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Arkansas Rampage Echoes Faintly In Moses Lake

Students and staff here tried not to dwell Wednesday on news that gunfire had killed four students and a teacher at an Arkansas middle school.

But it was hard to think of Tuesday’s violence in Jonesboro, Ark., without linking it to the Feb. 2, 1996, shooting rampage that took the lives of two students and one teacher here, a Moses Lake School District spokesman said.

“People here have moved on, but it does stir memories,” spokesman P.J. De Benedetti said.

“But we recognize more than ever now that violence appears to be a part of our society.”

No steps were planned to help Moses Lake students and staff deal with the unwanted memories that may have surfaced in light of the Arkansas shootings.

“The shooting there has not caused any problems for us,” De Benedetti said.

“We really haven’t seen any significant reaction among teachers or students.”

“We’ve made an effort to contract the school district (in Arkansas) to see if there is anything we can do to help,” he added.

School officials here offered counseling and re-evaluated security policies after Frontier Junior High student Barry Loukaitis entered his algebra classroom with an assault rifle two years ago and began firing.

The three people who died in the shootings were Manuel Vela and Arnold Fritz, both 14, and algebra teacher Leona Caires.

Student Natalie Hintz, then 13, survived but still has not fully recovered from her wounds.

Loukaitis, who was 14 at the time of the shootings, was tried as an adult in Seattle and convicted of two counts of aggravated first-degree murder; single counts of second-degree murder and first-degree assault; 16 counts of kidnapping for holding the class at gunpoint; and one count of second-degree assault.

He was sentenced to two life sentences in the killing of the two classmates plus 205 years in the death of the teacher and the wounding of the other classmate.

The students who attended Frontier at the time of the shootings have now moved on to Moses Lake High School, and the school where the shootings occurred is closed this year for renovation, De Benedetti said.

The school will be reopened next year as a middle school for 7th-and 8th graders.