February 4, 1996 in Nation/World

Family, Friends Remember, Grieve For Lost Children

Gita Sitaramiah S Brian Coddington And Staff writer
 

The suddenness of the Moses Lake school shooting started to hit home on Saturday.

One moment the children were peacefully studying in class, said the Rev. Kevan Smith of Immanuel Lutheran Church. The next minute, they were in the emergency room.

Smith remembered one shooting victim, Arnold “Arne” Fritz, as a gentle boy, who enjoyed chess, hunting and was studying to become a member of his church. “He was a gentle soul,” Smith said. “He had a really brilliant mind.”

Fritz’s family were stunned by his death. “They didn’t get a chance to say goodbye,” Smith said.

“Barry’s bullet in Arne’s chest is not going to be the last word,” Smith said. “God’s is going to be.”

Across town, Manuel Vela’s grandmother, Oralia Vela, sat on her sofa surrounded by family Saturday and moaned softly.

While Manuel Vela’s parents made funeral arrangements Saturday, his extended family gathered at the small, tidy house on Lake Avenue.

“He was full of life,” said Domingo Martinez, the boy’s uncle. “That’s the saddest thing about it.”

Manuel Vela, 14, was one of three people killed after another student walked into his math class and started shooting with a high-powered rifle.

Gym teacher Jon Lane ran into the classroom and wrestled the gun away from the suspect, Barry Loukaitas, 14.

Teacher Leona Caires, 49, and Fritz, 15, also were killed.

Thirteen-year-old Natalie Hintz was in serious condition Saturday at Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center.

Loukaitas remained in juvenile hall Saturday in Ephrata, authorities said.

At the Vela house, a dozen relatives reminisced about Manuel, a popular ninth-grade student who earned decent grades and liked sports.

An uncle, Emilio Vela, tightly hugged a few men as he tearfully entered the grandparents’ home. “I can’t handle it,” he said. “It’s hard.”

In the kitchen, adults tried to keep up a semblance of normalcy, placing lunch on the table for small children.

Emilio Vela then gave the family an update in Spanish on plans for the coming days.

Most of the dead youth’s extended family lives in Moses Lake, including his grandparents, Emilio and Oralia Vela.

“Manuel is a popular kid because he plays baseball and is good with everybody,” said Emilio Vela, Manuel’s grandfather. “It’s a terrible, terrible thing.”

He said he feels worse because his grandson had no chance to defend himself. “I wouldn’t care if my (grandson) lost his life in a one-to-one fight.”

Donny Martinsen cried as he talked about his childhood friend, Manuel Vela, a buddy since kindergarten.

“I can’t believe it. I saw him right before and we were just kicking back, having fun.”

, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: Forum today A public forum called “The Tragedy at Frontier Junior High” will be held at 10 a.m. today at Immanuel Lutheran Church. Manuel Vela’s public viewing is from noon to 5 p.m. Monday at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church. Vela’s funeral service will be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday.

The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Gita Sitaramiah Staff writer Staff writers Brian Coddington and Bonnie Harris contributed to this report.

This sidebar appeared with the story: Forum today A public forum called “The Tragedy at Frontier Junior High” will be held at 10 a.m. today at Immanuel Lutheran Church. Manuel Vela’s public viewing is from noon to 5 p.m. Monday at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church. Vela’s funeral service will be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday.

The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Gita Sitaramiah Staff writer Staff writers Brian Coddington and Bonnie Harris contributed to this report.

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