Prosecutors still mulling charges in cat shooting case

By Laura McVicker, Columbian staff writer

Published:

Updated: July 26, 2011, 5:38 PM

 

Nearly two months have passed since three teenagers were accused of shooting more than 100 cats, and prosecutors are still undecided on whether to try them as adults.

Defense attorneys for Mitchell Kangas, 16, and Jaren Koistinen, 16, both of Battle Ground, and Riley Munger, 17, of La Center told a judge Tuesday morning that they are continuing discussions with prosecutors on the case.

The three were set to be arraigned Tuesday morning, but they agreed to postpone the hearing — again — to give prosecutors more time to make a decision. Arraignment was postponed once in June.

Clark County Superior Court Judge Rich Melnick set a new arraignment date of Aug. 16.

Prosecutors are deciding whether to charge the teens with drive-by shooting, a crime that means they would have to be tried as adults under Washington law. Prosecutors also are considering lesser charges of animal cruelty and unlawful discharge of a firearm, which would mean they would be tried as juveniles.

Defense attorneys are trying to persuade the prosecutors to try the teens as juveniles.

Deputy Prosecutor Kasey Vu said Tuesday that one of the reasons for the delay is that the investigation is still ongoing and extensive, considering the large number of victims and number of defendants.

He also said he’s weighing the seriousness of the allegations and the age of the defendants in deciding how to prosecute the case.

High public interest has also brought pressure to the case, Vu said. The prosecutor’s office has received multiple phone calls, letters and email messages from community members.

“Obviously, the community has weighed in on the case, so that’s obviously a factor we are considering,” he said, later adding: “When it’s people’s pets, it brings an emotional element.”

The three defendants were implicated in the shooting spree after a resident called police June 5 and reported that her cat was shot in the face. She said she saw the shooters and described their SUV to police, according to court documents.

When the teens’ Ford Explorer was stopped by a police officer minutes later, two .22-caliber rifles and several hundred rounds of ammunition were found inside, according to Battle Ground police. When questioned, Kangas allegedly admitted to shooting 50 cats, two dogs and a deer in northern Clark County in the previous two months, according to court documents.

Prosecutors have said they estimate between 100 and 200 cats were shot.

Laura McVicker: 360-735-4516; twitter.com/ col_courts; laura.mcvicker@columbian.com.