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Ore. Suspect Described As Calm

May 22, 1998

SPRINGFIELD, Ore. (AP) _ In the face of terror, with students screaming and diving for cover around him, Kip Kinkel was surprisingly calm.

Those unlucky enough to be in the packed cafeteria at Thurston High School on Thursday say the 15-year-old suspended a day earlier for having a gun at school returned with a rifle and an indiscriminate rage.

``His face was casual like it was something he did every day,″ said David Willis, a 15-year-old freshman. ``He put his foot on the back of one kid and shot him four times.″

Sixteen-year-old Jonathan Crawford said the young gunman, wearing a trench coat and backpack, fired wildly from the hip. ``He was swiveling back and forth, firing at everyone.″

When the nation’s latest school rampage was over and Kinkel was tackled by another student, one classmate was dead and several others were critically wounded. Two bodies were found later in his home _ reportedly those of his parents.

Since October, similar incidents have happened across the country, from Pearl, Miss., to Jonesboro, Ark., and Edinboro, Pa. On Tuesday, a high school senior allegedly shot and killed a student in Fayetteville, Tenn., apparently over an argument about a girl.

In Springfield, 110 miles south of Portland, Kinkel is a freckle-faced freshman who was once jokingly voted by his middle-school classmates as ``Most Likely to Start World War III.″

He was to make his first court appearance today on an adult charge of murder. If convicted, he could face life behind bars. Oregon law bars juveniles from getting the death penalty.

Thurston High’s 1,350 students were off today for the long Memorial Day weekend, but dozens of counselors planned to be there anyway in case the students wanted to talk or grieve.

At a candlelight vigil Thursday night, students tucked flowers into a chain link fence and gathered in small groups to hug and cry and talk. A few sang ``Amazing Grace.″ Propped up against a small cross, nearly buried by flowers, was a sign pleading ``Will we ever learn?″

``You don’t make sense out of this,″ said wrestling coach Gary Bowden. ``There is no sense to it.″

Police said Kinkel parked a few blocks away from the high school, walked inside the cafeteria carrying a .22-caliber rifle, a .22-caliber handgun and a Glock handgun.

Thursday morning, just before classes began, some 400 students were milling about or eating breakfast in the cafeteria. Shots rang out, bullets shattering huge plate-glass windows. Some teens fell. Others ducked beneath tables or ran screaming for the exits.

Students heard the click, click of empty chambers as the gunman kept firing after his bullets were gone. One of those misfires came with the barrel pointblank at a student’s head.

After no more than a minute, and dozens of rounds fired, 17-year-old wrestler Jake Ryker, already wounded in the chest, tackled the boy while he was trying to reload and was shot in the hand. Several others quickly piled on to end the terror.

``Just shoot me, shoot me now,″ one of the students, Ryker’s brother Josh, quoted the boy as saying.

Of the 23 people injured, 19 were hit by gunfire and the rest were hurt in the panic to flee the cafeteria. Four of the victims were in critical condition this morning; four, including Ryker, were in serious condition; five were in fair condition; and six were in good condition.

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

After the boy was arrested, police followed up on his suggestion to check his house. There, they found the bodies of a man and a woman. Authorities would not confirm their names, but the boy’s grandmother confirmed to at least two newspapers that they were his parents.

Police, wary of the suspect’s apparent fascination with bombs, evacuated nearby homes as they searched the Kinkel house.

Neighbors said the parents, William P. Kinkel, 59, and Faith M. Kinkel, 57, were both foreign-language teachers who kept close watch over their two children.

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

Friends say Kinkel was upset and embarrassed at being arrested and suspended from school Wednesday for allegedly trying to buy a gun from another student. He wanted the gun, one friend said, because his parents had taken his other guns as punishment for his having rolled toilet paper around a house.

``Yesterday, he told a couple of people he was probably going to do something stupid today and get back at the people who had expelled him,″ said student Robbie Johnson.

Some students said Kinkel once gave a talk in speech class about how to build a bomb, bragged about torturing animals and once got in trouble for throwing rocks off a highway overpass.

In a recent literature class, when it was Kinkel’s turn to share from his journal, he stood in the front of the room and read about his plans to ``kill everybody.″

``Most people just started laughing because they thought he was kidding,″ 15-year-old Jeffrey Anderson told The Oregonian newspaper. ``He liked to make people laugh. He was funny in a sick way.″

``He had a really short fuse,″ added Josh Ryker, who played on the freshman football team with Kinkel. ``When he got suspended, I knew he would not stand for it and I knew he would do something. I just didn’t think it would be this.″

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