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Teen jailed after Oregon high school shooting spree

students hug
Students hug and place flowers in a fence outside Thurston High School  

1 student dead; 2 bodies found at suspect's home

May 21, 1998
Web posted at: 10:14 p.m. EDT (0214 GMT)

SPRINGFIELD, Oregon (CNN) -- A 15-year-old Oregon boy is facing murder charges after allegedly opening fire on his classmates with a semiautomatic rifle, killing one student and wounding 23 others. Two bodies believed to be those of his parents were later found at his home.

Kipland P. Kinkel, a freshman at Thurston High School, was subdued at the scene by some of his classmates, who are being called "heroes" by police.

Based on his subsequent statements, investigators went to Kinkel's home in a rural area north of Springfield and found the bodies of a man and a woman, both shot to death.

Lane County Sheriff Jan Clements said authorities had not positively identified the couple, but believe they are Kinkel's parents. The suspect's grandmother told the Statesman Journal of Salem and the New York Times that the slain adults were the boy's parents.

William P. Kinkel, 59, was retired from teaching Spanish at Thurston High. Faith M. Kinkel, 57, taught Spanish at nearby Springfield High. Kinkel has a sister, Kristin, 21, who was out of the state at the time of the shooting.

A student recounts the shooting
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Initial reaction from students and parents at the school
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Witnesses and those affected by the shooting react to the tragedy
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Clements said warrants were obtained to search the property.

Those wounded in the Thurston High School cafeteria were taken to two hospitals in Springfield and nearby Eugene for treatment. Among the 18 who remained hospitalized, six were in critical condition, hospital officials said.

Victim's sweetheart: 'He was my best friend'

The dead student was identified as Mikael Nickolauson, 17, who had just enlisted Monday in the Oregon National Guard.

His girlfriend, Michelle Calhoun, said he was sitting at a table in the cafeteria when Kinkel, dressed in jeans, a tan jacket and a baseball cap, walked in carrying a gun in each hand and casually started firing at random.

The girl told CNN she ducked and ran, and never got back to the table where her boyfriend was gunned down.

Kip Kinkel
Kinkel  

"He was my best friend. He wasn't just my boyfriend. He was my best friend," she said.

Kinkel had been suspended Wednesday after being arrested for bringing a gun to school, and he faced a hearing that could have resulted in his expulsion, School Superintendent Jamon Kent said. He was released to the custody of his parents, which police said was normal procedure under Oregon law.

Prosecutor Doug Harper said Kinkel would be charged as an adult on aggravated murder and other charges. He was expected to be arraigned Friday afternoon. Under Oregon law, juveniles cannot face the death penalty.

Kinkel said he would 'do something stupid'

Student Robbie Johnson, who said he knew Kinkel, said that on Wednesday, Kinkel "told a couple of people he was probably going to do something stupid today and get back at the people who had expelled him."

"He always said that it would be fun to kill someone and do stuff like that," Johnson said. Other students said Kinkel had once given a talk in speech class on how to build a bomb.

"I think it's pretty early to determine whether he had any particular targets," Springfield Police Capt. Jerry Smith said. "At this time, we have no evidence of that."

injured student
An injured student arrives at a hospital  

Clements said authorities have no reason to believe Kinkel didn't act alone, but said, "We're not ruling anything out."

Kinkel was captured after being tackled by other students when he apparently ran out of ammunition in the rifle and reached for a handgun. Police said he had taken three weapons to school: the .22-caliber rifle, a .22-caliber handgun and a 9 mm semiautomatic Glock pistol.

One of the students who helped subdue Kinkel was Jake Ryker, a wrestler who grappled with the suspect despite being shot himself, wrestling coach Gary Bowden said.

"Just shoot me, shoot me now," Ryker's brother, Josh, quoted Kinkel as saying.

Mayor: 'We have to ask some tough questions'

The incident marked the fifth fatal shooting at a U.S. school in the last nine months, leaving the western Oregon city of 51,000 in a state of shock.

"I think prayer at the present time is the best recourse that we have. We will get through this, " said Springfield Mayor Bill Morrisette. "This is not a Springfield problem. This is a problem of our society, perhaps throughout the world. We do have to ask ourselves some tough questions."

President Clinton called Morrisette to offer his condolences. Speaking at a White House ceremony, Clinton said, "I know that all Americans are heartbroken by the terrible shooting."

"I would just like to say on behalf of the American people that our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the people who were killed and wounded, and with that entire fine community."

Witness: 'It was like a movie'

The shooting happened about 8 a.m. (11 a.m. EDT) at the 1,700-student high school. Students were gathered in the cafeteria and an adjacent courtyard before classes, shortly after completion of an end-of-the-year honor assembly.

Some students later said they initially thought it was a gag when Kinkel entered the cafeteria and allegedly began firing.

"I thought it was fake. I had never heard a gun go off," said Stephanie Quimby, 16. "It was like a movie and you were there. I felt so calm. I knew it was real when I saw him point the gun at someone and heard a girl yell, 'Tressa.'"

The scene was described by one witness as "mayhem." Emergency teams called to the scene set up a triage center to treat the wounded.

Some ask why Kinkel wasn't watched

In the wake of the shooting, Bowden, the wrestling coach, asked the question that many others in Springfield were asking -- "Any kid who takes a gun to school -- why he isn't put under observation for a few weeks is beyond me."

person on stretcher

After the shooting, traffic jams clogged streets as concerned parents rushed to Thurston High. Weeping parents hovered about outside and expressed disbelief that the suspected shooter was back in the school the day after being arrested on a gun violation.

"He told people he was going to do something," one mother said. "Why they let him out, I can't believe it. Someone should be feeling pretty guilty."

School had not been scheduled at Thurston High on Friday because of the Memorial Day holiday. However, school officials decided to open the school and offer counseling to any students, parents or teachers who want it.

Correspondent Tony Clark contributed to this report.

 
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