Armed with a .22-caliber rifle, three teenagers are accused of shooting cats — at least 100 — while joyriding throughout northern Clark County over the past two months, prosecutors said.
Mitchell S. Kangas, 16, Jaren M. Koistinen, 16, and Riley J. Munger, 17, were arrested Sunday evening after a Battle Ground resident reported to police that her 7-year-old cat, Nellie, was shot in the face at 7:30 p.m. in the 700 block of Northeast Third Avenue in Battle Ground. She saw the shooters and described their blue SUV.
Minutes later, Battle Ground police were able to trace the vehicle description to a blue Ford Explorer speeding through a stop sign about three blocks away, according to court documents.
The teens were taken into custody after a police officer found several .22-caliber shell casings inside the SUV. Several hundred rounds of ammunition were also found, according to Battle Ground police.
When questioned, Kangas allegedly admitted to shooting 10 cats that evening and at least 50 cats, two dogs and a deer over the past two months. The other two teens are believed to have helped track down animals to shoot, according to court documents.
Senior Deputy Prosecutor Camara Banfield said the number of animals believed to be harmed could be even greater as the investigation unfolds. She told Clark County Superior Court Judge Roger Bennett at the teens’ Monday morning first appearance that there are at least 100 victimized cats and possibly as many as 200.
It’s not yet known whether the three will be named as suspects in the shootings of two dogs in the La Center area in March and May. Citing court rules and the ongoing investigation, Banfield said in an interview that she couldn’t comment on the total number of animal fatalities or a possible link to the dog cases.
The judge set the teenagers’ bail at $25,000 each and scheduled arraignments for Friday. The defendants, who are being held on suspicion of felony drive-by shooting, were remanded to adult court, as is standard for 16- and 17-year-olds awaiting charges of violent offenses.
Banfield said the three are also being considered for charges of animal cruelty, possession of a loaded weapon in a vehicle and unlawful discharge of a firearm. She expects to file charges within the next two days.
Court papers show that Koistinen and Kangas are sophomores at Battle Ground High School and Munger is a junior at La Center High School. The three live at home with their parents. None of them has a criminal record.
Tina, the mother of the 19-year-old who notified police after spotting the suspects’ SUV, said Monday afternoon that Nellie’s shooting was the second at their home in two months.
The evening of the first shooting, on Mother’s Day, she said she walked outside and found fur all along the driveway, but couldn’t find her 2-year-old cat, Lucy.
After searching the front yard, “she was underneath the car, bleeding,” said Tina, who asked that her last name not be used for fear of retaliation by the suspects.
At first, Tina said, “I assumed it was an animal attack.”
Tina took Lucy to a veterinarian, who discovered a bullet embedded in the cat’s fur, close to her back legs.
Lucy has been unable to walk since the ordeal, Tina said, but is expected to make an eventual recovery.
Sunday’s shooting came at about the same time of day, Tina said. She was sitting on her couch when, suddenly, “I heard the shot. It echoed through my backyard,” she said.
Her daughter, Samantha, rushed out the front door, catching a glimpse of the pickup. She started calling Nellie’s name, and then ran to the backyard, hoping to find the cat there. She did.
“She came running toward me with blood pouring from her nose and mouth,” Samantha said.
Samantha rushed Nellie to a vet. Thankfully, the vet told her the cat would survive, though she would have trouble eating and drinking for at least a few days.
Meanwhile, Battle Ground police Officer Brian Archer responded and spotted a Ford Explorer speeding through a nearby stop sign in the 400 block of Onsdorff Boulevard. After stopping the SUV, he asked the three teens inside to step outside the vehicle.
“Upon exiting the vehicle, I observed several .22-caliber casings fall out of the vehicle,” Archer wrote in a probable cause affidavit filed with the court. He then detained the teens.
While both wounded cats survived, Tina said her family has been shaken by shootings. She wants to send a message to the perpetrators.
“I want to forgive them for what they’ve done,” Tina said. “But I also want justice to be served.”