1998 Thurston High School shooting

Coordinates: 44°02′58″N 122°55′29″W / 44.04944°N 122.92472°W / 44.04944; -122.92472
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1998 Thurston High School shooting
The first memorial after the Thurston shooting
LocationSpringfield, Oregon, U.S.
Coordinates44°02′58″N 122°55′29″W / 44.04944°N 122.92472°W / 44.04944; -122.92472
DateMurder of parents:
May 20, 1998 (1998-05-20)
May 21, 1998 (1998-05-21)
7:55 a.m. (PST)
TargetStudents and staff at Thurston High School
Attack type
Spree killing, mass shooting, school shooting, parricide
Deaths4 (including the perpetrator's parents at home)
PerpetratorKipland Kinkel
DefenderJacob Ryker
VerdictPleaded guilty
ConvictionsMurder (4 counts), attempted murder (26 counts)[a][2]
Sentence111 years imprisonment without the possibility of parole

On May 21, 1998, 15-year-old freshman student Kipland Kinkel opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle in the cafeteria of Thurston High School in Springfield, Oregon, United States, killing two of his classmates and wounding 25 others.[1] He had killed his parents at the family home the previous day, following his suspension pending an expulsion hearing after he admitted to school officials that he was keeping a stolen handgun in his locker. Fellow students subdued him, leading to his arrest. He later characterized his actions as an attempt to get others to kill him, since he wanted to take his own life after killing his parents but could not bring himself to.

During the year before the shooting, Kinkel's increasingly aberrant behavior and fascination with weapons and death had led his parents to take him to a psychologist, who diagnosed major depressive disorder. After he appeared to respond to Prozac, his treatment was discontinued and the prescription expired. But Kinkel's parents had not disclosed histories of mental illness in their families, and Kinkel himself had not told anyone about having heard voices urging him to violence since he was 12, out of fear of being ostracized or institutionalized. Since the shootings he has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and takes antipsychotic medication; his sister and one of the victims believe that better awareness of mental health issues might have averted the shooting. Kinkel pled guilty to murder and attempted murder. He was sentenced to 111 years in prison without the possibility of parole; a sentence upheld on appeal. He is currently incarcerated at the Oregon State Correctional Institution in Salem.

The shooting made national news, as the latest in a series of school shootings over the previous year. Kinkel's was seen as more egregious than the earlier ones before since he had gone into a crowded internal space and indiscriminately opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle. President Bill Clinton spoke at the high school a month later about the issue. A memorial outside the school memorializes the two students killed.


Kipland Kinkel
Kinkel being escorted by police officers
Kipland Phillip Kinkel

(1982-08-30) August 30, 1982 (age 41)
Parent(s)William Kinkel (father)
Faith Zuranski (mother)
MotiveAlleged mental illness

Kipland Phillip Kinkel (born August 30, 1982), known as "Kip", is the second child of William and Faith Kinkel (née Zuranski). His parents were both Spanish teachers; Faith taught Spanish at Springfield High School, and William had taught at Thurston High School and Lane Community College;[3] William had retired three years before the shooting while Faith was still working.[4]

There was a history of serious mental illnesses in both sides of the family. Faith and William concealed this from psychologists;[5] investigators hired by Kip's lawyers uncovered it, including one uncle who had stabbed a state trooper after a traffic stop in the late 1940s, believing the man had killed his brother during the war.[4]

According to all accounts, Kinkel's parents were loving and supportive. His older sister Kristin was a gifted student. The family spent a sabbatical year in Spain when Kip was six, where he attended a Spanish-speaking kindergarten. Kip reportedly attended in an "unnormal" way, and his family said that he struggled with the curriculum.[1] When he returned to Oregon, he attended elementary school in the small community of Walterville, about 5 miles (8 km) east of Springfield. His teachers considered him immature and lacking physical and emotional development. Based on the recommendation of his teachers, Kip's parents had him repeat the first grade.[1] During that year, he was diagnosed with dyslexia, which became worse, and placed in extensive special education classes by the beginning of second grade.

