Two other students were shot but did not receive physical injury. One of the students was shielded from harm by her book bag, which she wore on her back; a single book held at chest level saved the other.
Soon after word of the shooting incident hit the airwaves, the media swarmed. By one estimate, there were 67 news agencies that rushed to the scene. Their equipment and trucks lined the roadways in the area surrounding the high school. Helicopters circled in the air. Several students provided interviews and information to the press.
In an effort to control the dissemination of information, school officials designated the athletic field house behind the school as the locale for press releases and briefings. Portable toilets were brought in to accommodate reporters and their crews. The phone lines were flooded by an enormous volume of calls to school and government offices by concerned community members. There was panic and increased awareness across all schools in the county. Several officials echoed the sentiment of one government leader who stated, “The shooting used every resource this community had.”
As the community grappled with the immediate aftermath of the incident, there emerged varying accounts of what T.J.’s supposed intentions had been. Early media portrayals of the incident indicated that he was distraught over the break up with a girlfriend. Others pointed to the idea that he had been bullied by classmates and had sought out revenge. Neither of these stories was found to be true.
In an interview with a psychologist while in custody, T.J. reported, “I just wanted to cause a big panic. I didn’t want to kill or hurt anyone. I wasn’t really aiming at anybody. I aimed at objects, not people—the wall, the floor, a cinder block. I was scared and was thinking I’m going to let it out and afterwards it’s going to be gone.” In another such interview, he said, “I didn’t really want to hit anybody…. It was as an accident as far as anybody getting hurt. That wasn’t supposed to happen.”
Prosecutors later discounted these subsequent statements as self-serving and contended that, while T.J. may not have been aiming at anyone in particular, the intent to inflict harm was still present. In support of this, one law enforcement official pointed out that while T.J. was shooting from the hip and aiming low, many if not most of the students in the commons area that morning were seated on the floor or on benches and as such were directly in harm’s way. Apart from the issue of how much harm T.J. intended, it is clear that he did not go there to single out any one person but rather shot randomly throughout the room.
Another statement by T.J. that later figured in his court proceedings emphasized how much he envied the attention that the Columbine killers got as a result of their deeds. He said that he was thinking of that when he acted.