Austin Eubanks, who survived the tragic 1999 Columbine shooting, was found dead at his home this weekend, CNN reports. Eubanks was found following a welfare check after he did not answer his phone, according to Routt County, Colorado, Coroner Robert Ryg. An autopsy is planned for Monday. Eubanks was 37-years-old.
While no signs of foul play are suspected, Eubanks did struggle with opioid addiction following the shooting and had long been a public speaker who addressed issues of substance abuse around the country. His last such appearance was earlier this month at the 2019 Connecticut Opioid and Prescription Drug Prevention Conference.
Eubanks was 17 at the time of the Columbine shooting. In a recent interview, he recalled that he was talking with friends in the school library about whether they would play golf or go fishing after school when shots rang out.
He remembers that a teacher ran through the same doors that they had just used to enter the library and yelled for everyone to get under the tables. Eubanks was in shock as people yelled that someone had a gun, he said in an interview with CNN last year.
While Eubanks and his friend hid under a library table, the shooters entered the library and began to fire methodically underneath the tables. His friend was killed instantly as Eubanks suffered gunshots to his hand and knee.
“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, speaking of the pain medication.
Columbine shooting survivor Austin Eubanks found dead in home— New York Daily News (@NYDailyNews) May 19, 2019
Eubanks’ family said in a statement that he “lost the battle with the very disease he fought so hard to help others face.https://t.co/RfN1AKc5ai
Within a matter of weeks, the young man was struggling with opioid addiction. That addiction would stay with him through his twenties as he went through multiple attempts at residential treatment to break away from the drugs. After many such attempts, Eubanks finally found long-term recovery and from there began to devote his time to speaking publicly about addiction and recovery.
It was that addiction, however, that seems to have finally taken his life.
Eubanks’s family released a statement this weekend, confirming that relapse was at play. The release indicated that 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.”