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COLUMBINE GRAND JURY CONVENES – PANEL INVESTIGATING LAWMEN’S CONDUCT, MISSING DOCUMENTS

COLUMBINE GRAND JURY CONVENES – PANEL INVESTIGATING LAWMEN’S CONDUCT, MISSING DOCUMENTS
 
Rocky Mountain News (CO) – Saturday, August 7, 2004
Author/Byline: Kevin Vaughan And Jeff Kass, Rocky Mountain News
Staff writer Clayton Woullard contributed to this report.
Edition: Final
Section: News
Page: 3A
A state grand jury investigating the Columbine case huddled behind closed doors all day Friday, taking testimony from current and former Jefferson County sheriff’s officials.

Among those who appeared under subpoena were former Sheriff John Stone, former Undersheriff John Dunaway and former Lt. John Kiekbusch.

All three are at the center of allegations from a former deputy that officials deceived the public after the Columbine High School shootings about the department’s previous dealings with killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold.

The grand jury – a body of citizens who take testimony in secret and decide whether evidence of criminal wrongdoing exists – is looking into missing investigative files and activity logs as well as the conduct of top sheriff’s officials before and after the April 20, 1999, Columbine attack.

The new probe is an extension of an investigation launched last year by Attorney General Ken Salazar.

“Generally, a grand jury does not convene unless a criminal charge is contemplated,” said Craig Silverman, a Denver legal analyst.

State grand juries, according to Salazar’s office, are called when there is a need to investigate and prosecute crimes without regard to county or judicial district boundaries, in cases involving organized crime, in cases involving criminal activity in more than one judicial district, in instances that present unusual difficulties, or in matters that the attorney general has the power to prosecute.

The grand jury in the Columbine case is being run by Deputy Attorney General Michael Goodbee.

He declined to discuss the proceedings Friday, as did all those who were called to testify.

Stone accused Salazar this week of using the grand jury to garner support for his U.S. Senate bid. Stone is a Republican; Salazar is a Democrat.

Stone, who lives in the metro area; Dunaway, who lives in Florida; and Kiekbusch, who works in the Washington, D.C., area, all entered the Denver City and County Building after noon Friday to appear before the grand jury.

Also appearing at different points during the day were Mike Guerra, a Jefferson County deputy; Steve Davis, a former deputy and department spokesman; Ray Fleer, undersheriff; and Jeff Shrader, a division chief in the department.

At the heart of the grand jury investigation is a missing file on Harris, compiled by Guerra in 1998.

Guerra was one of the investigators assigned to a report filed by Columbine parents Randy and Judy Brown that Harris had posted violent writings on the Internet, had threatened to kill their son and was building pipe bombs with Klebold. Guerra helped write a draft search warrant for Harris’ home in 1998 that was never taken to a judge and never executed.

Last fall, after a previously undisclosed 1997 report about Harris and Klebold surfaced in a notebook, investigators from Salazar’s office were unable to find Guerra’s file and some of his daily activity logs.

Another former investigator, John Hicks, alleged late last year to attorney general’s investigators that Stone, Dunaway and Kiekbusch had lied to the public about the department’s dealings with Harris and Klebold before the attack on the school, which left a dozen students and a teacher dead and more than 20 others wounded. Harris and Klebold ended their own lives at the school.

It was not known Friday if Hicks will be called before the grand jury. He was not seen in the City and County Building.

Those who did appear before the grand jury worked to evade reporters as they slipped into and out of the grand jury’s room in the basement of the 1920s building. A second entrance in a first-floor hallway allowed witnesses access to the room.

“Oh, we’re just here on a little traffic case,” said one attorney, who refused to identify himself.

At one point Friday afternoon, Randy Brown went to the City and County Building to observe what he could.

A few minutes later, Dunaway and his attorney left the grand jury room, and a reporter asked the former undersheriff if he had any comment on his testimony.

“No,” Dunaway replied.

Brown, who has quarreled with the department ever since Stone suggested that his son could have been involved in the plot on the school, yelled at Dunaway at that point.

“Any comment about lying about my son?” Brown hollered.

Dunaway stopped and turned to face Brown.

“I’m Randy Brown,” Brown said.

“Mr. Brown,” Dunaway replied, “I have never lied about your son, and I have no comment.”

At that point, Dunaway turned and left with his attorney.

Brooks Brown was cleared of any wrongdoing, but Randy and Judy Brown have remained among the department’s biggest critics.

The news that a grand jury had been convened was welcomed by the victims’ families.

“This is something that should have been done already,” said Michael Shoels, who lost his 18-year-old son, Isaiah, in the school library.

He called the sheriff’s department’s actions after Columbine “frightening.”

“They knew it was a major cover-up,” he said.

Brian Rohrbough, whose son, Dan, was killed outside the school, said he is holding out hope that the grand jury compares information it gathers with information uncovered during a civil lawsuit filed against the killers’ parents.

“For the grand jury to be successful, you have to ask all the right questions and have the information available,” he said, referring to depositions of the killers’ parents and other materials related to Columbine lawsuits now sealed in a courthouse evidence room. “I’m not sure they have that.”

Denver legal analyst Scott Robinson said it may be unusual, but not unprecedented, for a case to go before a grand jury so long after the fact.

“It’s hard to believe that we’re still trying to get to the bottom of what happened,” Robinson said.

INFOBOX

At the grand jury

Those who appeared Friday included:

* John Stone, former sheriff

* John Dunaway, former undersheriff

* John Kiekbusch, former sheriff’s lieutenant

* Mike Guerra, sheriff’s deputy

* Ray Fleer, undersheriff

* Jeff Shrader, division chief

* Steve Davis, former deputy and department spokesman

Memo: Headline p.1A – Jeffco lawmen appear before grand jury.
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