Frontier Middle School shooting

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Frontier Middle School shooting
Location Moses Lake, Washington, U.S.A
Date Friday, February 2, 1996 (UTC-8)
Attack type
School shooting, Murder, hostage taking
Deaths 3
Non-fatal injuries
Perpetrator Barry Dale Loukaitis

The Frontier Middle School shooting was a school shooting that occurred on February 2, 1996 at Frontier Middle School in Moses Lake, Washington, United States. The gunman, 14-year-old Barry Dale Loukaitis (born February 26, 1981), killed his algebra teacher and two students, and held his classmates hostage for ten minutes before a gym coach subdued Loukaitis.


On the day of the shooting, Loukaitis was dressed as a Wild West-style gunslinger and was wearing a black duster. He was armed with a .30–30 caliber hunting rifle and two handguns (.357 caliber revolver and .25 caliber semiautomatic pistol) that belonged to his father, and was carrying approximately 78 rounds of ammunition.

Loukaitis walked from his house to his school, where he had entered his algebra classroom during fifth period. He opened fire at students, killing two, Arnold Fritz and Manuel Vela, Jr., both fourteen. Another student, 13-year-old Natalie Hintz, sustained critical gunshot wounds to the right arm and abdomen, and was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

Loukaitis then fatally shot his algebra teacher Leona Caires in the chest. As his classmates began to panic, Loukaitis reportedly said, "This sure beats the hell out of algebra, doesn't it?", which is often erroneously reported as a quote from the Stephen King novel Rage. Teacher and coach Jon Lane entered the classroom upon hearing the gunshots to find Loukaitis holding his classmates hostage. He planned to use one hostage so he could safely exit the school. Lane volunteered as the hostage, and Loukaitis kept him at gunpoint with his rifle. Lane then grabbed the weapon from Loukaitis and wrestled him to the ground, later assisting in the evacuation of students.

Lane kept Loukaitis subdued until police arrived at the scene.


In June 1996, the Spokane Court of Appeals were to come to a decision whether 15-year-old Barry Loukaitis should be tried as an adult or juvenile.[1] On July 2, three members of the Spokane Court of Appeals convinced Judge Evan Sperline to allow court-appointed psychiatrist Joan Petrich to present a testimony based on Loukaitis' mental health.[2] The trial was later moved to Seattle, Washington due to media publicity. Loukaitis had pleaded insanity on all charges against him,[3] and claimed that "mood swings" were the cause of his violent actions. During his trial, Joan Petrich testified that Loukaitis had been experiencing delusional and messianic thoughts before the shooting. She had stated, "He felt like he was God and would laugh to himself. He felt he was superior to other people, and then those feelings were later replaced by hate, disdain, and not measuring up."

Prosecutors Donna Wise and John Knodell argued that Loukaitis had carefully planned the shooting,[4] getting ideas from the Pearl Jam song Jeremy. The music video from Jeremy shows a troubled youth committing suicide in front of his teacher and classmates, although it was largely believed that "Jeremy" had opened fire on the class. This has been widely misunderstood because MTV had strong anti violence imagery rules. The original video showed the child putting the gun into his mouth, however the only images allowed to air were those of the children covered in his blood. Prosecution also said that he had gotten ideas from the Stephen King novel Rage and the films Natural Born Killers and The Basketball Diaries. Loukaitis has also stated that he tried to model his life after the novel Rage's protagonist Charlie Decker, who kills two teachers and takes his algebra class hostage.

On September 24, 1997, Loukaitis was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder, one count of second-degree murder, one count of first-degree attempted murder, and 16 counts of aggravated kidnapping.[5][6] He was sentenced to serve two life sentences and an additional 205 years without the possibility of parole. He is currently imprisoned at the Clallam Bay Corrections Center in Washington State. The Washington State Court of Appeals denied Loukaitis's request for a new trial in 1999.

Loukaitis could be re-sentenced due to a US Supreme Court decision, in which people convicted of a murder they committed under 16 years of age can be paroled in 25 years. Loukaitis could be released as early as 2021.[7][8]

Perpetrator and motives[edit]

In the year prior to the shooting, the Loukaitis family was facing various dysfunctional issues.[9] Loukaitis' parents separated in 1995, after his mother discovered her husband was having an affair. She filed for divorce against her husband in January 1996. His mother, Jo Ann Phillips, was a domineering woman who became increasingly distant and began speaking of suicide. She would frequently imply that her son Barry would also have to kill himself, and that the date of the double-suicide would be on Valentine's Day of 1996.[10] Barry talked his mother out of doing so, by having her write down her feelings.[9]

Loukaitis suffered from hyperactivity, and was taking Ritalin at the time of the shooting. He also suffered from clinical depression, a mental illness present in the last three generations of the Loukaitis family, and last four generations of the Phillips family.

Loukaitis claimed that he only intended on killing Manuel Vela,[11][12] and that the other deaths were accidental.


  1. ^ Hearing delayed for suspect in Moses Lake shooting. (1996-08-27). Retrieved on 2011-06-17.
  2. ^ Moses Lake Trial To Be Open. (1996-07-03). Retrieved on 2011-06-17.
  3. ^ Loukaitis trial resumes. Retrieved on 2011-06-17.
  4. ^ Teen's trial a no-win case. Retrieved on 2011-06-17.
  5. ^ Kidnapping charges added in Moses Lake murder case. (1996-11-01). Retrieved on 2011-06-17.
  6. ^ Teen faces kidnapping charges in Moses Lake slayings. (1996-12-25). Retrieved on 2011-06-17.
  7. ^ Barry Loukaitis could be released from prison, resentencing possible, ifiberone, 2014.
  8. ^ School shooter Barry Loukaitis facing resentencing, KXLY-TV, April 10, 2015.
  9. ^ a b Loukaitis jurors hear parents. Retrieved on 2011-06-17.
  10. ^ Andersen, Peggy. (1997-09-08) Loukaitis' mother says she told son of plan to kill herself. Retrieved on 2011-06-17.
  11. ^ Jury hears Loukaitis' confession. (1997-09-04). Retrieved on 2011-06-17.
  12. ^ Moses Lake boy tells of killing three at school. (1996-04-18). Retrieved on 2011-06-17.

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