Kip had an interest in firearms and explosives from an early age that grew in puberty; he began making bombs, mostly gasoline-based, and detonating them in a nearby quarry to assuage his anger.[4] William initially wanted to discourage his son from violence, but later enrolled Kip in gun safety courses, buying him a 9mm Glock handgun and eventually a .22 caliber rifle at the age of 15.[1] He also passed down a .22 single-shot rifle he had received at age 12 to his son. Faith initially disapproved of the purchases but relented when his psychologist "gave her emotional permission to say yes." Kip and William used the guns for target shooting near their home.[4]

Classmates at Thurston described Kinkel as strange and morbid. Others characterized him as psychotic or schizoid, enjoying the music of rock bands such as Nine Inch Nails, Rage Against the Machine, and Marilyn Manson.[6][7][8] He constantly talked about committing acts of violence, telling friends that he wanted to join the U.S. Army after graduation to find out what it was like to kill someone. When asked about a family trip to Disneyland, he commented that he wanted to "punch Mickey Mouse in the nose."[9] He once gave a "how-to" speech in bomb-making to his speech class and set off "stink bombs" in the lockers of classmates. Kinkel studied William Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet in his English class and related with the protagonists and became enamored with the 1996 modernized film adaptation, which featured heavy use of firearms.[1]

Kip's parents enrolled him in anger management and had him evaluated by a psychologist, Jeffrey Hicks. Shortly before his death, William confided to a friend that he was "terrified" and had run out of options to help his son.[10] Kinkel saw the psychologist over a period of six months. He was diagnosed with depression and began a prescription for Prozac. Eight weeks later, Kip, his mother, and Hicks agreed that Kinkel was doing well enough to stop the sessions. Kip did not refill his Prozac prescription when it ran out in late 1997.[4]

Kinkel exhibited signs of paranoid schizophrenia, the full extent of which became apparent only after his trial. He had gone to great lengths to hide any symptoms due to a fear of being labelled abnormal or "mentally retarded", being disliked by girls, or being institutionalized. A month before the shooting, Kinkel had burst out "God damn these voices in my head!" during his language arts class and was punished by being sent into the hall and instructed to fill out a "respect sheet"; he was supposed to have the sheet signed by a parent but had a classmate do so instead. After the shooting he told examining psychiatrists about hearing voices in his head since he had turned 12, voices so insistent he considered self-harm to suppress them. Instead, he tried to drown them out with loud music on headphones and bike riding.[4]

Eventually Kinkel had paranoid delusions, believing that the government had implanted a computer chip in his brain and that the Chinese were going to invade the West Coast.[11][12] He described three voices: "Voice A", who commanded Kinkel to commit violent acts, "Voice B", who repeated insulting and depressive statements at Kip's expense, and "Voice C", who constantly echoed what A and B said. He claimed that he felt punished by God for being subjected to these voices, and that it was Voice A who instigated the killing of his parents and the subsequent attack at the school.[13]

Events prior to shooting[edit]


On May 20, 1998, Kinkel was suspended after being found in possession of a loaded, stolen handgun on school grounds. A friend of Kinkel's had stolen the pistol from the father of another friend and arranged to sell the weapon, a Beretta Model 90 .32-caliber pistol, to Kinkel the night before, for $110 ($200 in 2023[14]).[4] Kinkel then put the gun, loaded with a nine-round magazine, in a paper bag and left it in his locker. When the gun's owner discovered the theft, he reported it to the police and supplied the names of students he believed might have stolen the firearm; Kinkel was not one of them. The school became aware of his possible involvement and questioned him. When he was checked for weapons, he reportedly stated: "Look, I'm gonna be square with you guys; the gun's in my locker." Kinkel was suspended pending an expulsion hearing, and he and the friend were arrested. Kinkel was released from police custody and driven home by his father, who told him he would be sent to military school if he did not improve his behavior.[15] When his father lectured him while driving him home from the police station after the firearm incident, Kinkel said, the voices in his head were so loud that he was unable to hear his father.[4]

