Ceremonies to mark the anniversary of the shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado were overshadowed yesterday by a flurry of lawsuits accusing police of firing one of the fatal bullets.
Police were also accused offailing to investigate prior warnings about the intentions of the two teenage killers because a member of the local sheriff's department was a family friend of one of the boys.
The startling accusations came just hours ahead of the one-year deadline for such suits. Fifteen people died at Columbine on 20 April last year, including the two gunmen, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold.
While students and teachers met to pray, law enforcement officials issued denials coupled with embarrassed explanations of why their official report has taken almost six months longer than expected.
In one suit, the parents of Daniel Rohrbrough alleged that their son had merely been nicked in the leg by Harris and that the fatal bullet came from a police sharpshooter.
In another suit, five families claim the sheriff's deputies became aware Harris was blowing up pipe bombsbut chose not to search his house - where most of the armoury for the attack was concealed -because a member of the department was friends with his father.
John Stone, the local sheriff, dismissed the allegations yesterday as "totally outrageous".
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