SALEM, OREGON – Kip Kinkel, who killed his parents before shooting at his high school in Oregon in 1998, killing two classmates and injuring another 25, gave his first news interview and told HuffPost he feels a tremendous, tremendous shame and guilt. ”
Kinkel, now 38, is serving a life sentence at the Oregon State Correctional Institution. He spoke to the news website for about 20 hours over a ten-month period.
He said he felt guilty not only for what he had done as a 15-year-old suffering from then-undiagnosed paranoid schizophrenia, but also the effect his crime had on other juvenile offenders who were sentenced to life in prison: from his victims and by others as a reason to oppose reform of youth justice in the state.
Although he had not previously been interviewed because he did not want to further traumatize his victims, he also began to feel that his silence prevented the perpetrators from getting a second chance.
“I was responsible for the damage I did when I was 15,” Kinkel said. “But I’m also responsible for the damage I’m doing now, because I’m 38 because of my 15-year-old age.”
Kinkel described how he had heard voices since the age of 12 and how he had become obsessed with knives, rifles and explosives, believing that China was going to invade the US and that the government and the Walt Disney Co. had a microchip in his head. implanted.
When he was caught with a stolen handgun at Thurston High School in Springfield on May 19, 1998, he bought “My whole world blew up,” he said. ‘All the feelings of safety and security – to be able to take control of a threat – disappear. ‘
He said the voices were popping into his head, a possible criminal charge and an enormous shame he felt he had to believe he had to kill his parents and then return to school to ‘kill everyone’.
He killed his parents the next day and the next day he opened fire in the school cafeteria, killing 16-year-old Ben Walker and 17-year-old Mikael Nickolauson and injuring 25 before being subjected to other students.
He pleaded guilty – at the time he did not want to accept his diagnosis and he had community pressure to resolve the matter rather than plead not guilty due to insanity. He was sentenced to nearly 112 years after apologizing profusely.
“I feel great, great shame and guilt over what I did,” he told HuffPost. “I hate the violence I’m guilty of.”
Kinkel shot Betina Lynn in the back and foot. She told HuffPost the idea that he would ever get out is ‘literally scary’. She has permanent nerve damage, a constant reminder of what happened.
“Even now, more than 23 years later, I and many other survivors are still dealing with the consequences,” Lynn said. “We are all serving life sentences right next to him.”
Kinkel described how he underwent mental health treatment in the juvenile prison where he began his sentence and admitted that he harmed innocent people, including his parents, whom he loved. He also said he cried when he heard about the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado, afraid he was inspired by it.
Fight against his sentence
Kinkel, who obtained a university degree behind bars, is still contesting his sentence, which was upheld by the country’s high court. In March, his lawyers filed a petition with the federal court, arguing that his plea was not voluntary – he had been off his medication for several weeks before and that his sentence was unconstitutional.
“The sentence on a juvenile to die in prison for suffering from a mental illness is a violation of the Eighth Amendment,” his lawyers wrote.
In 2019, as part of a national effort to reevaluate juvenile delinquency, the Oregon legislature enacted a measure to stop automatically referring 15- to 17-year-olds to the adult court for certain offenses and to ensure that they are not sentenced to life imprisonment with no chance of being conditional. At the time, there were about a dozen people who served life-long or life-equivalent conditions for crimes committed as juveniles.
But critics warned that the measure could lead to Kinkel’s release, and a month later, lawmakers passed another bill to make it clear that the measure was not retroactive.
“It does not matter if he was 15,” Adam Walker, the brother of Kinkel’s victim Ben Walker, said in a video at the time. “The victims do not get a second chance. Why should the offenders? ”
Kinkel said he watched the debate in the prison library.
“It was as if there was hope,” Kinkel said. “And then the legislature … came back and said, ‘No, we’re going to take away, specifically, deliberately, deliberately with everything we have, the children that are already in the system. ”
He said he was not considering the possibility of ever being released: “I do not allow myself to spend too much time on it because I think it could cause more suffering.”