Basketball star's suicide shocks Columbine community

LITTLETON, Colo. - A Columbine High basketball star who witnessed last year's bloodbath - losing one of his best friends - hanged himself in his garage as a CD, set to replay continuously, blared a song with the words: ''I'm too depressed to go on.''

It was the second suicide among friends or relatives of the Columbine High victims, shocking the community two weeks after the first anniversary of the massacre.

Greg Barnes, a 17-year-old who averaged 26.2 points a game as a junior last season and had attracted attention from Harvard, Notre Dame and other universities, hanged himself Thursday morning, said neighbor Leonard Purer.

''His father found him hanging,'' said Purer, who has known the family for nine years. ''I do not know if Columbine caused this, but I do know he was upset by it. All the students were upset by it.''

''Adam's Song,'' by the group Blink 182, was playing when his parents found the body, said teammate Dave Mitchell. The lyrics include the phrases ''I never thought I'd die alone'' and ''I'm too depressed to go on. You'll be sorry when I'm gone.''

Friends were mystified, saying there were no signs of turmoil in the teen-ager's life.

''I talked to him the night before, and it didn't seem like anything was wrong,'' said Mitchell, who was interviewed by police. ''We talked about the usual stuff, girls.''

Grief counselors cautioned against automatically linking Barnes' death to the Columbine shootings, noting that teen-agers live in a pressure-cooker world. Suicide is the third-leading cause of death for people ages 15 to 24.

''I just didn't believe it. It was horrible. It made me mad. Mad at Greg,'' said Brian Deidel, a teammate and childhood friend. ''He had so much going for him. He didn't need to do that to everybody who knows him, who loves him.''

A school source who spoke on condition of anonymity also told The Associated Press that Barnes hanged himself.

School district spokesman Rick Kaufman confirmed the death but declined to give details.

The sheriff's office and the Jefferson County coroner declined to provide additional details. ''Some things should remain confidential to the family,'' Coroner Nancy Bodelson said.

The news was devastating for students and staff at Columbine. Six counselors were at the school to offer help, and substitute teachers were on call to fill in for staff members who wanted to stay home. Many students skipped school.

''It's a somber mood at Columbine High School,'' Kaufman said.

On April 20, 1999, two teen-age boys killed 12 fellow Columbine students and a teacher and wounded 23 people before committing suicide in the worst school shooting rampage in U.S. history.

Barnes was in a science room when the gunmen opened fire. He told Sports Illustrated he saw teacher Dave Sanders ''take two shots, right in front of me'' as he watched the rampage through a window in the door. Barnes was also a good friend of victim Matt Kechter.

''Matt always waited by the mailbox for his little brother to come home from school,'' Barnes told The Associated Press after the shooting. ''He was the most innocent person I knew.

Since the massacre, the Columbine community has almost constantly had to live with grief.

The mother of Anne Marie Hochhalter, a student who was paralyzed in the shooting, walked into a pawnshop in October, asked to see a gun, loaded it and shot herself to death. On Valentine's Day, two Columbine sweethearts were shot to death in a sandwich shop.

The 6-foot-3 Barnes scored 31 points in Columbine's loss during the state quarterfinal playoff game in March. The Denver Post and the Denver Rocky Mountain News named him to their all-state teams, and Barnes would have been the top player in the state next year, according to two coaches whose teams played Columbine.

''He wasn't an extremely athletic kid, but he was a very hard worker,'' said Kirchers Leday, basketball coach at Denver South High School. ''He was always a gentleman on the floor. He showed tremendous leadership, but was always able to keep things together.''


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