Lessons from tragedy: Moses Lake school shooting

It’s been nearly two weeks since 17 people were killed in a school shooting in Parkland, Florida. The tragedy has brought back a lot of unpleasant memories for people in Moses Lake who dealt with their own school shooting more than two decades ago.

Kxly4’s Derek Deis went back to his hometown to talk to three people with close ties to the shooting. He spoke with them about what they’ve learned from their firsthand experience, and what solutions they want to see to prevent another shooting.

In 1996, the Moses Lake community was rocked to its core when Barry Loukaitis walked into Frontier Middle School and killed a teacher and two students. So when news spread of the most recent shooting in Florida, their hearts sank once again. But this time, a man hailed as a hero from that day 22 years ago decided to dig deeper in search of answers to how we can stop this from happening again.

Jon Lane has been doing a lot of reflecting, and it led the former Frontier teacher to put his thoughts into words.

“I’m tired of sitting back and not doing something and using my experience to hopefully make some changes,” said Lane.

Lane was awarded the Carnegie Medal for Heroism for his part in disarming Barry Loukaitis, and saving several lives. He knows teenage years can be a volatile time.

“Kids go through so much physical, emotional, social, and academic change at that time,” said Lane. “Their lives are up in the air.”

But Lane, and County Prosecutor Garth Dano, who once represented Loukaitis, believe it goes beyond that, to the breakdown of the family unit, and increased exposure to violence.

According to Dano, Loukaitis came from a broken home, and grew up in chaos.

“Spent too much time watching video games and the culture of violence,” said Dano.

Arnie Fritz was one of the students killed by Loukaitis. His mom, Alice Fritz, says school shooters are usually kids in pain.

And Lane says when kids are in pain, they need a significant adult involved in their life, or a professional, and to get some help.

“It’s not a sign of weakness,” said Lane. “It’s a sign of strength.”

He also believes there are problems with our school discipline system.

“We need to somehow figure out how we can take someone who’s in trouble, whether it’s truly mental health or a just a discipline issue, and help them learn better skills and coping skills,” Lane said.

They all want kids to “see something, say something,” but as Lane points out, what’s the next step?

“I hope that children would feel free to speak up,” said Fritz. “But it’s not their job to see death around the corner. It’s adults that need to be seeing it.”

And to that end, Dano, the prosecutor, believes we need added security in schools.

And that brings us to gun control.

“I am a firm second amendment advocate and I think that responsible adults should have gun,” said Lane. “But where that plays out is a really hard issue.”

Fritz has issues with America’s attitude towards guns. She believes we can protect the second amendment, but also get rid of children having access to guns.

Fritz and Lane have been impressed with how students in Florida have spoken out to demand change.

“I hope they don’t lose the fervor to try to make good changes,” said Lane. “Not just with guns, but about things that happen in school and health issues.”

Lane, Arnie Fritz, and the other victims of the Frontier shooting are forever enshrined in a memorial, where the people of Moses Lake hope their experiences in 1996 can offer help to survivors of school shootings from Freeman to Florida, and maybe stop it from happening again.