Coach William “Dave” Sanders and the Columbine Shooting

Dave Sanders

Dave Sanders

On April 20, 1999, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris walked into Columbine High School with two bombs based on portable propane bottles. The boys had similar bombs in their cars and another across town – a decoy to draw police away from the high school at the crucial moment. They also had dozens of small pipe bombs and each of them was carrying guns and ammunition. They planted the two large bombs and returned to their cars that were strategically parked so that they could shoot anyone who ran from the building after the bombs detonated. But their plan began to go wrong from the first. The inside bombs didn’t go off. The two boys, without an apparent backup plan, entered the school again and began shooting and firing off pipe bombs. They killed indiscriminately for a little over fifteen minutes.


When the gunmen started firing outside the school, Coach William “Dave” Sanders ran to the cafeteria and sounded the alarm. He, along with two of the school’s janitors, helped get more than 100 students out of the path of danger by herding them away from the shooters. He saved untold numbers of lives that day. By the time the gunmen arrived, the cafeteria was nearly empty thanks to Dave. He was in the upstairs hall trying to get students safely hidden in classrooms when he was shot from behind by Eric Harris. He was hit in the torso, head and neck. He managed to get himself into a science lab where he bled to death waiting for help.

William “Dave” Sanders was a computer and business teacher at Columbine for 25 years, and coach of the varsity girls’ basketball and softball teams. His students described him as a teacher, a friend, a mentor and an inspiration. A softball field at Columbine and a scholarship named after him to honor his memory were created to remember this great educator.

To help honor Coach William “Dave” Sanders



8 thoughts on “Coach William “Dave” Sanders and the Columbine Shooting

  1. Shortly before Dave Sanders became a hero, a man by the name of Bob Hawke (the police officer, no relation to the Australian prime minister), from Utah, shot the bad guy dead and Hawke is the cousin of “Uncle” Alan Burton Hall.

  2. I feel like I know Mr. Sanders just from all the documentaries I’ve watched and things ive read. He was someone I would have loved to have at my school. I did not know him. I was 9 when the killings happened and I lived in Illinois my whole life. Even tho I have no direct relation or any knowledge of this man other than through the stories that carry on about Columbine, I still wanted to leave a comment in respect to this wonderful man who saved so many. My heart breaks as if he was someone I knew. This will be the 20th anniversary and I know what I’m feeling right now so I can’t imagine what the family has felt all these years. This man was a hero. He deserves to be remembered and honored, a long with the janitors that helped him “unfortunately I dont know their names”. I hope to one day visit the memorial and properly pay my respects. Till then this will have to do. Rest in peace to a legend, one that is even in the minds of people who didnt know him personally.

  3. Isn’t it strange how you meet someone and know they have the same love and desire to protect young people? I was one of the Santa Fe Special Agents (railroad police officers) assigned to Santa Fe’s Big Lift Intermodal Facility at Highway 285 and Titan Road, south of Littleton between January 17, 1983, and November 8, 1984. I was also an Operation Lifesaver presenter during that period. One of my duties was to make contact at each school with someone to find out if I could present the program. Dave ended up being my contact. From the first moment we met, I could tell just how much care and concern he had for the students at Columbine. Being the husband of a special education teacher, Dave and my wife exhibited amazing skills in working with students. I had been a Juvenile Officer in the small city of Fort Madison, Iowa before joining Santa Fe.

    When the attack on Columbine occurred 23 years ago today, all I initially knew was that a teacher had been killed. Two days later, I found out it was Dave. Although I cannot imagine how his family and students felt about his death, it hit me like a punch to the heart. Even today, with this event perpetually marked on my electronic calendar, it hits me hard because I know what an outstanding person he was. He did what I would have done were I in that situation. Take care of the students first and worry about myself last.

    My thoughts and prayers are with the Sanders family, the students and parents of those students who perished that day. My heart goes out to those wounded and their families, also.

    In retirement, I am a licensed Assistant Funeral Director in Kansas for the Newcomer Funeral Service Group, Incorporated. Over the past 9 years I have seen the grief and despair of families who have lost children due to various forms of death. I still care so deeply for their families and friends who were left behind and tell them that their grief will never go away completely. There will be small things that you experience the rest of your life that will remind you of your friend or loved one. Just remember that if your faith is strong and you believe in the hereafter, you will see them again. I hope and pray it is that way with Dave. I truly do.

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