DENVER — The failure of a propane tank bomb to explode in Columbine High School's cafeteria could have forced killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold to change their carefully laid plans, possibly allowing more people to escape, according to published reports.John Kiekbusch, chief of investigations for the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department, said the killers' plans went bad because their two-tank propane bomb failed to explode after they carried it into the cafeteria in a black duffel bag. The bomb was poorly wired and constructed and its timer was attached incorrectly, he said.Kiekbusch, who confirmed the killers' movements to the Denver Rocky Mountain News, said when the propane bomb failed to explode, Harris and Klebold walked toward the school, carrying a machine gun and sawed-off shotguns underneath dark trench coats. The story was published Friday.One took off his coat outside the school, leading to reports of a third gunman in a white T-shirt.Two students were killed and six were wounded outside. Inside, the killers made their way toward the library, where they spent 18 minutes starting at 11:20 a.m., as they moved between tables taunting students and, in some cases, firing under tables without looking.Cassie Bernall, considered a martyr by many religious groups, was killed in the library. In a now well-known story, the killers asked if she believed in God, she said yes and was shot.But investigators told her parents several weeks after she died that the exchange may not have occurred. They said discrepancies in witness accounts have led them to question it."Some kids in the library were sure it happened and some were just as sure it didn't," said Steve Davis, spokesman for the Jefferson County Sheriff's department.The question may have been asked of another Columbine student, Valeen Schnurr, who was wounded."I can't say for sure who was asked or if both were asked," Davis said Friday. "I can just say there seems to be some question about it."Investigators told the online magazine Salon that whichever girl was asked about her faith, her life did not hinge on the answer.One student said he heard Miss Bernall say yes. But another student, who said she was hiding under a table with Miss Bernall when she was shot, said Miss Bernall was praying out loud when the gunmen entered the library."She was saying, 'Dear God. Dear God. Why is this happening? I just want to go home,"' said Emily Wyant, 16.She said Klebold slammed the top of their table, said "Peekaboo," looked under the table at both girls, and shot Miss Bernall. Miss Wyant said she does not know why she was spared.Miss Bernall's mother, Misty Bernall, who wrote a book about her daughter, stands behind witnesses who say her daughter was asked the question, said her editor, Chris Zimmerman."We don't feel that this discussion … takes anything away from the crux of Cassie's story," Zimmerman said. "This is a book about a troubled American teen-ager who changed. She changed to the extent that she was ready to face the challenges of her life, and her death, with confidence."The gunmen left the library even though they still had ammunition and pipe bombs. That unexplained decision allowed dozens of students to escape, investigators said.Harris and Klebold went to the cafeteria and tried to set off the propane bomb by shooting at it. When that failed, they ignited another bomb next to it, causing a fire that was extinguished by the school's automatic sprinkler system.The gunmen then roamed the halls, placing booby traps and throwing pipe bombs. Police believe they each committed suicide with a single shot to the head shortly after SWAT team members entered the school."They were cowards who were afraid to face the SWAT teams entering the school for fear that they might be wounded and captured alive," Kiekbusch said.The Sheriff's Department has said it will release its final report in November or December on the April 20 shootings that left 12 students, one teacher and Klebold and Harris dead. Twenty-three others were wounded.
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