SPRINGFIELD, Ore. -- A second teen-ager died yesterday as grieving residents here struggled to understand why no one who saw the warning signs acted to stop a 15-year-old who stands accused of killing his parents and then raking his high school cafeteria with gunfire Thursday morning.
Kipland Phillip Kinkel, handcuffed and flanked by sheriff's deputies, was arraigned as an adult on four counts of aggravated murder in connection with the deaths of two classmates, his mother and his father. He showed no emotion.
Police, fearful of booby traps, made their way yesterday into the secluded home where Kinkel, a freshman at Thurston High School, lived, and they found the bodies of his parents, Faith Kinkel, 57, and William P. Kinkel, 60. Both had been shot.
Although investigators had spotted the two bodies in the house on McKenzie River on Thursday, officers had avoided going near them for fear of triggering two intricately made bombs with timing devices that they found hidden in a crawl space above Kipland Kinkel's room. Yesterday, as they disarmed those bombs, investigators said they also found three other bombs, as well as two hand grenades, 175 mm howitzer shell casings, bomb-making chemicals and literature on how to make explosive devices.
Kinkel was being held in the Skipworth Youth Detention Facility in neighboring Eugene on a suicide watch. The facility's director, Steve Carmichael, described Kinkel as "calm. He grew agitated and he paced and then he calmed down again. When he came in, he said, 'Just kill me now.' "
If convicted, he could face life in prison. He is spared Oregon's death penalty because he is a juvenile.
Kinkel has emerged as a confounding suspect: The son of popular teachers, he is said to have bragged about torturing animals, reportedly liked making bombs and talked of killing people. Yet he was sweet to a former girlfriend and was described as a typical teen-ager.
"He was a normal All-American kid," said Rachel Dawson, 15, who dated Kinkel in middle school. "But he had a troubled side. He was always mad at something. He had a mad-at-the-world attitude."
Laughed off comments
The varied descriptions of the suspect have stirred debate in this working-class city at the edge of the Cascade Mountains. Residents wonder if someone -- parent, teacher or classmate -- should have recognized him as a troubled teen-ager and offered him help.
Classmates said Kinkel, with sandy-brown hair and freckles, often boasted of horrific acts. But most seemed to laugh his comments off as big talk from a youngster who was picked on because of his unusual name.
But Kinkel is charged with firing 50 bullets from a high-powered semiautomatic rifle and one from one of his two handguns as he calmly shot two dozen of his classmates in the school cafeteria before 8 a.m. Thursday. The day before, he had been arrested and suspended for hiding a stolen handgun in his locker.
Mikael Nickolauson, 17, an aspiring National Guardsman, was killed instantly. Ben Walker, 16, died yesterday, when doctors shut down his life support system, deciding the youngster would never recover from the bullet wound to his head.
Police defend release
Kinkel had been released after his arrest on the handgun charge Wednesday, which prompted criticism from some residents who wondered why the youth had not been detained.
At a news conference packed with reporters from as far away as Germany yesterday, Police Chief Bill DeForrest defended his officers, saying Kinkel told them, " 'I just like guns.' He made no specific threat." DeForrest said Kinkel told officers, "I don't intend to use it on anybody." Oregon law, DeForrest said, mandated Kinkel's release.
Police did not return the handgun that Kinkel carried Wednesday. DeForrest said Kinkel also had a .22-caliber semiautomatic rifle and two handguns owned by his father that were used in the school attack.
City officials praised three students who tackled the shooter as he paused to reload. One of them, Jacob Ryker, 17, a wrestler, had been shot in the chest before he brought down the gunman. Yesterday, Jacob was in serious condition but expected to live.
Officials also praised residents who overwhelmed the local blood bank with donations for the 22 wounded. And they scheduled a " community forum for Tuesday to let neighbors air their concerns and grieve.
Ben Walker was pronounced dead yesterday at McKenzie-Willamette Hospital after a long consultation with family members, who requested his organs be donated. A hospital administrator said Ben never had a chance.
Thursday night, Chianne Shryker, who was walking in front of Ben, her boyfriend, when he was shot, wrote a letter to him and posted it at a makeshift shrine in front of Thurston High School.
"The time we had together is never going to be over," she wrote. "Because as far as I'm concerned, you are still with me. Oh Ben, I hate to say goodbye."
With Thursday's rampage, Springfield now joins Edinboro, Pa.; Jonesboro, Ark.; and Pearl, Miss., in a growing list of towns with shootings at schools.
Eugene's newspaper, the Register-Guard, summed it up in a single sentence: "It happened here."
Springfield's residents had many theories about why.
Denise, an angry caller to a radio show, blamed the national news media for making her hometown look bad. "I've gotten calls from people I haven't spoke to in 10 years asking me what kind of a town I live in," she said.
"We are not as safe as we used to be," said City Council President Greg Shaver, who works at a local feed store. "This is the event that happens someplace else."
Displays of grief
From Thursday night into dawn yesterday, four youngsters sat on the sidewalk outside Thurston High, writing by the light of four flickering candles what they knew of the victims and the suspect.
Behind them was a public display of grief, from balloons to cards to quotes from the Bible -- all attached to or leaning against the school's chain-link fence.
"Get well soon, graduation is not something to miss. I'm praying for you," one encouraging card reads. But another directed an unforgiving message at the suspect: "Kip, burn in Hell."
Another held the media responsible: "We need to put the blame in its right spot, not all on Kip," the poster reads. "Kip was an average middle class boy and because he got angry, you showed him how to be famous for 15 minutes. Your fault, no one else's."
But Emily Nelson, 16, a Thurston High student, said she could not understand why Kinkel was not detained after he was found with a gun Wednesday.
"If you get into a fight, you spend the night in jail," she said. "This kid shows up at school with a gun and tells people he's going to kill somebody, and they release him to his parents."
Mandy Axtel, 15, said students made fun of Kinkel's name and that he would answer saying "how he would like to blow something up or shoot someone to death."
The charges left officials at City Hall, from the police chief to the school superintendent, defending why Kinkel was set free Wednesday.
School Superintendent Jamon Kent said he talked with teachers who described Kinkel as "a good kid, an average 15-year-old, a standard everyday type kid." He said talk among classmates isn't enough to suspend someone or require counseling.
"If we decided to suspend every student who said they were going to kill someone, we would have a lot of kids under guard," Kent said. "That is a typical response of kids today."
Officials noted that Kinkel came from a solid home. His mother was a teacher in the city's other high school. His father had retired from his teaching job at Thurston. His sister is a college cheerleader.
"We are living proof that no one is safe from this kind of violence," said Shaver, the City Council president.
Pub Date: 5/23/98