Storyville: Raising a School shooter, BBC 4, BBC iPlayer. Series editor Mandy Chang.

Since 1970, 1677 school shootings in the US, ranging from pre-school to high schools. 528 deaths and 1626 injuries.

Sue Klebold (Colorado)

Tom, there’s a shooting going on at Columbine. They think that Dylan may be one of the shooters. I heard through the window them saying that there was 25 dead. And if Dylan was hurting people, in the way I thought he was, I prayed he would die (his mother).

It’s hard to talk about the funeral. I think in the room there were only 12 people. I wanted to have the body cremated before I left the premises because I didn’t want anyone to hurt or take him. I remember looking up at windows. Sure that the media were trying to snap pictures of Dylan in his casket or pictures of us (grieving).

He was just there in a cardboard box and they allowed each of us to have a few minutes with him. So my husband, my son and I, each had time with him, alone—to say goodbye.

I wanted to crawl in that casket to be beside him. To keep him warm. I said, ‘Darling, help me understand.’

And I didn’t realise that did become my life’s mission.

That’s what I’ve been seeking for 20 years understanding.

I prayed to him to understand so I could find some path to get through to cope with this.

And I can know what he never said to me.

I do belief that has happened over time.

Jeff Williams (Ohio)

[Jeff William’s partner (after the shooting)] I helped Jeffrey to get out of Ohio and move to San Diego.

Monday morning March 5th, I get up around 6 o’clock. Staff Sargent said there was a shooting at school. I called Andy and it went onto voicemail. Two girls from the apartment complex were there and I said ‘I’m so glad to see you,’ and asked, ‘Where’s Andy?’

They said, ‘he did it.’

It didn’t sink in. I went up to a Sheriff’s deputy. Tapped him on the back and said, ‘I think I’m the shooter’s father’.

On the radio it comes out that 2 people were killed and 13 injured.

On March 5th 2001, 15-year old Andy Williams opened fire with a .22 calibre revolver at Santana High School in California.

Andy was about 4-years old when I separated from his mum. Andy stayed with me. We did a lot of things together. He was like my best friend.

I go to the Public Defender’s Office and they bring Andy in. And we were both hurting. Both crying and I felt so bad. That’s the first time I can remember telling him I loved him, that day.

Once Andy got a bit older, we got separated a little bit. His grades started falling. I’d get occasional phone calls. Things like he was late for class. That kinda ended it. Then I found out Andy was getting home early and erasing them.

Andy had his two buddies he hung about with. One of them was in his late twenties and he’d provide them with booze and marijuana. He’d come home with bruising on his neck and he’d claim they were from skateboarding accidents. I told him over and over I didn’t like those kids. But he stayed with them no matter how badly he was treated by them.

These other two boys, they were supposed to have participated, but backed out. Andy was in that mind-set if I back out, I’ll get picked on even more. It determined him to go in and do the school shooting.

Round me he was pretty much light-hearted. Happy-going kid.

The bullying at school was terrible. The school was supposed to put out a report about it and racism, but when it was published, they blamed everything on Andy.  

He did something terrible. But he’s my only son. And I offered him unconditional love. Your job is to support your son, no matter what. I didn’t lose a son that day. I still get to talk to him, and hug  him. And get to laugh with him. I don’t know how I’d feel if I didn’t have that chance.

Andy Williams received a 50 year-to-life prison sentence. Reduced on appeal to 25 years minimum.

He is eligible for parole in 2025. 

Sue Klebold

Late in the afternoon, one of the police said yes he is (your son, Dylan, is dead). For months I was in denial. Not only that they killed those people. But they said awful, racist things. I shut that out of my mind. I said, Dylan would not say anything like that. They got so much wrong about the family. I settled into the belief system, they were wrong what Dylan did.

It took 6 months for the sheriff to make a report. He made a presentation. And for the first time, I got it. I saw it was planned. Video tapes they had made. I saw Dylan in a way I’d never seen him before. They were talking about what they were going to do. I saw him with weapons. It was horrifying to see him in that mode.

