Columbine Student Cassie Bernall Said “Yes” When Asked By One of the Shooters if She Believed In God-Disputed!
Summary of eRumor: The Truth:
Widely circulated reports and emails tell the story of high school student Cassie Bernall being a Christian martyr in the Columbine high school shootings of 1999 in Colorado. It was reported that one of the killers asked her if she believed in God. Cassie said, “Yes” and then was then killed.
There are witnesses and investigators who say that there was no verbal exchange about God between Cassie and her killer and that it was actually a different girl who was near Cassie who was asked about her belief.
During the days following the killings in April of 1999, several of the students who were in the library where Cassie and others were shot said she had been confronted by one of the gunmen, Dylan Klebold, and asked whether she believed in God. It was reported that she said “yes” and was immediately shot and killed. Her story became a spark for spiritual renewal among many young people around the country and resulted in a best-selling book written by her mother, Misty Bernall.
On September 23, 1999, Salon magazine published an article that questioned the story about Cassie, which was quickly followed by similar stories in both the Rocky Mountain News and the Denver Post, two of the Colorado newspapers who had followed the Columbine killings the closest.
An article in the Rocky Mountain News from September 24 quotes chief investigator John Kiekbusch of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department as saying that the question about God may have never been asked of Cassie. The News says that Cassie was crouched under a table when she was shot and that another student, 16 year old Emily Wyant, was next to her. Emily survived the ordeal and says she never heard Cassie asked about belief in God. She says Cassie was praying and saying, “Dear God. Dear God. Why is this happening? I just want to go home.” In the article, Emily says she does wonder if Cassie was singled out because of the fact that she was praying. Klebold reportedly looked under the table at the girls, said, “Peekaboo,” then shot Cassie.
The News article says that one of the witnesses to initially tell the story about Cassie being asked about her belief in God was Craig Scott whose sister Rachel was among those killed in the rampage. He told investigators that he heard the exchange about God and thought it was Cassie’s voice that said “yes,” but he did not actually see who had said it. According to the article, Scott was later able to point to where the gunman was at that time that he heard the exchange, but that he indicated a table where a different student, Valeen Schnurr, had been hiding. Schnurr’s mother says Valeen was lying wounded on the library floor and was praying when one of the gunmen approached her and asked if she believed in God. The News article says she replied by saying, “Yes, I believe in God.” The gunman did nothing more and Valeen survived. The Salon article says Valeen was saying, “Oh, my God, oh, my God, don’t let me die,” when one of the gunmen asked her if she believed in God. She said “yes” and was then asked why. She said, “Because I believe and my parents brought me up that way.” Salon says that in the end, the investigators concluded that Valeen’s was the only encounter in the library where anyone was asked about God. None of those who thought the question had been asked of Cassie actually witnessed it, they only heard it and, it is suggested, heard Valeen’s voice, not Cassie’s.
The News quotes another student who was in the library during the shootings, Joshua Lapp, as saying he is still sure of his memory of the event and that Cassie was asked about her belief and did respond by saying “yes” before she was shot.
The editor of Misty Bernall’s book, Chris Zimmerman, says that Cassie’s mother was candid in the book about the fact that there were differing accounts of what was said in the library and that the crux of the book is the true story of a troubled American teen-ager who encountered God and experienced a dramatic change that gave her the confidence to face both her life and her death.