Main Page - Return to previous page
Main > Resources> Archive > Shooting Prosecutor Speaks Out

Title: Shooting Prosecutor Speaks Out

Source: AP, April 23rd, 1999.

NOTICE: The following material is copyrighted as indicated in the body of text.  It has been posted to this web page for archival purposes, and in doing so, no claim of authorship is expressed or implied, nor is a profit being made from the use of the material.

Shooting Prosecutor Speaks Out

.c The Associated Press

LITTLETON, Colo. (AP) -- District Attorney Dave Thomas stepped in front of the cameras today just as he had every morning, a prosecutor delivering cool updates about the school shooting investigation. But when his mouth opened, a different person spoke. 

This time, it was Dave Thomas, citizen, father of two Columbine High graduates, human being anguished about the bloodshed he had seen. 

Dave Thomas found a nationwide bully pulpit and used it to issue a demand to the nation: that the violence come to an end. 

He said America isn't taking care of its children. He wondered aloud about video games, movies, Dungeons & Dragons and how they influenced young people. And he urged everyone -- the media and the public -- to join him. 

``These deaths cannot be in vain. We cannot walk away from here and wait for the next incident to occur,'' he said. 

For 20 minutes, the 50-year-old career law-enforcement officer held court before a live national audience, trying to understand why 14 young people and a teacher died violently inside a high school that graduated his own children, Justin and Carrie. 

``There has to be some meaning to this,'' Thomas said. 

He produced no good answers -- and admitted it. He even acknowledged that his emotion might be jarring. ``I'm not a zealot,'' he insisted. 

``I'm not an important person,'' he said. ``I'm not the president. I'm not the attorney general. I'm not even the attorney general of Colorado. I'm just a person who's very very concerned about the deaths of these people. And I want to do something about it.'' 

Thomas, a sedate man with a thin, angular face and tousled gray hair and mustache, has spent his entire life in Jefferson County. He worked his way up as a Denver prosecutor and an assistant U.S. attorney. He became Colorado's head of public safety in 1987, but returned to this Denver suburb in 1992 to become the district attorney. 

``What you saw today was the real Dave Thomas,'' said Bob Grant, Thomas' counterpart in Adams County, another collection of Denver-area suburbs. 

``People think that we get numbed to it,'' Grant said. ``Some of us have seen a lot of man's inhumanity to man over the years. But you never get numbed. No matter how many autopsies you attend, no matter how many multiple homicide cases you're involved in, you never lose the sense of humanity if you're going to do the job right.'' 

Andrew Cohen, a Denver attorney and legal analyst, praised Thomas' candor and courage. 

``Thomas' remarks were more philosophical and emotional than we're used to hearing from our politicians and prosecutors,'' Cohen said. Thomas' feelings simply reflected his constituency. 

``He's being honest when he says he doesn't have the answers, because none of us do,'' Cohen said. 

But that didn't stop Thomas from trying. 

``I don't want my community ... to be remembered forever as the place where that terrible tragedy occurred,'' Thomas said. ``I want it to be remembered as the place where we started to change.'' 

Jefferson County sheriff's spokesman Steve Davis, the other voice of the investigation, said he is having trouble sleeping. And virtually every SWAT team member and investigator is haunted by what they have seen. 

``It's tough for them to go in there and see where 15 kids have lost their lives,'' Davis said, ``especially when they have kids of their own.'' 

AP-NY-04-23-99 1658EDT 

Main Page - Return to previous page