for his suicide.” Appearing as a government witness at the transfer hearing on August 8, several weeks later, the classmate changed the story, saying “He said that if he ever shot up a school or did something like that … he would put song lyrics to a band in his book bag so people would blame it on the band.” The classmate further identified the band in question as Korn. During his testimony, the classmate denied his earlier report that T.J. had been talking about suicide but admitted that the Korn lyrics in question were in fact about suicide.
It is not clear why the classmate changed his story, but, by conventional standards of social science research, the earlier investigation report has the greater credibility, on the basis of its immediate proximity to the events as well as by virtue of the way in which the account emerged during the natural flow of the conversation. Although the classmate’s alteration of his story later played a significant role in the outcomes of T.J.’s court cases, there is ample evidence from multiple sources both that T.J. was suicidal and that he was obsessed with Columbine. Columbine was, after all, a suicidal undertaking.
On May 19, 1999, the day before he opened fire at Heritage High School, T.J. had gone to school as usual. That afternoon around 4 p.m., T.J.’s sister discovered a pack of cigarettes in T.J.’s pocket and informed their mother. Later that evening, T.J.’s parents sat down with him for a discussion. A lecture regarding the health dangers of using tobacco turned more broadly to one about accepting responsibility for his actions and understanding the consequences of his behavior. Aside from this conversation, no punishment was given. At 10:00 p.m. the talk was finished and T.J. was sent to bed.
He put his favorite Korn CD on the stereo underneath his bed and, as he often did, set the player to “repeat.” He fell asleep listening to the suicidal lyrics that continued to play throughout the night.
The following morning, Thursday, May 20, 1999, precisely one month to the day after the Columbine killings, T.J. woke at 7:00 a.m. He sat up in bed and listened for a moment to the music that was still playing. As he usually did, he went out to get the newspaper and returned to the kitchen where his mother gave him his Ritalin medication. He then proceeded downstairs to get ready for school. While T.J. was downstairs, his sister and a friend were upstairs, getting ready to receive awards for academic achievement at a ceremony that day. T.J.’s mother was taking pictures of the girls as they prepared for their triumphant moment.
Meanwhile, downstairs at approximately 7:10 a.m., T.J. broke into his stepfather’s locked gun cabinet and selected a .22 caliber rifle and a .357