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By Howard Pankratz <mailto:email@example.com>, Denver Post Legal Affairs Writer, Post / Helen H. Richardson
Friday, January 17, 2003
Suit over antidepressants unites an unlikely pair. One was a victim of the April 20, 1999, Columbine massacre.
Cory Baadsgaard, left, sits with Columbine High School survivor Mark Taylor on Thursday during an interview for a television documentary. Baadsgaard was on antidepressants when he took an English class hostage at a high school in Washington state in April 2001. He blames the drugs for his actions, for which he spent 14 months in a correctional facility. Mark Taylor is suing the manufacturer of the antidepressant Luvox, which killer Eric Harris was taking at the time of the Columbine rampage. Gary Null & Associates of New York is filming the documentary, which could air in the summer, about the drugging of children and outcomes such as school shootings.
The other was a rifle-toting student who terrified his high school classmates in Washington state on April 15, 2001.
On Thursday, Columbine victim Mark Taylor and Cory Baadsgaard, the Mattawa, Wash., student who held a high school English class hostage, spent hours with each other.
Taylor was shot at least six times by Columbine killer Eric Harris.
Taylor wasn’t sure he wanted to meet the 18-year-old Baadsgaard, who was flown to Denver for the filming of a documentary by Gary Null & Associates of New York.
“I was a little bit afraid. I just didn’t know what kind of person he would be,” said Taylor, 19.
But when Taylor met Baadsgaard on Wednesday night, he shook Baadsgaard’s hand and said, “It’s nice to meet you.”
Then they talked for hours.
“He is a very sweet kid,” Taylor said.
Baadsgaard, a tall, athletic-looking young man who was the starting center on his basketball team, was completely surprised by Taylor’s reception.
“I thought, ‘Wow, this kid (Taylor) went through all this and he has forgiven everybody,”‘ Baadsgaard said. “I think it is kind of ironic to have a friend who has been highly affected. It’s cool to know he doesn’t have a problem with me.”
The common bond that brought them together is their crusade against pharmaceutical companies.
Taylor has a lawsuit against Solvay Pharmaceuticals, which manufactured the antidepressant Eric Harris was taking at the time of the rampage.
Baadsgaard, who was being treated for depression at the time he walked into Michelle Hansen’s honors English class with a loaded big-game hunting rifle, blames the antidepressants he had been on for 10 months.
He says he can’t remember a thing about the incident, something he directly attributes to the drugs, including one that was in the same family of antidepressants that Harris took. He stopped taking that drug, Paxil, three weeks before he invaded the classroom and was on a different drug at that time. (Ed: The family has confirmed that this drug was Effexor.)
Baadsgaard, who spent 14 months in a correctional facility, hasn’t filed a lawsuit against the antidepressant manufacturers. But his father, Jay, said Thursday that they are looking into it.
The companies that make the antidepressants say the drugs help people and don’t cause people to become violent or suicidal, as claimed by Taylor.
In fact, Solvay Pharmaceuticals, which manufactured Luvox, the antidepressant Harris was taking, has accused Taylor of presenting “pseudo-scientific” theories to bolster his claims against the company.
Solvay has portrayed Taylor as lawsuit crazy and relying on unscientific gibberish to back his assertions that Luvox caused Harris to kill.
Gary Null, who says he is one of the country’s leading health and fitness advocates, has also been attacked as a conspiracy theorist who particularly targets the pharmaceutical industry.
Manette Loudon, who is producing the documentary in Denver, said the company hopes to complete its work in June on the two-hour film, called “The Drugging of Our Children.”
Baadsgaard, who has been banned for five years from Mattawa and can’t come within 25 miles of the tiny town of 1,800, said he never drank or did illegal drugs before he burst into the classroom.
He said he is convinced the prescription medication made him do it. “I’ve been there. I know what it’s like,” Baadsgaard said. “It’s horrible; it’s terrible. I blame everything on the drugs. Obviously, I didn’t know what I was doing.”