School Shooter Says He Has 'Tremendous Shame And Guilt' For Killing Parents, Classmates In 1998
A man who killed his parents before shooting his high school as a teenager gave his first interview since filming in 1998 and expressed regret at the aftermath of his actions.
Kip Kinkel, now 38, spoke exclusively to the Huffington Post over the phone from the Oregon State Correctional Institution for 10 months and told the outlet he felt "tremendous, tremendous shame and guilt." He is serving a de facto life sentence in the medium security prison for the murder of his parents and two classmates.
He was 15 years old when he shot his parents to death on May 20, 1998, the day before the fire opened at Thurston High School in Springfield, Oregon. Not only did he kill two classmates, but he also wounded 25 others with a stolen weapon that he bought from a classmate before his classmates overpowered and disarmed him in the school cafeteria. As the Huffington Post mentions, it was a time when society was just beginning to wrestle with mass shootings as a trend. The shooting took place a year before the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, an incident Kinkel fears may have inspired. Kinkel told the outlet that he was sobbing after that shooting and that the voices in his head told him that Columbine was his fault.
Kinkel said he has been hearing voices since he was 12, a side effect of the then undiagnosed paranoid schizophrenia. Before the shooting, he said he believed the Walt Disney Co. implanted a microchip in his head.
The school shooter, who was portrayed in the media as a black-clad Marilyn Manson fan, was sentenced to 112 years in prison with no parole. The Kinkel case is one of several hot spots in the juvenile justice debate. Kinkel is one of approximately 10,000 people nationwide who face life or life sentences for crimes committed as minors.
Reformers want to end the practice, but opponents fear these efforts could lead to the release of offenders like Kinkel.
After being in silence for decades (he had turned down all previous interview requests and said he didn't want to further traumatize his victims and survivors), Kinkel told the Huffington Post that he now feels obliged to speak up because his case is impacting juvenile justice reform.
"I am responsible for the damage I did when I was 15," Kinkel told HuffPo. "But I'm also responsible for the damage I'm doing now that I'm 38 because of what I did when I was 15."
Kinkel has challenged his sentence, and in March his lawyers filed a petition in federal court alleging his sentence was unconstitutional.
"Sentencing a youth to death in prison for suffering from a mental illness is a violation of the Eighth Amendment," his lawyers wrote in the file. They argue that his admission of guilt was not a voluntary one and that he was not in the right mood at the time.
Betina Lynn, who was shot in the foot by Kinkel and left permanent nerve damage, told the Huffington Post the idea that he could ever get off was "literally terrifying."
"Even now, more than 23 years later, I and many other survivors are still struggling with the aftermath," said Lynn. "We are all sitting by his side for life."
In 2019, after Oregon legislature enacted a measure to stop automatically referring teens to an adult court for certain crimes, some raised fears that Kinkel might be released.
"It doesn't matter if he was 15," said Adam Walker, Ben Walker's brother, who was fatally shot by Kinkel. “The victims don't get a second chance. Why should the perpetrators? "
Kinkel, who graduated from college behind bars, told the Huffington Post he was not considering a release.
"I don't allow myself to spend too much time thinking about it because I think it can actually bring more suffering," he said.
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