STEAMBOAT SPRINGS—A Colorado man who survived the 1999 Columbine school shooting and later became an advocate for fighting addiction has died.
Routt County Coroner Robert Ryg said on May 18 that 37-year-old Austin Eubanks died overnight at his Steamboat Springs home.
There were no signs of foul play. A Monday autopsy was planned to determine the cause of death.
Eubanks was shot in the hand and knee in the Columbine attack that killed 12 classmates and a teacher, including Eubanks’ best friend.
He became addicted to drugs after taking prescription pain medication while recovering from his injuries. He later worked at an addiction treatment center and traveled the U.S. telling his story.
From his Twitter account, it appears he last spoke at the 2019 Connecticut Opioid and Prescription Drug Prevention Conference on May 2.
Austin Eubanks, injured survivor of the Columbine shooting and Addiction Recovery Speaker talked about his powerful story at today’s @CTDPH Opioids Conference. Thank you @eubanksaustin for sharing with us. For more about Austin, visit his website: https://t.co/WDXYCLwCaI pic.twitter.com/Vcu4WoQsyQ
— Naugatuck Valley HD (@NaugValleyHD) May 2, 2019
Opioids ‘Took the Emotion Away’
Eubanks was 17 at the time of the Columbine shooting, according to CNN affiliate KMGH.
He was in the library with his friends, trying to decide whether they were going to go fishing or play golf after school, when they heard the sound of gunshots.
“A teacher ran through the same doors that we just entered into the library, yelling at everybody to get under the tables, that somebody had a gun, and I remember just being in shock,” Eubanks told CNN.
— FOX31 Denver KDVR (@KDVR) May 18, 2019
Eubanks, his best friend and a couple of other students hid under the same table. About 10 minutes later, the shooters entered the library and methodically fired under each table, Eubanks said. He was shot in the hand and knee. His best friend was killed instantly.
“Obviously, after that, my life took a pretty big detour,” Eubanks said.
“As a result of my injuries, I was pretty significantly medicated about 45 minutes after being shot. I remember immediately being drawn to that feeling, because it took the emotion away,” he said of the pain medication.
Within a matter of weeks, he said, he developed an opioid addiction.
Eubanks continued to struggle with addiction in his 20s, he said. Then, after multiple attempts at residential treatment, he found long-term recovery and decided to devote his time to speaking out about addiction recovery.
His family released a statement to KMGH saying Eubanks “lost the battle with the very disease he fought so hard to help others face. Helping to build a community of support is what meant the most to Austin, and we plan to continue his work.”
The Associated Press contributed to this article.