Murder of parents[edit]

According to Kinkel's taped confession, at about 3 p.m. that day, he retrieved his Ruger .22-caliber semi-automatic rifle from his bedroom and ammunition from his parents' bedroom. He then went to the kitchen and shot his father once in the back of the head, then dragged his body into the bathroom and covered it with a sheet.[1] When his mother arrived home at about 6:30 p.m. he met her in the garage, told her he loved her, then shot her twice in the back of the head, three times in the face, and once in the heart. He then dragged her body across the floor and covered it with a sheet.[1]

Throughout the next morning, Kinkel repeatedly played a recording of "Liebestod", the final dramatic aria from Wagner's opera Tristan und Isolde, on the family's sound system.[1][16] The recording was featured in Romeo + Juliet and included on the film's soundtrack. When police arrived at the house, they found "opera music" from the soundtrack playing loudly with the CD player set to continuous play.[1] In a note Kinkel left on a coffee table in the living room, he described his motive for killing his parents thus: "I just got two felonies on my record. My parents can't take that! It would destroy them. The embarrassment would be too much for them. They couldn't live with themselves." But as the note continues, he attempts to describe his mental state: "My head just doesn't work right. God damn these VOICES inside my head. ... I have to kill people. I don't know why. ... I have no other choice."[17]


Students at memorial fence following shooting at Thurston HS in Springfield, Oregon in May 1998
Students at memorial fence following shooting at Thurston HS in Springfield, Oregon in May 1998

On May 21, Kinkel drove his mother's Ford Explorer to the high school. He wore a trench coat to hide the five weapons he carried: two hunting knives, his rifle, a 9×19mm Glock 19 pistol, and a .22-caliber Ruger MK II pistol. He was carrying 1,127 rounds of ammunition.[18]

Kinkel parked on 61st Street, two blocks from the school, then jogged to the campus, entered the patio area and fired two shots, fatally wounding 16-year-old Ben Walker and wounding another. He went to the cafeteria after turning down the hallway and, walking across it, fired the remaining 48 rounds from his rifle, wounding 24 students and killing 17-year-old Mikael Nickolauson.[19] Kinkel fired a total of 51 rounds, 37 of which struck students, and killed two.[18] Three hundred students were present during the event.[20]

When Kinkel's rifle ran out of ammunition and he began to reload, wounded student Jacob Ryker tackled him, assisted by several other students. Kinkel drew the Glock from his belt and fired one shot before he was disarmed, injuring Ryker again as well as another student. He yelled at the students, "Just kill me!" The students restrained Kinkel until the police arrived and arrested him.[21] A total of seven students were involved in subduing and disarming Kinkel.[22] In custody, Kinkel retrieved a knife that was secured on his leg and attacked a police officer, begging to be fatally shot. The officer subdued him with pepper spray.[citation needed]

Nickolauson died at the scene; Walker died after being transported to the hospital and kept on life support until his parents arrived. The other students, including Ryker, were also taken to the hospital with a variety of wounds. Ryker had a perforated lung, but he made a full recovery. He received the Boy Scouts of America Honor Medal with Crossed Palms for his heroism on the day of the attack.[23]

Relief and aftermath[edit]

In the wake of the shooting, over 200 counselors volunteered and over $400,000 of aid money was given in the form of the Thurston Healing Fund.[20] A scholarship was created for school graduates in remembrance of the shooting. In 2003, a permanent memorial was created and dedicated at the school in memory of the event.[20] It has a curved wall and a plaque with the names of the two students killed; plans to also include Kinkel's parents' were dropped after debate.[4]

