On the eve of the 20th anniversary of the worst school shooting in Colorado, Greeley resident Bob Miller remembers past experiences at the Columbine Commission.


REPORT – On March 14, 2018, in an archival photograph, an orange ribbon adorns a fence after it was attached by a student during a strike to protest the gun violence on the ground. Football field located behind Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. Across the country, courses are expected to be completed Friday, on the occasion of the 19th anniversary of the shooting at Columbine, during their last gun control campaign. But they will not protest at the Colorado school where the violence took place. (AP Phoot / David Zalubowski, File)

One day in early 2000, Bob Miller, a resident of Greeley, was returning home from work in Denver.

The head of litigation at LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & McRae, Miller had previously been appointed by Governor Bill Owens to the Columbine Commission, a 10-member working group tasked with reviewing the intervention efforts of Emergency following one of the worst shootings in the school. checked in. As usual, Miller stopped at his parents' home in Greeley's central house to chat before going to his home across the street.

Miller's father, Robert "Hack" Miller, wanted to know more about his son's day.

Miller told his father what he had learned at the commission's hearing that day: more than 1,000 staff members from 17 police departments, sheriff's offices, fire departments, ambulance and hospitals responded to the scene. Despite all these resources, it took 45 minutes before the first officers entered the school and several hours before the large complex was cleared.

"I do not know what these cops have been waiting for so long," said Hack in his unmistakable Midwestern style. "Why did not they just go there and take those guys away?"

"That was an issue that was already preoccupying committee members," said Miller on Friday, but it was the first time that she was worded so clearly.

"We all had high caliber consultants and a lot of talented talent on commission, and I had here that usual guy who had just been at the heart of the problem for me," Miller said.

On April 20, 1999, two students from Columbine High School, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, went to school with the intention of killing as many students and teachers as possible in a class. pre-established suicide mission. They were armed with a semi-automatic pistol, two shotguns and a rifle, as well as two propane bombs and nearly 100 homemade bombs.

Before lunch, Klebold and Harris hid two duffel bags containing propane bombs in the cafeteria. Faked timers, the bombs would explode during the first lunch period, while no less than 500 students would be in the cafeteria.

Their hope was that the explosion would cause a fire. They were mowing the survivors as they fled outside the cafeteria, panicked.

But the bombs never exploded. Harris and Klebold decided to just go into school and start shooting.

The first shots rang out at 11:19. About 45 minutes later, 13 students and teachers were dead. Twenty-four others were injured or injured. Klebold and Harris also died returning their guns.

It was in the fall of 1999 when Miller learned about the Columbine Commission's existence. Troy Eid, Chief Governor of Owens, called and asked Miller if he would attend.

Miller has been a public servant for over 21 years. He was Judge Advocate General of the US Air Force before becoming the first full-time District Attorney for Weld County, en route to a nomination to the presidency of the Colorado US Attorney, post he had occupied since 1981. -1988. But he had been out of public life for over ten years and saw in the commission a new opportunity to give back to the people of Colorado.

"I have always been passionate about enforcing the law and being a prosecutor for 18 years in Weld County and as a US prosecutor," said Miller. "If I could help with this experience, I was more than willing to do it. I was excited about it. "

In May 2001, the Columbine Commission released its 174-page report in which it made about two dozen recommendations aimed at preventing or responding to future large-scale shootings. The two most notable are emergency communications and tactics used on the scene.

When the police arrived in Columbine for the first time on April 20, 1999, late in the morning, they assumed they were dealing with a hostage crisis and relied on the tried and true method of establishing a perimeter to contain the damage and then establish contact with the suspects inside the school.

What the officers did not know and could not know at the time was Harris and Klebold had no intention of leaving Columbine High School alive. The wasted time setting up a perimeter gave Klebold and Harris more time to search for more casualties.

Although a large number of officers responded to the scene, they came from different agencies with their own radio communication frequencies. The inability of an officer of an organization to communicate with an officer of another has only added to the confusion and made it almost impossible for the coordination of rescue operations.

Since then, the commission has been touted for paving the way for new rules of engagement to address the threat posed by active shooters to the public. Known as Immediate Immediate Deployment, this tactic calls law enforcement officers to immediately attack gunfire and neutralize the threat.

The commission is also recognized for laying the groundwork for the development of a state-wide communications system, in which emergency responders can tap and coordinate operations during the day. Events involving many victims.

"The problem with hindsight from this experience is that it was almost 20 years ago," Miller said. "It was so new at the time, but it looks like we were living at a time when these shootings occur every two weeks.

"It's hard to quantify, but I think the work of the commission has saved lives – I'm sure of that – and I'm honored to have played a small role in the process."

– Joe Moylan covers crime and public safety for The Greeley Tribune. Contact him at [email protected], at (970) 392-4467 or on Twitter @JoeMoylan.

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