San Diego uncle of '14th Columbine fatality' speaks out following Florida tragedy

Posted at 4:45 PM, Feb 15, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-15 21:26:43-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - The Florida school shooting is conjuring painful memories for an uncle who calls his nephew the "14th Columbine victim."

"You get choked up and then you're mad," said Tim Barnes.

It was a flood of different emotions, as Barnes watched coverage of the tragedy in Florida.

April 19th, 1999, as news broke about the massacre at Columbine High through frantic 911 calls, the San Diegan had his nephew Greg on his mind: A Columbine High student and one of the top basketball players in Colorado.

Greg did survive the shootings, but one of his best friends did not. Greg was among several students who tried to keep the girl's basketball coach alive.

"From my understanding, he was holding Coach Sanders when he bled to death," said Barnes.

Two months later, Barnes sat down with his nephew.    

"Everything's cool. I'm good. I'm fine. Don't really want to talk about it. And that scared me. You could tell not everything was okay," said Barnes.

Less than a year later, Greg took his own life. Next to him was a CD, looped to play a song with the words, "I'm too depressed to go on."

"Just complete shock. Unbelievable, still unbelievable," said Barnes.

So many years later, the grief is now accompanied by a determination to prevent a repeat of his family's tragedy.  For survivors, victims and others deeply impacted by school violence, he has this message: don't be afraid to get help and feel your pain.

"Feel it. You're mad? Be mad. Vent. You're sad? Cry. Feel it. It hurts. You can't hang onto it, or you will be the next victim," said Barnes.