The shooting made national news. Since the preceding October, there had been four other school shootings around the country.[b] While mass shootings had not been uncommon in the U.S., they had very rarely happened at schools.[c] The earlier shootings had occurred outside schools or had involved pistols. Kinkel, by contrast, had entered the school with a semi-automatic rifle and opened fire on a crowded cafeteria. "Something like this was unimaginable at that point in time," recalled Peter DeFazio, who lived near the school and represented the area in the U.S. House of Representatives. Many of the students at the time still live in Springfield. Thurston's current dean of students, a friend who had to call Kristin Kinkel to let her know what had happened, considers the shooting "our 9/11".[4]

Springfield adopted the slogan "Let it end here" in response to the tragedy. In June, President Bill Clinton spoke at the school, calling the shooting "a traumatic experience for all of America ... Everybody who has looked at you knows that this is a good community that they'd be proud to live in, and, therefore, it could happen anywhere."[4]

Trial and imprisonment[edit]

At the police station, Kinkel lunged at Officer Al Warthen with his knife, screaming, "Shoot me, kill me!" The officer repelled Kinkel with pepper spray. Kinkel later said that he wanted to trick the officer into shooting him, as he had wanted to kill himself after killing his parents but could not bring himself to do so.[citation needed]

In jail, Kinkel was placed on suicide watch, and he attempted to kill himself by starvation.[4]

At his sentencing, the defense presented experts on mental health to show that Kinkel was mentally ill. Hicks said that he was in satisfactory mental health. He had seen Kinkel for nine sessions and treated him for major depression. William and Faith terminated the therapy because Kinkel was responding well to treatment and ceased to show symptoms of depression.[24]

On September 24, 1999, three days before jury selection was set to begin, Kinkel pleaded guilty to murder and attempted murder, forgoing the possibility of being acquitted by reason of insanity. In November 1999, Kinkel was sentenced to more than 111 years in prison without the possibility of parole. At sentencing, Kinkel apologized to the court for the murder of his parents and the shooting spree.[19]


In June 2007, Kinkel sought a new trial, saying that his previous attorneys should have taken the case to trial and used the insanity defense. Two psychiatrists testified that Kinkel exhibited signs of paranoid schizophrenia at the time of the shooting.[11] In August 2007, a Marion County judge denied him a new trial. Kinkel appealed, arguing among other things that he had had ineffective assistance of counsel during the trial proceedings. In January 2011, the Oregon Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court judgment, denying his motion for a new trial.[25] Kinkel has appealed his sentence in both federal and state courts. In federal court he claimed his guilty plea should not have been accepted without a prior mental health evaluation. In state court, Kinkel challenged the validity of the virtual life sentence he was given, citing Miller v. Alabama.[26][27]

He continues to seek parole although it is seen as unlikely he will ever be released. "There is still a long memory and a lot of victims", former congressman DeFazio told The New Yorker in 2023. "I mean, that guy should never see the light of day."[4]

Kinkel is incarcerated at the Oregon State Correctional Institution in Salem. He received his GED while serving a portion of his ‘life sentence’ at MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility in Woodburn. On June 11, 2007, Kinkel, nearing his 25th birthday (the maximum age to be held as a juvenile in Oregon), was transferred from the Oregon Youth Authority, MacLaren Correctional Facility, to the Oregon State Correctional Institution,[28] where he currently resides, with Oregon Department of Corrections SID number 12975669.[29]

Long-term impact[edit]

Anthony W. Case was shot four times by Kinkel as he took shelter underneath a table. The injuries were severe enough that he was unable to walk for an extended period afterwards and did not return to school until the next year. At Kinkel's sentencing, he said the pain was still enough that he could not walk far without shoes; he still has a slight limp. Nerve damage in his legs led to him to give up hopes of playing baseball in college. Instead, he devoted himself to science, earning a bachelor's degree in physics from the University of Oregon in nearby Eugene, and a Ph.D. in astronomy from Boston University. He worked at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics where he has helped develop the Parker Solar Probe, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and HelioSwarm. Case told The New Yorker that without the injuries, he might not have pursued his scientific studies as seriously: "If I had been pushing more toward baseball, there's no way I could have been studying as much".[4][30]

