He was the loneliest kid I’d ever met — (Tumblr)

SSRI Ed note: Teen 14, taking Ritalin, possibly another med for depression brings gun to school, shoots 3 students (2 die) and teacher.

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February 2, 1996


Barry Dale Loukaitis was 14 years old when he killed his algebra teacher and two students at his school, Frontier Middle School. He held his classmates hostage for ten minutes before a gym coach managed to subdue Loukaitis.

Loukaitis entered the school dressed as a Wild West style gunslinger, wearing a black duster. He was carrying his .30 caliber hunting rifle and two handguns (.357 caliber revolver and .25 caliber semiautomatic pistol) which belonged to his father. He had about 78 rounds of ammunition on him, as well.

He had walked from his home to the school and entered his algebra class during fifth period. He started to open fire on the class, killing two 14 year old students, Arnold Fritz and Manuel Vela Jr. Natalie Hintz, 13 years old, was critically injured by gunshots to her right arm and abdomen. She was airlifted to a medical center in Seattle.

Loukaitis turned the gun and shot his algebra teacher, Leona Caires, in the chest. The class began to panic and Loukaitis said, “This sure beats the hell out of algebra, doesn’t it?” This is reported a quote from the novel Rage by Stephen King.

After hearing the gun shots, gym coach Jon Lane came into the classroom and found that the killer was holding his classmates hostage. His plan was to use a hostage in order to escape the school safely. The gym coach volunteered to be a hostage and he was kept at gunpoint using his rifle. Lane took his chances and grabbed the weapon from the hands of the gunman and proceeded to wrestle him to the floor. He then assisted with evacuating students. Lane kept Loukaitis down until police arrived.

In June of 1996, the Spokane Court of Appeals had to come to a decision if Barry should be tried as an adult or a juvenile. In July, three members of the Court were able to convince the Judge to allow a court appointed psychiatrist to present testimony based on the health of the killer.

Loukaitis pleaded that he was insane and said that “mood swings” caused him to commit the murders. His court appointed psychiatrist testified at his trial that he was experiencing delusional and messianic thoughts directly before the school shooting. She said, “He felt like he was God and would laugh to himself. He felt he was superior to other people, and then those feelings were later replaced by hate, disdain, and not measuring up.”

The prosecutors saw it differently, arguing that he had planned the shooting, even picking up ideas from the Pearl Jam song, Jeremy, which was based on a troubled child who took his life in front of his classmates at school. They argued that he also got his ideas from the novel by Stephen King, Rage, and from the film, Natural Born Killers. Loukaitis himself also admitted that he tried to model his life after the protagonist in the book, Rage, and the films Natural Born Killers and The Basketball Diaries.

He was convicted of two counts of first degree murder, one count of second degree murder, one count of first degree attempted murder and 16 counts of aggravated kidnapping. He was given two life sentences and another 205 years without the possibility of parole.

A year before the shooting, the Loukaitis family were dealing with some dysfunctional problems. His parents separated in 1995, after his mother found out about an affair his father was having. It is said that Barry’s mother was a domineering woman who started to become distant and talking about killing herself. She would imply that her son would have to kill himself as well. She set the date of the double suicide for Valentines Day. Barry managed to convince his mother not to do that, telling her to write down her feelings.

Barry Loukaitis also suffered from hyperactivity and was on Ritalin at the time of the shooting. He was dealing with clinical depression, which was present for at least three previous generations in his family.

Loukaitis also claimed that he only meant to kill Manuel Vela and any other deaths were accidental.