Suicide of Columbine basketball star

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The Independent US

The star basketball player at Columbine High School, the site of a mass shooting last year, has committed suicide, the latest in a string of violent incidents to rock a grieving community still deep in shock.

Greg Barnes, 17, hanged himself at his home on Thursday morning, police said.

A 6ft 5in rebounder, Greg had recently been named one of the top five basketball players in the state of Colorado. He was considered one of Columbine's most popular students.

Relatives, teachers and friends who met at the Barnes family home in the Denver suburbs said they had no inkling he was depressed. "I don't know what to tell my own kids," said his basketball coach, Rudy Martin. It was not immediately clear whether he had left a suicide note.

On 20 April last year, Greg saw Dave Sanders, a teacher, shot right in front of him. He was also best friends with Matt Kechter, one of the 12 students killed by the deranged seniors Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, who both committed suicide after the shootings. Greg had taken a writing class with Harris, but did not know him well.

Counsellors and school officials said yesterday it was too soon to link the suicide with the shootings, the worst incidence of school violence in American history. His death nevertheless fits a pattern of aftershocks that have ensured the community around Columbine can find no peace.

Last October, the mother of a student paralysed in the shootings killed herself. In February, two 15-year-old sweethearts from the school were shot dead in a neighbourhood sandwich shop. A local father shot his three children dead; the body of an 11-year-old showed up in a local rubbish skip.

To compound the anguish, bereaved parents are locked in a virtual state of war with local law enforcement officials, with lawsuits flying in all directions over the handling of the crisis last year and the subsequent investigation. The parents say a police sharpshooter accidentally killed one of the students outside the school and are now trying to cover it up.

Last week, indignant authorities retaliated by putting on sale to the general public a surveillance video showing the gory aftermath of the shooting.

Victims' families have also complained about how long it has taken the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office to complete its report into the shootings and have sued to force the release of a draft report. A judge has given the office until 15 May to release the final report.

The families claim that some of the victims might have been saved if they had gotten medical help sooner.