Cat-shooting teens seek early release

Battle Ground residents want to finish school locally




Two Battle Ground teenagers who went on a cat-shooting spree last year are seeking to be released early from confinement, so they can finish school locally.

On Oct. 4 of last year, Jaren Koistinen and Mitchell Kangas were sentenced to between one year and 11 weeks and one year and 32 weeks in a juvenile institution, with credit for time served.

Koistinen, then 17, and Kangas, then 16, pleaded guilty to 12 counts of first-degree animal cruelty and drive-by shooting.

Both teens are scheduled to be released Oct. 27. But their defense attorneys, pointing out the teens’ impeccable records while in custody in the last year, asked a judge to release them six weeks early.

Kangas wants to complete his senior year at Battle Ground High School, and Koistinen plans to attend Clark College. The teens are serving their sentence at an institution in the Olympia area, attorneys said.

Clark County Superior Court Judge Rich Melnick held off making a decision until Thursday, so prosecutors could notify the victims of the potential change in the sentence. However, Melnick told the attorneys he didn’t know if he had the legal authority to reduce the sentence. The judge said defense attorneys Tom Phelan and Steve Thayer had argued convincingly that their clients were candidates for early release.

“This isn’t an average case,” Melnick said. “But again, I have to follow the law.”

The judge said he was considering whether to allow the teens to complete their sentences on electronic home confinement, with freedom to attend school.

A review hearing for the judge to reach a decision was scheduled for Thursday morning.

Koistinen, Kangas and another teen, Riley Munger, were arrested in June 2011 after a Battle Ground resident called police to report her cat had been shot. She saw the shooters and described their SUV. When the defendants’ SUV was stopped minutes later, two .22-caliber rifles and several hundred rounds of ammunition were found inside, prosecutors said.

Questioned by officers, Koistinen and Kangas admitted to shooting at 100 cats and two dogs, possibly injuring or killing about 50. Not all the animals were accounted for, prosecutors said.

Munger, who participated in only one night’s shooting, was sentenced to a month in juvenile hall.

A persuasive factor in the sentence — and why the teens were not tried as adults — was testimony from their family, friends and school officials that they were model students, hard workers and had never before been in trouble, the judge and attorneys said at the 2011 sentencing.

Regardless of whether the judge releases them early, Koistinen and Kangas will be under community supervision until their 21st birthdays.

Laura McVicker:; www.facebook/reportermcvicker;; 360-735-4516.