Case #1612.0

The Shootings at Columbine High School: The Law Enforcement Response

Publication Date: March 01, 2001
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The mass killings at Columbine High School in suburban Denver, in April 1999, inspired deep soul-searching across the United States. The search for lessons to be learned from the tragedy has extended, as well, to the law enforcement and emergency response communities. This case provides a dramatic account of the details of police, fire, and emergency medical response to the reports of carnage at Columbine. It is designed to raise the central questions relevant for any such emergency: why did the response take the form it did and could matters have been handled better? In the process, the case illuminates the manner in which the decentralized United States law enforcement system functions under conditions of extreme pressure and minimal information.

Learning Objective:
The case both poses an implicit contrast to other, more centralized approaches to emergency response but, also, raises questions as to the inherent limits of effective response to completely unexpected and virtually unanticipated events-and what societal expectations should be (and are), under such circumstances.

Other Details

Case Author:
Susan Rosegrant
Faculty Lead:
Richard Falkenrath
Pages (incl. exhibits):
United States
Funding Source:
U.S. Department of Justice