The Guy(s) on the Roof
Soon after the Columbine massacre commenced, police began to receive word that a shooter may be on the roof of the school. Austin Eubanks(18 ), Penny Zerr(5212), Nathan Vanderau(4677), and Lisa Forgan(3008 ) were warned about rooftop gunmen by police. Alicia Deejniczak's dad(5067) overhears on a police radio that " 'There was a shooter on the roof and they were throwing bombs.' Finally, a supervisor in a white car told the officer to turn down the radio."
Other students claimed to have actually seen a possible gunman on the roof. Jessica Lucero(1508 ) says she saw a black-dressed gunman on the roof. Candice Cushman(2794) sees a guy with a black trench coat on the roof-- "He was aiming a gun." Michelle Fox(5194) sees a person on the roof wearing white 15 yards from the west side, holding a long object-- "She thought he was shooting." On the eastern edge, above the math hall entry way, Lindsay Conwell(2760) also sees someone on the roof. Eric Sunde's(4573) friend "Rusty"(NFI) sees two guys on the roof as he's driving out of the parking lot, then the back window of his car is shot out. And Shelby Myers(3862) possibly hears gunfire origonating from the roof, as she flees from the main entrance.
After fleeing gunshots in the cafeteria, Phillip Vanderau(see map on page5991) runs down the gym hallway upstairs to the northwest exit doors. He sees dirt come up by his feet, which he thinks is from gunshots. By this time H&K were supposed to be inside the school, so these shots have to origonate from a third shooter lingering on the west edge of the school or.... from someone on the roof. And let's not forget firefighter Phillip Tkacz, who says he saw a picture that showed spent shell casings up on the roof.
Who was up on the roof? Trista Fogerty(1420) says a sophomore named "Scott"(NFI) said he saw Eric Harris go through the custodian's roof access and then go out onto the roof. Officially, though, the only person up on the roof that day(before a 1:40pm entry to the roof by Lakewood PD) was HVAC service person Chris Clarke(745). He tells us that he was up there to fix a leak above the girl's locker room on the northwest edge of the building, although teacher Barbara Ann Hirokawa(5460) says she was told by one of the 'county maintenance guys' that he was there to repair the dark room fan located above her photography class on the eastern side of the school.
In his initial interview on 4-20 he told the IOs he was INSIDE the school when the shooting broke out, and that he ran up the custodian's roof access to escape. In a later interview, he says he was already on top of the roof when the first shots were heard, and that he used the roof hatch in the HALLWAY-just north of the library. At any rate he doesn't see any shooters when he finally peers over the edge, nor does he mention running to the east side of the school, which is where people in the math/science classes hear running and thumping sounds above them(see Nichols 3907. Steele 2201, Morris 1569, and Mar 2029).
Clarke says he stayed put until "a uniformed police officer pulled a van alongside the school and helped him off the roof"(by the north side of the school). Odd that he doesn't recognize his own service van, which DPO Wayne DePew commandeered, with the keys conveniently in the ignition, to rescue him. Odd too that no other police officer/first responder saw this rooftop rescue taking place, including the ones that DePew(7990) says were with him at this time.
A final thought:
DPO Gutierrez(8010) is on the west side of Columbine when he sees "one student (who) jumped from the roof of the school building and apparently broke his hip. He tried to run but he couldn't and began crawling." Gutierrrez pulls him into the front seat of this patrol car and takes him and other students to triage. We never get to his name, but if the story is true than we very possibly have a shooter who sustained an injury. Any guesses?
"Let the Truth be out, and let the chips fall where they may"
Re: The Guy(s) on the Roof
Eric Sunde's(4573) friend "Rusty"(NFI) sees two guys on the roof as he's driving out of the parking lot, then the back window of his car is shot out.
Was there any ballistics tests performed to see if it would have been possible for the bullet(s) to have originated from where E&D was at the time of this event? Or was the car located at a place where only a roof top gunman would have reached it?
Justice is not a privilege, it's a human right.
(6/30/02 9:03:12 pm)
Good question. Exactly the type that bothered the IOs, and caused them to head another direction. "If the evidence don't point at H&K, I don't want to hear about it!" There is no indication that this lead was ever followed up. So very typical.
(7/4/02) Re: tzsak update
Phillip Tkacz -- From the Columbine to a federal prison
May 1st, 2001
Last year, CRTF received information from a man named Phillip Tkacz, who, at the time, was a fireman for the Versailles Fire Department in Kentucky. In "mid July" of 1999 he attended a class in Lexington on firefighter safety in police situations. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) participated in the class. The agent who gave the class, William Donovan, is based in Washington D.C., "semi-retired" and is only involved in "large cases". He was present at Columbine High School three days after the shootings.
