Columbine Tragedy: 20 years later

‘I don’t look at the world the same anymore’

Richard Nakata, former bomb squad tech


Many Littleton residents know Richard Nakata as the magician at Reinke Bros., the costume shop downtown.

But 20 years ago, Nakata was a deputy and bomb squad technician for the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office, who spent hours in Columbine High School’s library the day of the attack, searching for bombs and booby traps among the bodies of victims. He and his team removed 57 bombs from the bodies of the killers.

“Those of us clearing the room, we were all parents,” Nakata said. “One girl laying there looked just like my daughter. I realized how easily it could be my kids.”

Today, Nakata said, he can’t stand violence in mass media. It glorifies or downplays murder, he said.

Instead, Nakata said, he’d like to see young people understand the realities of law enforcement, the justice system, and the impacts of violence. He said he supports Colorado’s controversial “red flag” law, that would allow judges to order guns taken from people deemed a danger to themselves or others.

These days, Nakata said he sometimes still finds himself transported back to Columbine, to the library, in his dreams.

“I really don’t know how to change the problem,” he said, “but I don’t look at the world the same anymore.”



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