Medical expert: Brain damage could have contributed to school shooting spree
November 10, 1999
Web posted at: 8:05 a.m. EDT (1205 GMT)
From Medical Correspondent Eileen O'Connor
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The argument that Kip Kinkel, 15 years
old when he killed his parents and two of his schoolmates,
went on the shooting spree because of brain damage coupled
with paranoid schizophrenia has scientific merit, a medical
Dr. Pamela Blake, with Georgetown University Hospital,
reviewed the brain scans of 31 murderers, 20 of whom had
physical evidence of frontal lobe dysfunction like that of
Kinkel, now 17, pleaded guilty to killing his parents at
their home and two students at the Springfield, Oregon, high
school on May 21, 1998. The shooting left 25 other students
Sentencing phase under way
The sentencing phase of Kinkel's trial is under way in Eugene, Oregon. He faces 25 years to 220 years in prison, depending
on whether the terms are served concurrently or
A neurologist who testified for the defense on November 4 said a
computerized scan of Kinkel's brain showed areas of reduced
brain activity that are consistent with new research into
children who become schizophrenic.
Dr. Richard Konkol, responding to a question from Kinkel's
attorney, Mark Sabitt, agreed that the "holes" would make the
teen more susceptible to a psychotic episode.
"I think it would," responded Konkol, chairman of pediatric
neurology at Kaiser Permanente Northwest Health Plan and a
professor at Oregon Health Sciences University.
Blake said the abnormalities could, in part, explain a
tendency toward impulsive, violent outbursts.
"They could impair someone's ability to learn social cues ...
one's ability to control his reflexes ... and control his
impulses," Blake said.
Had been suspended for fighting
Kinkel's teachers, who described him as a good math and
science student, also said he had been suspended from
school for fighting. They said he was a student who would
lose his temper at recess if he thought someone was breaking
the rules of a game he was playing.
That, said Blake, is typical of someone with this kind of
"A minor taunt or a minor sort of insult would not be
something that he or she could get past ... and it would
cause him to lash out," she said.
According to Blake's study, this brain damage is not solely
responsible for violent tendencies.
Kinkel's fascination with guns and violent computer games and
videos could be important ingredients contributing to a
"There are a lot of people who have brain injuries or brain
damage who are not violent individuals," Blake said.
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Georgetown University Medical Center
Oregon Health Sciences University
Schizophrenia.org - The Huxley Institute for Biosocial Research, Westchester Chapter
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