Donovan presented to the class a number of forensic pictures from Columbine. One picture showed between six to ten shell casings on the roof of the school. Tkacz says the casings were large, and likely .223 caliber. They were not 9mm or shotgun shell casings, as used by Harris and Klebold. The BATF instructor would not comment on who fired from the roof. Tkacz says that during the shooting, on television coverage, he remembers hearing reports of someone firing from the roof. Those reports quickly vanished, but surfaced again in the recently released 11,000 pages of evidence. There is no plausible reason why a SWAT team or any other figure in authority would have fired from the roof that day. The only possibility is that another shooter -- not Harris or Klebold -- fired those shots.
Another picture presented to the class showed the body of Eric Harris as he lay in the library. His skull was fractured from a gunshot wound. Harris's pants were missing, and Tkacz says that the BATF instructor, "...wouldn't tell us why he wasn't wearing pants. I found that very unusual." Other pictures were shown of exploded pipe bombs and damage throughout the school. The instructor said that the night before the shooting Harris and Klebold used the Harris home garage to break glass which was placed in the pipe bombs. Someone in the class asked whether or not Wayne Harris was involved in some way, and the instructor said he felt he was not involved. He also said that backpacks were found with explosives in them, but he would not elaborate as to whom they belonged to. The instructor said that the three students arrested the day of the shooting outside of the school were not directly involved with the shooting, though they were close friends of Harris.
Some of the class participants asked Donovan if there were more than two people involved in the shooting and he replied to the class that it was "feasible" that more were involved. Tkacz later approached the instructor and asked him if he could have copies of the pictures, Donovan refused his request. He also asked about the possibility of more than two gunmen. Tkacz says that the instructor responded by saying that "off the record" he knew for a fact that there were more people involved.
Tkacz recounts the incident, "From what we saw in the pictures we all agreed that there had to be more than two [gunmen]. I asked the instructor if he believed only two kids did this [and] he finally answered me and said off the record he knows that there were more involved."
CRTF has talked with Mr. Phillip Tkacz over the phone and he has reaffirmed his story first related to us through an email. Furthermore, one of Mr. Tkacz's associates who was present during the class has emailed us and confirmed Tkacz's story. He told us, "I don't remember a whole lot to be honest...The guy showed us slides from Columbine. Most of them from [were] where bombs had gone off...spent shell casings on the roof...Phil asked him if he thought that only two of them did this. I don't recall the exact answer but he said that it was very possible...[Phil] told us that he (the instructor) finally said that he knew for a fact that there were more involved."
The following is a copy of one of Mr. Tkacz's emails:
In mid-July of this year I attended a class for Fire Departments in my area addressing firefighter safety at police situations. The last speaker was a man who works for the ATF. He is an explosives expert and was telling us about booby traps and the sort. He brought along several slides from the shooting at Columbine. He said he was there by the third day to help with identifying some of the devices. Most of the pictures were of bombs that had already exploded and a few that had not. The one thing that I remember was a picture on the roof. It was of, what he said, where one of the pipe bombs had gone off. In the picture you could clearly see at least 6 to 10 shell casings as well. Someone did ask about that but he never really gave an answer. The casings looked to big to be from a 9 mm like the ones that were used. Also was a picture of Eric Harris's body. Someone asked where his pants were, again no straight answer.
At the end of the class we asked him if he thought there were more than 2 were involved. In front of the whole class he said "it is quite feasible". I talked to him alone before we all left and asked him again. He said "off the record I know that there were more directly involved". He didn't specifically say if he meant a 3rd gunman or if they had help making the bombs that numbered over 60. He also did state that he doubted that Eric's father helped them with the incident. I found him to be very sincere. At the time I didn't realize how important his statements really were.
In a bizarre twist of events, Phillp Tkacz was arrested April 25, 2000 apparently in his home at 337 Amsden Avenue in Versailles for allegedly making bomb threats over the internet.
The threats allegedly stemmed from Tkacz's internet messenger screen name, "Schoolshooter_2000". Using this screen name, he posed as a school student from Colorado and claimed he would enact another shooting on April 20. Tkacz said he would target a school in Arvada, Colorado. He apparently did not make any specific threats. Investigators found an assault rifle, handgun, and instructional manual on how to make bombs in his home. He was not in possession of illegal weapons or bomb-making materials. It does not appear he was preparing to enact a shooting.
