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Suspect called short-tempered, fascinated with explosives

May 22, 1998
Web posted at: 3:24 a.m. EDT (0724 GMT)

SPRINGFIELD, Oregon (CNN) - The 15-year-old accused of America's latest murderous school rampage looks harmless enough, staring out of news photos wearing a T-shirt and a shy smile.

But students and police said that Kipland Kinkel, known as "Kip," bore many of the dangerous hallmarks that have come to characterize teen-agers whose anger turns to violence.

Kinkel once made a speech about how to build a bomb. And at the middle school he attended last year, students jokingly voted him, "Most Likely to Start World War III.

"He was a little bit psycho," said David Willis, a fellow freshman at Springfield's Thurston High School. "He said he killed his cat."

Police and witnesses said that Kinkel, armed with a rifle and two handguns, walked into the high school cafeteria Thursday and opened fire, calmly unleashing a hail of bullets that killed two students and injured as many as 22.

Police took the boy into custody after the shootings, and officials said they plan to charge him as an adult.

A police check of his house, a neat A-frame with a wide deck in a wooded area about 10 miles out of town, turned up the bodies of an adult man and an adult woman. The suspect's grandmother told the Statesman Journal of Salem and The New York Times that the slain adults were the boy's parents.

Shooting spree follows suspension

Kinkel family photo
The Kinkel family in an undated Christmas card photo   

The bloody shooting spree followed by just one day Kinkel's suspension from Thurston for bringing a gun on campus. Police said the boy had been released into the custody of his parents, despite a history of violent behavior.

The boy's friend, Tony McCowan, said Kinkel was "mad at himself" over the incident, and how his parents -- both teachers -- would react.

"He was kind of worried how it would shame the family, I guess," McCowan said. "He talked about that a lot, like, his parents being teachers .. how this would affect friendships, how his parents' friends would think about it."

"It is my understanding that there is a history of a violent acts prior to this," said Springfield Police Capt. Jerry Smith. "It had something to do with throwing rocks off an overpass at passing cars."

But Springfield Police Chief Bill DeForrest said: "We've had one contact with this boy" and that was Wednesday.

Family called 'excellent, and very loving'

William P. Kinkel, 59, was retired from teaching Spanish at Thurston High. Faith M. Kinkel, 57, taught Spanish at nearby Springfield High.

Dave Wing, who owns the local Mathers Market, said the family was "excellent, and very loving."

A neighbor said the parents didn't believe in guns and paid a lot of attention to their children, often taking Kip and his sister, Kristin, a 21-year-old student at the University of Hawaii, on hiking trips.

"This was a family that took care of its kids," said Dennis Ellison, 57. "This was not a family with absentee parents."

Ellison described Kip Kinkel as a "trustworthy Boy Scout-type of kid," but said the boy's parents had recently complained that his grades had been dropping and that he was hanging out with the wrong crowd.

Tom Jacobson, a family friend, said Kinkel's father struggled recently to keep his son out of trouble.

"He didn't offer not to talk about it or come to me for advice. I would always ask Bill, 'How's Kip doing?' And then that would open the floodgates and he'd express his feelings. We came close to tears a couple of times. It pained him a lot.

Bragged of expertise with explosives

Kinkel's friends said the boy was fascinated with explosives, made pipe bombs and bragged about torturing animals.

He was a member of the freshman football team but didn't play much because he was frequently benched for cursing at coaches.

A purple belt in karate, Kinkel had a history of school suspensions and a hair-trigger temper, they said.

"He had a short temper," said Erik Deleon, another Thurston freshman. "He said he blew up a cow once."

Deleon said Kinkel had bragged about bringing a pipe bomb to school and keeping it hidden from officials. "He was a nice kid when you really got to know him, but you didn't want to be on his bad side because he had a short temper," he said.

Alanna Janssens, another of Kinkel's classmates, said it was well-known in the neighborhood that he bragged of expertise with explosives and would wander off into the woods to set little bombs off.

Police surrounding the Kinkel house on Thursday kept it roped off, and late in the afternoon a team from the Eugene Police Explosive/Arson Response Unit appeared to sweep the house -- a sign that police were taking no chances.

Correspondent Greg Lefevre, The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.


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