son was a member of The Trench Coat Mafia. Read more about the TCM here.
Harris goes on to ask if police have “picked up anybody yet” involved in the shooting. He’s told not yet, police are still looking for the suspects.
On the day of the mass murder, before the bodies of Harris and Klebold were found, police searched the Harris home. They found explosives.
In its report, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office wrote that Klebold and Harris were identified as suspects and so officers were sent to their homes to “preserve evidence” as search warrants were applied for.
Wayne and Kathy Harris were at home. Police did a walk-through and located incendiary devices; bombs. The family was evacuated.
The search warrants were signed and the “searches were carried out even before the bodies of the two killers were found inside the school.”
The Harris’ moved away from Littleton, Colorado after the massacre. In April of 2000, they penned open letter:
“We continue to be profoundly saddened by the suffering of so many that has resulted from the acts of our son. We loved our son dearly, and search our souls daily for some glimmer of a reason why he would have done such a horrible thing. What he did was unforgivable and beyond our capacity to understand. The passage of time has yet to lessen the pain.
We are thankful to those who have kept us in their thoughts and prayers.
Wayne and Kathy Harris
– April 15, 2000”