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Thurston High School shooter speaks out for first time, expresses 'tremendous shame and guilt'

Kip Kinkel, now 38, spoke to the HuffPost about the murder of his parents and the subsequent school shooting where he killed 2 students and injured 25 more.
Credit: KGW file
On May 21, 1998, Kip Kinkel, then 15, killed his parents, set fire to their house and went into Thurston High School in Springfield, Ore., heavily armed. Two students died and 25 were wounded.

SPRINGFIELD, Ore. — Kip Kinkel, who shot and killed his parents before going to Thurston High School in Springfield, Oregon in 1998, and killing two classmates and injuring 25 more, has given his first news interview.

He told HuffPost he feels “tremendous, tremendous shame and guilt." Kinkel, now 38, is serving a de facto life sentence.

He said he felt guilty not just for what he did as a 15-year-old suffering from then-undiagnosed paranoid schizophrenia, but the effect his crime has had on other juvenile offenders sentenced to life terms: His case has been held up by some of his victims and by others to oppose juvenile justice reform in the state.

HuffPost points out that detractors of Senate Bill 1008, which was passed in 2019 and changed the way juveniles were prosecuted in Oregon, making it difficult to prosecute children as adults and offered early release options for those who showed signs of rehabilitation, used Kinkel’s case as an example of those who should not be able to benefit from the bill.

An amendment was made to the bill to exclude anyone who had been sentenced before SB 1008 had been passed. Kinkel told HuffPost that when the amendment went through and he saw potential second chances at life slip away for his friends, other people who had been tried as adults when they were children, he knew he was being used as an example. He thought his silence may be doing more harm than good.

“I’ve never done this. I’ve never done an interview,” Kinkel told HuffPost. “Partly because I feel tremendous, tremendous shame and guilt for what I did. And there’s an element of society that glorifies violence, and I hate the violence that I’m guilty of. I’ve never wanted to do anything that’s going to bring more attention.”

He was described as making a great effort over the years to stay out of the public eye, for fear of causing further trauma to the victims of his crimes and their families.

“I have responsibility for the harm that I caused when I was 15. But I also have responsibility for the harm that I am causing now as I’m 38 because of what I did at 15,” he said.

Kinkel described to HuffPost the voices he heard and the mounting paranoia that made him feel he had no choice but to commit the crimes that he did.

The HuffPost piece goes on to detail Kinkel’s childhood, the arrival of the voices later to be diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenia, and details of the killing of his parents and his account of what happened when he walked into Thurston High that day in 1998.

You can find the full feature on Huffpost’s website.