Kinkel was formally diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and takes antipsychotic medication for it daily. He works as an electrician and takes college classes in prison. Kinkel continues to reflect on, and try to understand, his actions. "How could I have gotten to this point at fifteen that all these things came together—where my humanity collapsed, and I did this horrific thing to people I loved and to people I didn't know?" he asked in 2023.[4]

The role his mental health and the treatment it received prior to the shooting has complicated retrospective views of it. "There’s no way his behavior was a choice", says his sister, who elaborates that she has never felt angry enough to need to forgive him since he was the only family member she had left after he killed their parents. Being his sister has, she says, complicated some of her romantic relationships when partners found out. Case, who survived four shots Kinkel took at him, resists the desire to explain him but agrees that better mental-health treatment might have averted the shootings. If it came down to his opinion as to whether Kinkel should be released, he allowed, it would not be an easy decision but "it wouldn't be a hard no".[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Four counts of aggravated murder and 26 counts of attempted aggravated murder dropped in a plea deal.
  2. ^ In Pearl, Mississippi; West Paducah, Kentucky; Jonesboro, Arkansas and Edinboro, Pennsylvania
  3. ^ The most significant school shooting before had occurred in 1979, when a 16-year-old San Diego girl opened fire on students waiting to get into a school across the street from her house, killing a janitor and the principal


