A 25-year legacy
May 18, 2023 | View PDF
Nearly 25 years after, mentions of the Thurston High School shooting bring back painful memories for local residents. For most it was hard to comprehend a mass shooting could happen here, much less in a school. Since then, and Columbine a year later, fatal shootings have become more frequent, while debates on making schools safer, gun control, and sentencing juvenile offenders remain unresolved.
Articles from the May 26, 1998 edition of McKenzie River Reflections
Thurston High remembers its own
By Leah Carlson
Two days after a tragic shooting in Springfield, an American flag waves in the wind, and rich splashes of color adorn the chain link fence next to Thurston High School.
Flowers of every kind, notes with prayers or well-wishes, and candles make up the offering of sympathy and hope. Mourners and other community members walk solemnly and thoughtfully along the fence.
At least ten media vans with satellites crowded the street by the fence, and television newscasters attempted to speak with people. One couple simply refused a request from a local television broadcaster. An area along the fence was sectioned off by yellow caution tape and signs that said
“Press-free zone, Let us mourn in peace, and Friends and family of Ben Walker.”
Most of the notes along the fence were of healing, but some pointed to the anger that people have felt: “Why Kip Why” in large red letters, a white paper plate with the scribbled words, “You’ll be sorry, Kip,” and a hanging sign that said Two Words: “Gun Control.”
Two students have died from gunshot wounds in the shooting by suspect Kip Kinkel Thursday morning in the school cafeteria. Mikael Nickolauson, 17, died as a spray of bullets from a Ruger .22-caliber rifle hit the students. Ben Walker, 16, succumbed Friday morning at McKenzie-Willamette Hospital from a gunshot to the head.
Nine more students remain hospitalized at either the McKenzie- Willamette Hospital or Sacred Heart Medical Center.
As a Springfield 6th-grader played “My Heart Will Go On” on his bass clarinet, one note along the fence seemed especially
applicable: “John 14:18, 27: 1 will not leave you comfortless. I will come to you ... Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you ...
Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
School shooting suspect’s home stuffed with booby traps
DEERHORN: Investigators on Saturday were still searching the home of a fifteen-year-old Thurston High student accused of killing his parents and two classmates.
Kipland Phillip Kinkel was arraigned in Circuit Court on Friday charged with aggravated murder in the deaths of Bill Kinkel, 60, his wife Faith, 57, Ben Walker, 16, and Mikael Nickolauson, 17. Police believe the Kinkels were killed Wednesday afternoon.
The following morning, around 8 a.m. witnesses saw the suspect appear with a .22 rifle at the school cafeteria, open fire, and empty a 50-round clip. Before he was subdued 24 students had been shot.
An hour and a half later police found the Kinkel's bodies in their 88082 Chita Loop home. Their search was cut short when Kinkel reportedly told investigators there were explosives in the house.
Late Thursday afternoon a number of boxes of chemicals and fireworks were discovered in a crawlspace under the house. Soon, investigators found what they called a “very sophisticated device” and a quarter-mile radius around the area was evacuated.
That night, area residents reported hearing several small explosions as the team detonated parts of the bombs. Explosive experts were at the scene until 11:30 p.m. on Thursday.
Early Friday morning another complex device was found in the crawlspace, along with two crude pipe bombs. Police cut a one-foot by two-and-a-half-foot hole in an exterior wall so they wouldn’t have to carry the bombs through the house. Let back inside, a forensic team from the Oregon State Police crime lab identified the Kinkel’s bodies. Both died of gunshot wounds. By 1:30 that afternoon, Faith Kinkel’s body had been removed. Before her husband could be retrieved, another bomb was discovered at approximately 3 p.m. It was another two and a half hours before crime scene investigators could go back inside,
The Sheriff’s Office also reported finding a number of hard copy Internet printouts and other written material on the fabrication of explosive devices. In all, more than ten bombs were discovered.
Found in the crawl space under the house was an 18-inch square cardboard box, a standard grocery bag, a canvas backpack, an 18 by 12-inch yellow tin box, a bag of charcoal, and lighter fluid.
Inside the containers, police located a kitchen timer and batteries connected to a solid 6-inch square of white chalky substance. In the paper bag was a household fire extinguisher connected to a digital timer and what appeared to be an arming switch. After transporting the extinguisher in a bomb trailer, police said it was detonated, yielding force similar to high explosives.
The bomb squad found more of the chalky substance as well as containers labeled zinc oxide, aluminum sulfate, two cans of acetone, and three bottles of denatured alcohol. The containers also held quantities of fireworks. Thirty of them, police said, had been altered to increase their explosive potential.
Inside Kip Kinkel’s bedroom was a pineapple-style hand grenade on an open display shelf. At the end of his bed were two olive-drab 155 mm US Army howitzer shells. All were later confirmed empty.
Continuing the search, police found a one-pound device in the closet constructed from three soda cans with an attached fuse. Several PVC pipe bombs were turned up in the bedroom and in a crawl space above it.
Investigators said the pipe bombs had electronic circuits and initiators on them that only required a filler to make them functional. One of them measured three feet long by 2 inches in diameter. Police also found a large number of empty fireworks casings in the attic that had been cut open to remove their explosive charges.