Bloody corpses and bits of his classmates’ flesh and bone had little effect on Barry Loukaitis as he was handcuffed and led from the Moses Lake classroom he shot up earlier this year, a police detective said in court Monday.
“He was acting shockingly calm,” Detective Paul Harder said of the 15-year-old honor student. “I expected to see a look of remorse, some facial expression … He was very calm.”
In a hearing that began in Grant County Superior Court to determine whether Loukaitis will be tried as an adult for the Feb. 2 shootings, Harder said the teenager shrugged off an officer who expressed outrage over the bloodshed at Frontier Junior High School.
“A sergeant made a comment to (Loukaitis), like ‘Look what you’ve done,”’ Harder testified. “(But) he just said, ‘I know.”’
Police say Loukaitis toted three guns and 78 rounds of ammunition into his fifth-period algebra class shortly before 2 p.m. and opened fire, killing teacher Leona Caires and students Manuel Vela and Arnold Fritz, both 15.
Thirteen-year-old Natalie Hintz was critically wounded. Loukaitis is charged with three counts of aggravated murder and one count of first-degree assault.
Harder offered the first chilling look inside Room 15 by playing a videotape taken within two hours of the shootings. The scenes showed evidence of a bloodsmeared classroom frozen in terror: a pencil suspended in its sharpener; bullet-riddled textbooks opened on the desks; a telephone smashed on the floor.
The detective pointed out dozens of shell casings from Loukaitis’ hunting rifle and the bloody path along the back of the classroom where Arnold Fritz stumbled and fell.
Harder also noted the black cowboy hat, boots and gun holsters Loukaitis was wearing at the time of the shooting, and said the rifle still had a bullet in its chamber when he secured it.
The victims’ relatives cried as the camera panned the bodies of Vela - sprawled on the floor and still clutching a pencil - and Caires, who was shot in the back and died holding an eraser in one hand, a Magic Marker in the other.
“I honestly didn’t expect to find a pulse,” Harder said of Caires, whom he examined after Loukaitis was arrested. “She was ashen gray. There was no color to her at all.”
Assistant Principal Steve Caires testified that he ran to his wife’s classroom after some students told him they heard “some firecrackers” in there. He opened the door, started to walk inside and immediately saw physical education teacher Jon Lane on the floor in front of him.
“He told me to get down on the floor,” Steve Caires testified. “He said, ‘He has a rifle! He’s in the corner still yet!”’
Caires said he dropped to the ground. He smelled gunpowder and noticed three spent cartridges on the floor nearby. Then his eyes fell on a body, beneath the chalkboard. It was his wife.
“I called her name,” Caires recalled, his voice trembling. “I said, ‘Jon, how’s she doing?’…He said ‘Get help.”’
Throughout the day’s testimony Loukaitis sat hunched over, keeping his forehead on the table or his face covered in his shackled hands.
Loukaitis’ parents, Terry and JoAnn, rubbed his shoulders and whispered to him during breaks between witnesses.
The hearing, expected to last a week, is being held before Superior Court Judge Evan Sperline. He will decide whether Loukaitis should face life in prison without parole if convicted as an adult or be released from jail on his 21st birthday if found guilty as a juvenile.
Witnesses will include psychiatrists, counselors and other experts, called to discuss Loukaitis’ emotional stability, and his chances of being rehabilitated.
Defense attorney Garth Dano hopes to convince the judge that Loukaitis is more likely to receive counseling and treatment if he goes through the juvenile justice system.
“In the adult system the emphasis on rehabilitation is zero,” he told the judge Monday. “The emphasis is on punishment. There will not be any rehabilitation efforts going on.”
Prosecutor John Knodell, however, said Loukaitis likely would be sent to a juvenile institution for several years even if he is convicted as an adult.
“The bottom line is life (in prison) or getting out in six years,” Knodell said. “That makes this hearing very important, critical, to this case.”