LITTLETON, Colo. — Among items seized from the room of a man accused of wounding two students at a Colorado middle school were photos of youths who appear to be in their teens, prompting the accused's father to speculate that his son may have had online contact with students there prior to the attack.
Jefferson County sheriff's investigators Thursday were puzzling over why Bruco Strong Eagle Eastwood, 32, may have targeted Deer Creek Middle School. They declined to say whether Eastwood had contact with students at the school, which is just miles from Columbine High, but they were interviewing students and parents.
"It's very well a possibility, but it remains under investigation," said sheriff's spokesman Mark Techmeyer.
Eastwood's father, War Eagle Eastwood, said Wednesday that he found digital pictures in his son's room showing students, who he guessed were in middle school or high school. Investigators seized the photos when they searched Eastwood's home in Hudson. The elder Eastwood said his son had talked to himself and imaginary friends and that recently that talk had turned into yelling.
The Eastwoods don't have a home computer, but War Eagle Eastwood said his son would go to public libraries. Officials at nearby Hudson Public Library declined to comment, citing privacy concerns.
Investigators were also reviewing Bruco Eastwood's journals as they tried to figure out why he allegedly showed up at his old school Tuesday and started firing in the parking lot before he was tackled by a math teacher.
Student Reagan Weber was treated at a hospital and released. The mother of the other victim, Matt Thieu, said he was doing well at a hospital. Deer Creek was scheduled to reopen for classes on Monday.
Teacher David Benke was hailed as a hero. Officials called his actions proof that the Littleton-area community had learned lessons from Columbine, where law enforcement was criticized for not moving quickly enough in the 1999 incident in which two teenagers killed 12 students and a teacher before killing themselves.
Investigators say Eastwood initially entered the school Tuesday, said he was a former student, and chatted with teachers without drawing suspicion. Sheriff's department spokeswoman Jacki Kelley said Eastwood used a restroom and left the building.
Moments later, he opened fire with his father's bolt-action hunting rifle in the parking lot.
Techmeyer didn't release the exact timeline, saying it was part of the investigation. But he said that contrary to what a school official has said, it was moments, rather than hours, between the time Eastwood entered and left the building – without a weapon – and when the shooting began.
John McDonald, director of safety, security and emergency planning for Jefferson County Schools, told KUSA-TV that Eastwood wanted a tour of the school. McDonald said tours are not given during school hours.
A school security officer was not at Deer Creek at the time because he was responsible for three schools and was investigating a property crime at another school, Kelley said. Other officers were on the scene within three minutes, Techmeyer said.
"Who knows? It probably would've ended differently if he had been on the scene," Techmeyer said of the security officer. "He may not have been at the door, but the response time would have been mere seconds versus three minutes. It could've ended more tragically, for Mr. Eastwood."
It's unclear whether Eastwood watched the school resource officer leave or even knew that Deer Creek had one, Techmeyer said.
There are 10 "school resource," or security, officers for 57 schools in unincorporated Jefferson County. Each officer is assigned primarily to a high school, where violent activity may occur more often, and one or two middle schools secondarily, Techmeyer said.
Regular patrol deputies handle elementary schools.
It would be too expensive to place one in every school, and school resource officers who cover a few schools are better able to establish potential crime patterns, Kelley said.
Sheriff's officials are reviewing the program, as they would after any shooting, Techmeyer said.
Colorado Attorney General John Suthers told a conference on school safety Thursday that there have been more than 250 school-related violence deaths nationwide, half of them shootings, since Columbine.
Suthers insisted there is no way to stop a determined gunman, including the 53-year-old man who killed student Emily Keyes at Colorado's Platte Valley High School in 2006, the man who killed 33 people at Virginia Tech in 2007 and the faculty shooting deaths of three people this month at the University of Alabama.
Anonymous tips to a phone bank set up after Columbine allowed officials to prevent 28 planned school attacks in Colorado, respond to more than 400 threats of violence and seize 200 weapons from schools or school buses, Suthers said. But he noted that school staff – not police – were involved in most of those cases.
"This week's incident at Deer Creek Middle School, and the heroism that was displayed by teachers and staff, underscores that fact," Suthers declared.
Eastwood's Colorado arrest record dates back to 1996 and includes suspicion of menacing, assault, domestic violence and driving under the influence.
In 1996, Eastwood was charged with felony menacing after a roommate reported Eastwood put a gun to his head and said, "If you ever take anything from me again or piss me off, I'll kill you," according to an arrest affidavit. Eastwood pleaded guilty to third-degree misdemeanor assault and received three years of probation. He had to complete anger management counseling.
Also in 1996, he allegedly threatened two people with a knife at a mall. He pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and served a 10-day jail term.
Eastwood moved in with his father five years ago and fed horses on his ranch. Eastwood's basement bedroom held DVDs, videotapes, CDs, magazines, three Denver Broncos baseball caps, a Broncos team photo, a few GI Joe action figures, a job application for a movie theater and a clock shaped like the cartoon character Garfield's head.
Near Deer Creek Thursday, a group of eighth graders from the school were hanging out on a lawn. Russell Fugitt, 13, said he's not concerned about returning to school.
"We didn't expect it to happen the first time; we're not too scared that it's going to happen again," Fugitt said.
Associated Press writers Samantha Abernethy and Steven K. Paulson contributed to this report.