Jolene Leu was a Junior at Thurston High School on the day of the shooting. She was with her friends and her boyfriend in the cafeteria where the shooting began.
Left: Gallery of images and poems
Images and poem provided by Jolene Leu
Jenny Gregory was a Freshman in the school during the Thurston shooting. She witnessed the shooting through a classroom window.
Right: An image gallery of graduation memorial items.
Image provided by Jenny Gregory
On May 20th, 1998, fifteen-year-old Kipland, “Kip,” Kinkel was suspended from Thurston High School in Springfield, Oregon, for attempting to buy a stolen gun from his friend, Korey Ewert. Both Kip and Korey were arrested and questioned before being released to their parents. Later that day, after Bill threatened military school, Kip “grabbed the .22 rifle from his room, got ammunition from his parents room, went downstairs and fired one shot to the back of his father's head. Kip then dragged his father's body into the bathroom and covered it with a sheet.” When his mother, Faith, returned from the grocery store a few hours later, Kip told her he loved her and then shot her several times.
With his parents dead, Kip turned his attention to his school, Thurston High. According to his confession, he prepared all night for the next morning. At 7:55AM on May 21st, 1998, Kip Kinkel walked into Thurston’s cafeteria with three guns and a hunting knife and shot and killed two students, sixteen-year-old Ben Walker and seventeen-year-old Mikael Nickolauson, and wounded almost two dozen more. The attacked was halted by five students who wrestled Kip to the ground.
In September of 1999, at the alleged urging of his older sister Kristen, Kip pleaded guilty to four counts of murder and twenty-six counts of attempted murder. At his sentencing trial, several of Kip’s victims gave emotional testimony. Kip himself read a statement of apology for his crimes, saying at one point, “I had no reason to dislike or try to kill anyone at Thurston. I am truly sorry for all of this.”
At the trial, the defense argued a long history of undiagnosed or underdiagnosed mental illness. In his intake psychological evaluations with Dr. Orin Bolstad, Kip revealed a history of hearing voices and hallucinations similar to those associated with schizophrenia.5 He also admitted that he had ceased taking prescribed Prozac.
That Prozac was prescribed by Dr. Jeffrey Hicks in 1997. Kip had gotten into trouble with a friend for throwing rocks at a car and had been referred to Dr. Hicks, a psychologist, for evaluation and treatment. Dr. Hicks recalled in court that Faith Kinkel brought her son in with a growing concern for his “fascination with guns, knives, and explosives, and antisocial acting out.” Dr. Hicks also testified that at no time did Kip reveal hearing voices.
Kip Kinkel saw Dr. Hicks a total of nine times after which Faith and Dr. Hicks agreed Kip was making sufficient progress on the prescribed Prozac, and could manage his symptoms on his own. In that same year, Kip’s father, Bill Kinkel, purchased two guns for Kip, a 9mm Glock and a .22 rifle, with the understanding they would not be used without parental supervision. Less than a year later, Kip would use that same rifle to murder his parents before bringing both guns along with one other to Thurston High School.