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "The Killer at Thurston High". Frontline. PBS. January 18, 2000. Archived from the original on June 25, 2007. Retrieved June 24, 2007.
  2. ^ "Kinkel v. Long, 6:11-cv-06244-AA". Archived from the original on December 18, 2023. Retrieved December 18, 2023.
  3. ^ Bernstein, Maxine; Filips, Janet (May 30, 1998). "A Springfield tribute: Kinkels remembered with joy". The Oregonian. Archived from the original on October 29, 2013. Retrieved October 25, 2013.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Gonnerman, Jennifer (November 27, 2023). "What Happens to a School Shooter's Sister?". The New Yorker. ISSN 0028-792X. Archived from the original on December 2, 2023. Retrieved December 2, 2023.
  5. ^ Langman, Peter (January 6, 2009). Why Kids Kill (1st ed.). St. Martin's Press. p. 180. ISBN 9780230608023.
  6. ^ Ramsland, Katherine. "Kipland Kinkel – School Killers". Crime Library. Archived from the original on February 16, 2003.
  7. ^ Reed, Christopher (May 22, 1998). "How 'schizoid' kid from good home turned to murder at Oregon school". The Guardian. Archived from the original on January 16, 2017. Retrieved December 16, 2016.
  8. ^ Lupton, Deborah (December 9, 1999). Risk and Sociocultural Theory: New Directions and Perspectives. Cambridge University Press. p. 95. ISBN 9780521645546.
  9. ^ Giroux, Henry A.; Pollock, Grace (April 28, 1999). The Mouse that Roared: Disney and the End of Innocence (2nd ed.). Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 9781442201446. Archived from the original on April 8, 2023. Retrieved February 20, 2014.
  10. ^ Rogers, Patrick (June 8, 1998). "Mortal Lessons". People. Archived from the original on January 1, 2020. Retrieved September 8, 2019.
  11. ^ a b McCall, William (June 19, 2007). "Doctors: Kinkel hid schizophrenia". KATU. Archived from the original on October 22, 2020. Retrieved August 15, 2015.
  12. ^ Schulberg, Jessica (June 12, 2021). "Kip Kinkel Is Ready To Speak". Huffington Post. Archived from the original on January 12, 2022. Retrieved January 12, 2022.
  13. ^ "Kip Kinkel's Trial Transcript" (PDF). Peter Langman. 2007. Archived (PDF) from the original on February 14, 2018. Retrieved February 13, 2008.
  14. ^ 1634–1699: McCusker, J. J. (1997). How Much Is That in Real Money? A Historical Price Index for Use as a Deflator of Money Values in the Economy of the United States: Addenda et Corrigenda (PDF). American Antiquarian Society. 1700–1799: McCusker, J. J. (1992). How Much Is That in Real Money? A Historical Price Index for Use as a Deflator of Money Values in the Economy of the United States (PDF). American Antiquarian Society. 1800–present: Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. "Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–". Retrieved February 29, 2024.
  15. ^ Böckler, Nils; Seeger, Thorsten (December 13, 2012). School Shootings: International Research, Case Studies, and Concepts for Prevention. Springer. p. 150. doi:10.1007/978-1-4614-5526-4. ISBN 9781461455264.
  16. ^ Bull, Brian (May 15, 2018). "Remembering Thurston Pt. 1: 20 Years Later, Wounds And Questions Still Linger". KLCC. Archived from the original on January 1, 2020. Retrieved September 8, 2019.
  17. ^ "Who Is Kip Kinkel?; Kip's Writings and Statements". Frontline. January 18, 2000. Archived from the original on November 13, 2013. Retrieved November 8, 2013.
  18. ^ a b Fancher, Nicole (October 2, 2006). "8 years later: Thurston and Kinkel revisited". Oregon Daily Emerald. Archived from the original on November 13, 2013. Retrieved November 13, 2013.
  19. ^ a b Verhovek, Sam Howe (November 11, 1999). "Teenager To Spend Life in Prison For Shootings". The New York Times. Archived from the original on February 16, 2009. Retrieved December 14, 2008.
  20. ^ a b c Heffelfinger, Thomas B.; et al. (Minnesota Department of Education; Minnesota Department of Public Safety; U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Minnesota) (2006). Cooney, Jeanne (ed.). School Safety: Lessons Learned (PDF) (Booklet). United States Attorney's Office, District of Minnesota. pp. 50–2. Archived (PDF) from the original on October 17, 2021. Retrieved March 23, 2021 – via U.S. Department of Justice.
  21. ^ Savidge, Martin (May 22, 1998). "Accused Oregon school shooter shows no emotion in court". CNN. Archived from the original on April 20, 2008. Retrieved February 24, 2008.
  22. ^ Cooper, Matt (April 30, 2003). "Thurston Memorial Dedication on May 21". The Register-Guard. Archived from the original on May 20, 2011. Retrieved February 24, 2008.
  23. ^ "Hero Scout gets award". Amarillo Globe News. August 11, 1998. Archived from the original on August 5, 2017. Retrieved September 8, 2019.
  24. ^ Hicks, Jeffrey L. (January 20, 1997). "Dr. Hicks' Treatment Notes on Kip Kinkel". PBS. Archived from the original on April 21, 2017. Retrieved April 20, 2017.
  25. ^ Kinkel v. Lawhead In the Court of Appeals of the State of Oregon: Filed January 12, 2011 Archived November 19, 2011, at the Wayback Machine Retrieved June 21, 2013
  26. ^ "Kip Kinkel uses landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling to challenge sentence". The Oregonian. April 26, 2013. Archived from the original on June 6, 2019. Retrieved April 27, 2013.
  27. ^ "Thurston High shooter Kip Kinkel loses latest bid for murder review with Oregon Supreme Court denial". oregonlive. May 20, 2023. Archived from the original on May 29, 2023. Retrieved May 29, 2023.
  28. ^ "Thurston Shooter Kip Kinkel Transferred to Oregon State Prison". Salem News. June 11, 2007. Archived from the original on May 23, 2013. Retrieved June 21, 2013.
  29. ^ "Oregon Offender Search". Archived from the original on September 24, 2023. Retrieved March 9, 2022.
  30. ^ Bull, Brian (May 22, 2022). "24 years after Thurston School Shooting, Tony Case's life has taken on a remarkable trajectory". KLCC. Archived from the original on December 3, 2023. Retrieved December 3, 2023.

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