After his arrest, a number of articles were released by The Kentucky Post and Lexington Hearld Leader. They confirmed Tkacz was in fact a volunteer member of the Versailles Fire Department, though he quit late last year. He is 23 years old and lives alone in Versailles. No further information about his background was reported by the newspapers.
CRTF corresponded with Tkacz for months prior to his arrest and found him to be helpful and stable. He even helped us obtain vital CNN video footage of Columbine. He also made attempts to contact the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office and ask for an explanation for the pictures he had seen at the class. His story never changed and we felt he was telling the truth about the class he attended.
On May 5, Tkacz was indicted by a Kentucky grand jury. He faced charges of up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. A CRTF source was in contact with Tkacz's mother, Carol, who lives in Chicago. She expressed dismay over the incident. She said Tkacz was en route to Atlanta, and from there would depart for North Carolina for "psychological testing". (sources 1, 2, 3)
On June 13, CRTF spoke with Carol Tkacz, Phillip Tkacz's mother, over the phone. She reported that Mr. Tkacz is currently in a North Carolina federal prison where he will undergo psychological testing sometime within the next month. It is hoped that after the testing is finished Mr. Tkacz will be released from prison while he awaits trial.
The charges against Tkacz stem from an internet user who informed the FBI of a threat made by a chat room participant named "Schoolshooter_2000". The vague threat implied a shooting or bombing would take place at an Arvada, Colorado high school. The FBI traced the identity of the chat room participant to Mr. Tkacz through AT & T. Mr. Tkacz's internet provider is AT & T Worldnet. Carol said Phillip denies the charges. She said he was in good spirits from what she could surmise from the few phone conversations they had. She tends to believe him and sees no reason why he would make such threats.
Carol says so far their lawyer remains inactive, as the evidence relating to the case -- including Mr. Tkacz's computer hard drive -- is in the possession of the authorities. The authorities failed to recover any evidence from Mr. Tkacz's home indicating he was planning on fulfilling the alleged threat. It also does not appear a threat was ever made to an Arvada high school during the latter part of April.
It remains unclear whether or not Tkacz had a chat room screen name of "Schoolshooter_2000". It is wholly possible a disgruntled chat room user decided to "frame" Tkacz and claim he made a threat when he did not. It is also possible the charges against Tkacz are completely accurate. The nature of the internet and especially chat rooms found on the internet is that is can be difficult to determine not only the identity of a chat room participant but also the intent of what they are communicating. Most often, a chat room is a place where people go to vent their feelings and make off-the-cuff comments not normally accepted in normal social situations. Even if the charges against Mr. Tkacz are true, we certainly do not feel they warrant a prison term.
The latest information on Mr. Tkacz's condition was received through a phone conversation with Carol Tkacz on April 26, 2001. She said Phillip has been imprisoned in the Federal Medical Center in Lexington since January of this year. He will be released October 3, 2001. Phillip passed his psychological tests with flying colors and was found to be of completely stable mental condition and a non-threat. Despite this, he was placed in a medium-to-maximum security prison because authorities felt he was too great a "threat" for a lower-security prison. Carol said during his sentencing the prosecution presented evidence against Phillip in the form of "pages and pages" of confusing internet chat room dialogue allegedly made by "Schoolshooter_2000".
Phillip plead guilty to the charges in hope of gaining a lighter sentence. Carol said the judge at Phillip's hearing seemed to have a bias against Phillip. Carol says she believes her son is innocent. She finds the charges against him to be "not even that big a deal" and is dismayed at the fervor in which the government went after her son. Authorities found nothing in Phillip's home to implicate him in a bomb plot, let alone anything illegal. Carol gave us Phillip's address at the prison, and he had requested she contact us. She said he was interested in getting a copy of the JCSO "final report".
We believe Mr. Tkacz is unfairly imprisoned and likely innocent of his alleged crimes. We also trust the veracity of the information Mr. Tkacz revealed to us in late 1999 concerning the Columbine High School shooting. We believe the important information he possess concerning the shooting may have some connection as to why he was arrested and imprisoned for these laughable charges.
Columbine has a destiny filled with hope, healing and the love of God. This destiny shall come forth................
Does anyone know if the pictures of the shell casings on the roof that were not from swat were among the "leaked" photos?
Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God? -- Epicurus, quoted from (redacted by personal request), personal note to Cliff Walker, July 9, 2001