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Wednesday, April 21, 1999 Published at 21:58 GMT 22:58 UK

World: Americas

Timetable of terror

Police escourt pupils from the school

The massacre at the Columbine High School in the Denver suburb of Littleton - by far the worst in a series of school shootings in the US - began around mid-morning.

  • At 1130 local time (1830 BST) reports began to come in of two or three masked gunmen entering the school, which has about 1,800 students.

  • The two gunmen, wearing masks and black trenchcoats, began firing in the cafeteria and library. Later reports suggested they picked on ethnic minorities and "jocks", a slang term for athletic types. Students hide under tables and in cupboards while others barricade themselves in a biology laboratory.

  • At noon police Swat teams arrive on the scene and find several explosive devices around the school. They initially believed they were dealing with a hostage-taking situation.

    Horrific injuries

  • An hour after the shooting began, television cameramen were on the scene, relaying images nationwide and then worldwide.

    [ image: Many of the survivors will take years to recover]
    Many of the survivors will take years to recover

  • Casualties began arriving at two local hospitals. Five people, suffering from serious gunshot wounds were taken to the Swedish Medical Centre in Denver.

  • Parents wandered about at the nearby Clement Park hospital, trying to find their children while students stood shaking and crying.

  • Police helicopters whirled overhead and hundreds of police officers patrolled the school as confusion reigned.

  • At about 1300 local time (2015 BST) frightened students, their hands in the air, were evacuated and frisked by police.

  • At around 1330, an armoured car was brought to the main school entrance for cover as dozens more students fled the building.

  • Around 1400, three youths wearing black clothes - but not trenchcoats - were apprehended by armed police in a field near the school. The trio were later described as "friends of the gunmen".

    'Suicide mission'

  • Some time in the afternoon police raid the homes of the two suspects and discover more pipe bombs.

  • Steve Davis, a spokesman for Jefferson County Sheriff's department, announced police were looking for two suspects, but said it was not clear where they were in the building.

  • At around 1600 police found two suspects shot dead in the library. Their wounds were apparently self-inflicted.

  • At around the same time Sheriff John Stone said the death toll appeared to be up to 25.

  • At around 1615 the Swat team began a slow sweep of the building looking for survivors.

  • At 1630 the Swat team declares the school safe.

  • But at 1815 the authorities find an explosive device in a car in the car park. The campus is sealed off with yellow tape.

  • By 2200 the bodies remain in situ because of fears of booby traps inside the school.

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