Animal Writes
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25 April 1999 Issue
Early Warning Signs

This week the nation watched in horror and helplessness as Columbine High
School students were attacked and killed by students in the same school.
Our heart goes out to the families and friends of the students that were killed
in this senseless violence. Cassie Bernall, active in church youth programs;
Steven Curnow, a soccer player who dreamed of being a Navy pilot; Corey
DePooter, active in wrestling and worked at a golf course; Kelly Fleming, an
aspiring songwriter; Matthew Ketcher, an A average junior who hoped to start
for the football team; Daniel Mauser, a straight A student who excelled in math
and science, was a cross country runner and skier; Daniel Rohrbough,
helped in his father’s electronics business and was shot while holding an exit
door open for fleeing students; Rachel Scott played the lead in a student-
written school play, and was hoping to work as a missionary in Africa; Isaiah
Shoels, due to graduate in May and though he suffered health problems as a
child and had heart surgery twice, he played football, wrestled and could
bench-press twice his weight, but he was shot in the head execution-style
because of his race and athletic interests; John Tomlin enjoyed driving off-
road in his Chevy pickup and worked after school in a gardening store and
belonged to a church youth group, and helped his family build housing for
low-income people in Mexico; Lauren Townsend, with a 4.0 grade point
average was a candidate for valedictorian and a member of the National
Honor Society as well as volunteering in a local soup kitchen, she worked
after school in a veterinary hospital; Kyle Velasquez who was 16 but no other
information is available at this time; and finally, William “Dave” Sanders,
who was a computer and business teacher for 24 years, married with 2
daughters and 5 grandchildren and was shot twice in the chest in a burst of
gunfire while leading two-dozen students down a hallway to safety. He
survived at least three hours, until students were rescued. As Sanders lay
dying, he asked students to please tell his children that “he loved them.”

The HSUS reported this week that investigators have linked the two gunmen
in the Littleton, Colorado, high school shootings with animal abuse and mutila-
tion. An article in the April 22 edition of The Boston Globe reported that
students acquainted with Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, said that the
boys, both seniors at Columbine High School, spoke of mutilating animals, and
espoused interest in occult rituals, Nazism and Adolf Hitler.

Researchers, as well as the FBI and other law enforcement agencies nation-
wide, have linked animal cruelty to domestic violence, child abuse, serial
killings, and to the recent rash of killings by school-age children, according to
Dr. Randall Lockwood, vice president of Training Initiatives for The Humane
Society of the United States (HSUS). Lockwood directs The HSUS's First
Strike Campaign, designed to draw attention to the link between cruelty
against animals and subsequent acts of violence directed at humans.

"Violence directed at animals by young people is a sign that something is
terribly, tragically wrong, and often acts as a warning of future violence, even
killing, directed against humans," says Lockwood. Incidents in the last two
years include:

• May 21, 1998 - Springfield, Oregon. Kip Kinkel, 15, allegedly walked into
his high school cafeteria and opened fire on his classmates. Two class-
mates were killed and 22 others injured, four critically. Later that day,
police found his parents shot to death in their home. Friends and family
report that Kinkel had a history of animal abuse and torture. Friends say
he often bragged about torturing and killing animals. Kinkel is currently
awaiting trial.

• March 24, 1998 - Jonesboro, Arkansas. Mitchell Johnson, 13, and Andrew
Golden, 11, allegedly shot and killed four students and one teacher during a
fire drill at their school. A friend of Golden stated that Andrew "said he
shoots dogs all the time with a .22."

• October 1, 1997 - Pearl, Mississippi. Luke Woodham, 16, stabbed his
mother to death then went to his high school where he shot and killed two
classmates and injured seven others. Prior to the killings, Woodham stated
in his personal journal that he and an accomplice beat, burned, and tortured
his dog, Sparkle, to death. He said it was "true beauty." In June 1998,
Woodham was found guilty of three murders and seven counts of aggrava-
ted assault. He was sentenced to three life sentences and an additional 20
years for each assault charge.

A 1997 study by the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to
Animals (MSPCA) reports that youngsters convicted of animal abuse are five
times more likely to commit violence against other humans than are their
peers, four times more likely to be involved in acts against property, and three
times more likely to be drug offenders.

"Parents, school teachers and counselors, friends, police, and social service
workers all must be alert that acts of animal cruelty by children. These young-
sters may be in a violent home and may themselves be victims of violence in
their homes. Some children may take out their anger on animals as a result
and may even be contemplating suicide," says Kim Roberts, manager of the
First Strike campaign. "By reporting animal cruelty you not only help the
animals, you help the abuser as well. Everyone has a responsibility to report
animal abuse."

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