Obsessed with guns and movies about murder, Barry Loukaitis wrote poems about “blood dripping” and vowed to kill someone before he died, witnesses said in court Tuesday.
But what classmates remember most about the skinny 15-year-old “computer nut” is the eerie way he talked about wanting two people dead: his algebra teacher, and a student who police said teased Loukaitis relentlessly, calling him “dork” and “faggot” and making fun of his body.
Now Loukaitis is accused of taking revenge, shooting his chosen victims in a Moses Lake classroom during a Feb. 2 rampage.
Killed were teacher Leona Caires and student Manuel Vela, 15 - both of whom Loukaitis had told friends “should be shot” in the weeks leading up to the attack, police said.
Classmate Arnold Fritz, 14, also was killed in the shooting and 13-year-old Natalie Hintz was critically injured. Loukaitis is charged with three counts of aggravated murder and one count of first-degree assault.
A hearing to determine whether Loukaitis will be tried as an adult continued Tuesday in Grant County Superior Court, with prosecutors presenting more evidence of premeditation:
One day last fall, Loukaitis told a classmate: “Some people don’t deserve to live; some people should just die or be killed.”
When the girl later argued with him over answers on a worksheet, Loukaitis exploded in anger, telling her, “Do you think you deserve to live?” It was a question he had begun to ask many students before the shootings.
A former girlfriend told police Loukaitis often talked about wanting Vela dead and asked her what she would think of him if he killed the popular, athletic boy.
“She didn’t take his remarks seriously,” Moses Lake police detective Paul Harder said Tuesday.
Several students said Loukaitis was teased a lot at school, “by a lot of people, not just (Vela).”
Loukaitis, however, was most resentful of Vela, whom he accused of being a gang member who spit on him and shoved him in the hallways. One friend said Loukaitis had so many bruises on his arms and legs from being picked on and pushed around that he never wore shorts to school.
In the weeks before the shooting, Loukaitis told his best friend, Zachary Ufkes, “It would be cool to kill people…to try to get away with it.”
Loukaitis also told Ufkes he would like to “go across (the) country killing people,” like the characters in the movie “Natural Born Killers.” Ufkes said Loukaitis was “really into” Stephen King horror books and movies.
Two days before the shootings, Loukaitis was called out of class by Assistant Principal Steve Caires, who assigned him detention for excessive tardiness.
When Loukaitis returned from Caires’ office, Loukaitis told a classmate “how he hated Mr. Caires,” police said. Other students said Loukaitis also didn’t like Caires’ wife, Leona Caires, whom he described as “a goofball” who made her students do too much homework.
On Feb. 2, Loukaitis strapped on two ammunition belts, put two loaded handguns in holsters on each hip and grabbed his father’s hunting rifle, which he tucked under a long, black trenchcoat, police said. Before leaving his house, Loukaitis cut one of the pockets out of the coat so he could carry the rifle underneath.
The teenager pored over gun magazines in the town’s public library and constantly talked about his father’s weapons, friends told police.
Throughout Tuesday’s testimony, prosecutor John Knodell attempted to show Loukaitis had murder on his mind when he walked through the doors of Frontier Junior High School and opened fire in Room 15.
Harder and Sgt. Dave Ruffins were the only ones to testify, detailing their interviews with students and witnesses of the rampage.
Many of the witnesses told police Loukaitis was calm and organized that afternoon, telling the students to “chill” while directing them one by one to the back of the classroom.
When he glanced at Fritz, barely alive on the floor, he ignored the other students’ pleas to get him help. “Just let him lie there and die,” one student recalled Loukaitis saying.
Defense attorney Garth Dano will not begin his case until later this week, but he is hinting that Loukaitis changed in the months leading up to the shootings.
Dano extensively questioned Loukaitis’ friends, who said he used to be more talkative but “got real quiet this year.”
“Just prior to the shooting he started showing a dark side, isn’t that right?” Dano asked detective Harder, who said he didn’t know.
Prosecutors are expected to finish presenting their evidence today, with police playing Loukaitis’ confession, taped a couple of hours after the bloodshed.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.