On 20th April 1999, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris opened fire at Columbine High School in Colorado.

It was one of the worst school shootings in US history.

I’d been grieving for this lost precious child. Everything died in my world. God died. My belief in truth. My belief in what our family was. My belief in who Dylan was. Everything was torn apart. The person I thought I was no longer existed. I thought I was a good mom. Who had raised responsible kids. Kind and loving and charitable.

Dylan 17 and Eric 18 went to Columbine with the intention of killing everyone and destroying the school. And if there’s any gratitude in this whole process is they failed to do that. But they killed 12 students and a teacher, before taking their own lives. They injured more than 20 other people. I’d say 24 people were injured and I try to use the broader definition (serious injures such as head wounds, spinal cord).

Everybody was suing everybody else. To hold them responsible. The governor went on national television to say it was the fault of the parents. It was open season on us. Everywhere I went, I was exposed to all the horrible things that people believed. Somehow we were lesser human beings. We were evil people. That did not know how to raise children. There was a world of people that hated us.

Connie Sanders reached out to me. Her father was killed by Dylan.

He went to the prom and had been accepted for University. But the police found in his writing: ‘I’m in agony and I want to die’. He had this hidden life, he wasn’t sharing with us.

While this was happening, I prayed that he would die. I’ve met many parents with incarcerated children and I think, they’re luck –  at least they can talk to their child.

I felt guilty for having lost a connection with Dylan, for not knowing that he was suffering.

-let us listen to our heart?

Our job as parents is not to make them feel better, but to make them feel…

To listen, and I didn’t do that.

I’ll never stop wishing, I could have those years (childhood years) again. Never.

If I saw Dylan, face to face, I’d ask him for forgiveness, for not being the mother he could come to, to talk to. For him to come to me and put his arms around me and say, ‘It’s OK’.

I can still see the helicopters. I can still see the ambulances. I tell you, that was the worst day of my life. I tell you it takes a long time to get over a shock like this.

School shootings going to happen again, but let’s do our best to stop them. He’s my son the school shooter and it’s going to stay that way.

Everywhere I went I didn’t know what to do, whether I should identify myself. For a while I went by a different name. I thought I should just leave. But I knew if I’d left I’d be some stranger somewhere and they’d be saying that the woman whose son killed all these people.

I decided to keep my name and stop hiding.

When you have periods of time, maybe thirty minutes when you feel almost normal. You might have days when you forget who you are. And what’s happened to you. Then you feel guilty.

Because as soon as you feel happy (alright) you begin to hate yourself.

How can I feel happy when this horrible thing has happened? How can I feel joy when I know that suffering is going on? I feel somehow it’s unjust for me to be happy.

In the beginning I was trying to understand, our community was trying to understand what happened. I understand now, it was never just one thing. For a variety of things going wrong and coming together. I’ll never understand how or why he did it. But there’s another issue that’s still relevant, how to dehumanise people.

I see it occurring all the time. I see it in politics. I hear on the news. I hear it when people reduce people and bring them down in size. Reducing them down to some aspect of themselves. Focussing anger, hatred and judgement on that. That frightens me because that’s how human beings are cruel to each other.

We’ve got to connect with each other. We’ve got to listen to each other, better.

Dylan Klebold’s ashes lie in an unmarked place.

Clarence Elliot (Virginia)

Nicholas was born in California. Everybody we knew was a mixed community. And we always kept our eyes out on each other’s kids. Our mother and I got divorced. He was snatched out of California. California to Virginia, it was a culture shock.

On 16th December 1988, Nicholas Elliot carried out an attack on The Atlantic Shore Christian School in Virginia. He shot one of his teachers.

He was armed with 3 firebombs, a semi-automatic pistol and 200 rounds of ammunition.

He killed one teacher and wounded another.   

I figured because of his age and the situation (bullying). He’d get 5 or 10 years. But the judge gave him 110 years plus 14.

I’m 79-years-old and he’s been incarcerated for 31 years.

Nicholas Elliot was sentence to life-plus-114-years in prison. He has been incarcerated since 1989, and has applied for parole six times. Unsuccessful.