Barry Loukaitis was fifteen years old when he walked into his school and shot dead a teacher and two students. This teen killer would hold his class hostage for over an hour before he was tackled by a teacher. Barry Loukaitis would be convicted on all three of the murders and receive a prison sentence of two life sentences plus over two hundred years. On appeal the sentence was reduced to one hundred and eighty nine years.
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On the day of the shooting, Barry Loukaitis was dressed as a Wild West-style gunslinger and was wearing a black duster. He was armed with a .30–30 caliber hunting rifle and two handguns (.357 caliber revolver and .25 caliber semiautomatic pistol) that belonged to his father, and was carrying approximately 78 rounds of ammunition.
Barry Loukaitis walked from his house to his school, where he had entered his algebra classroom during fifth period. He opened fire at students, killing two, Arnold Fritz and Manuel Vela, Jr., both fourteen. Another student, 13-year-old Natalie Hintz, sustained critical gunshot wounds to the right arm and abdomen, and was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.
Barry Loukaitis then fatally shot his algebra teacher Leona Caires in the chest. As his classmates began to panic, Loukaitis reportedly said, “This sure beats the hell out of algebra, doesn’t it?”, which is often erroneously reported as a quote from the Stephen King novel Rage. Teacher and coach Jon Lane entered the classroom upon hearing the gunshots to find Loukaitis holding his classmates hostage. He planned to use one hostage so he could safely exit the school. Lane volunteered as the hostage, and Loukaitis kept him at gunpoint with his rifle. Lane then grabbed the weapon from Loukaitis and wrestled him to the ground, later assisting in the evacuation of students.
Lane kept Barry Loukaitis subdued until police arrived at the scene.
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School shooter Barry Loukaitis, who killed three people and wounded a fourth at a Moses Lake middle school in 1996, was resentenced on Wednesday to 189 years in prison.
Loukaitis, 36, was resentenced as the result of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2012 that said people younger than 16 could not receive life sentences without parole. Loukaitis did not contest the new sentence sought by prosecutors and also waived his right to any future appeals.
Family members of the victims who died on Feb. 2, 1996, at Frontier Middle School told Grant County Superior Court Judge Michael Cooper about the pain Loukaitis’ rampage caused them. Several said at the hearing in Ephrata that having to speak about the shootings again more than 20 years later reopened old wounds.
Loukaitis, wearing handcuffs, directly addressed his victims and their family members for the first time, just before he was sentenced.
“I am sorry for what I did.” Loukaitis, who has graying hair and wore glasses, said. “What I did was weak and evil and senseless.”
Loukaitis said he did not have the tools at the age of 14 to deal with his anger and hatred toward others.
“I didn’t have the skills I needed to learn to be a man,” he said.
“It was never my intention to kill everyone in the classroom,” he added.
Gripping testimony also came from Natalie Hintz, who was 13 when Loukaitis shot her in the arm. She nearly died of her injuries.
“It is with disbelief and heavy heart that I am here today,” Hintz said of the resentencing process.
“I’ve re-lived the day I was shot over and over again,” Hintz said, adding that “my childhood ended” that day.
She endured years of physical therapy and still does not have the full use of her arm, Hintz said.
She recalled lying next to a dead classmate and watching Loukaitis shoot their teacher to death.
“Your sentence was to be final, like death is final,” Hintz said. “Today I am being victimized all over again.”
Loukaitis carried a hunting rifle and two handguns into his math class at Frontier Middle School. He shot and killed teacher Leona Caires, 49, and classmates Manuel Vela and Arnold Fritz, both 14. Hintz was wounded.
Teacher Jon Lane heard the gunshots and rushed to the classroom. He confronted and disarmed Loukaitis and then pinned him down until police arrived. Lane’s heroism likely prevented additional deaths.
But on Wednesday, Lane said he still had questions about the day.
“Why did you do it?” Lane asked of Loukaitis. “Why that day and that classroom?”
Manuel Vela Sr. told the judge he often wondered what his son would have been like as an adult.
“We’ll never know,” Vela said.
“He knew exactly what he was doing when he murdered our son,” Vela said of Loukaitis.
Alice Fritz, the mother of Arnold Fritz, remembered coming upon the body of her son in the hospital.
“I held his hand for a long time, sitting next to him,” she recalled. His hand was cold, she said.
Alice Fritz recalled that she went to visit Loukaitis in prison five years ago. She said she believed Loukaitis was genuinely contrite about the shootings.
But Victoria Kimble, a daughter of teacher Leona Caires, said she felt a deep hatred for Loukaitis.
She said her mother loved teaching math.
“She died with a piece of chalk in one hand and an eraser in the other,” Kimble said.
Cooper was the original judge in the case who came out of retirement to handle the new sentencing.
After the shootings, Loukaitis was tried as an adult in Seattle in an attempt to find an impartial jury. He claimed an insanity defense that was rejected by the jury and convicted in 1997.
In prison, Loukaitis has earned high school and college degrees and worked as a teacher’s aide.
“I appreciate Mr. Loukaitis’s words and his efforts in prison to better himself,” the judge said.
The judge also said he appreciated the strength of the people who testified on Wednesday, 21 years after the shootings.
“Perhaps it will bring some closure,” he said.
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