Fifteen-year-old Barry Loukaitis covered his ears and shut his eyes, but his tape-recorded murder confession played on, stinging a Grant County courtroom with his calm voice.
“I guess reflex took over sort of,” Loukaitis told a Moses Lake police sergeant Feb. 2, after being arrested for shooting up a junior high school algebra class. “It’s like I pictured myself doing it or something.”
Loukaitis’ father knelt beside his son, while the 25-minute confession was played Wednesday. Behind them, relatives of the victims shook their heads as they listened to Loukaitis describe walking into his fifth-period classroom and immediately shooting Manuel Vela, 15.
During his statement, Loukaitis told Sgt. Dave Ruffin that Vela was the only victim he intended to kill when he opened fire, but denied it was because Vela was a bully.
Loukaitis’ friends and other students told police Loukaitis despised Vela because he teased him and called him names.
When Ruffin asked if Loukaitis had problems with Vela, he answered: “Not really, it’s just … I … it’s hard to explain, I guess.”
The confession, taped two hours after the shooting, indicates the quiet honor student was confused about who the victims were, with the exception of Vela. Loukaitis said he was even unsure how many times he pulled the trigger.
“How many people were shot?” Loukaitis asked Ruffin during the interview. “… I think it was four, maybe three.”
He counted off the number, as if trying to remember: “Um, well, let’s see, three people got shot and I accidentally fired into the roof … So that would be four, maybe five.”
Actually, police said Loukaitis continued firing his father’s hunting rifle after Vela fell to the ground. Also killed were Arnold Fritz, 14, and teacher Leona Caires, who was shot as she stood at the chalkboard, working out binomials for her students.
Natalie Hintz, 13, survived wounds to her arm, chest and liver. She made an emotional appearance in court Wednesday, telling the judge her arm and chest “exploded” from the single bullet.
During the rampage, Hintz said she asked Loukaitis why he shot her and he “seemed puzzled” over whom he’d hit, Hintz said. Then he started directing students to the back of the room one by one, telling police outside “to give him 10 minutes to get the room in order,” other witnesses told police.
Prosecutors are trying to show that besides Vela, Loukaitis may have also planned for another boy to die - a classmate who sat in the same row as the other young victims. Hintz said that boy used to sit in her seat, but Caires moved him to a desk behind her because he and Vela talked too much.
It was more evidence by prosecutors in a 4-day-old hearing to determine whether Loukaitis will be tried as an adult for the shootings. He is charged with three counts of aggravated murder and one count of first-degree assault.
In addition to Loukaitis’ confession, more evidence of premeditation was introduced Wednesday, including his father’s statement to police that Loukaitis turned down a ride to school the morning of the shootings because he said he wanted to walk.
In fact, Loukaitis didn’t leave his house until sometime before 2 p.m.
Police said he loaded three guns, strapped on 78 rounds of ammunition, covered his weapons under a new, $240 trenchcoat he purchased two days before and walked more than a mile and a half to Frontier Junior High School.
A student who witnessed the shootings said Loukaitis, with his black cowboy hat and trenchcoat, “looked like a mix between the Lone Ranger and Zorro.”
At least two other students told police they saw Loukaitis reload his hunting rifle twice - once after shooting Caires and again after he accidentally fired at the ceiling.
In the teenager’s bedroom, police said they found a videocassette recorder that contained the Clint Eastwood Western “Fistful of Dollars.” The video was cued up to a part in the movie that shows Eastwood holding a rifle and standing over a victim.
Defense attorney Garth Dano is expected to begin presenting his case today, calling experts to rebut the premeditation theory.
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: EXCERPTS FROM CONFESSION Just two hours after the classroom shootings, Moses Lake police Sgt. Dave Ruffin interviewed Barry Loukaitis. Here’s an excerpt: Ruffin: “How did you hold the weapon at the time, ‘cause isn’t this a lever action, one you have to pump back and forth with the lever?” Loukaitis: “Well, I had loaded it and then cocked it, so …” Ruffin: “OK, so it was already charged?” Loukaitis: “Yeah, so the hammer was down and so when I walked in, well, I pulled the hammer back, then I opened the door, walked in …” Ruffin: “And shot … shot … you aimed at Manuel (Vela)?” Loukaitis: (Response inaudible) Ruffin: “OK, now the other people that got hit, were those accidentals or were you trying to hit them or just … that was just kinda crazy then?” Loukaitis: “That was kinda crazy. It might of been deliberate and it might of been … Ruffin: “So … so …” Loukaitis: “Accidental.” Ruffin: “The only two deliberate ones woulda been …” Loukaitis: “I believe it was deliberate.” Ruffin: “The only two positively deliberate ones would be Mrs. Caires (Loukaitis’ algebra teacher) and Manuel?” Loukaitis: “The only positive, deliberate one was Manuel.”
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