21 years later, Moses Lake school shooter says "I'm sorry"

MOSES LAKE, Wash. - For the first time, a young man who killed three people in a school shooting in Moses Lake says he's sorry for what happened; he also dispelled long-standing myths about why he opened fire that day at Frontier Junior High.

Barry Loukaitis was 14 years old in 1996 when he opened fire on his math class. He killed his teacher, Leona Caires, and two students, Manuel Vela and Arnold Fritz. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Under a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, juveniles cannot be sentenced to an indefinite prison term, so Loukaitis will be resentenced next week.

In a letter to the court, Loukaitis said he will not dispute whatever sentence the families of his victims feels is appropriate.

"I dragged the victims, their families, the Court, and the community through a painful and expensive process," wrote Loukaitis, who is now at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center in Connell awaiting sentencing. "I am almost as ashamed of my decision to undergo a trial as I am of my decision to commit the shooting itself. While I cannot undo the past, I have control of what I do now. I would prefer to be respectful rather than self-serving."

Loukaitis, now 36, continued, "I've never apologized for what I've done. I didn't because I feared that after trying to apologize after doing something so terrible would only add insult to injury. If that feeling was wrong, I'm sorry for not speaking before. I'm sorry for denying people what they deserve to hear."

Loukaitis apologizes to each victim, reflecting on what their life could have been had he not carried out his murderous act. Among those reflections, he said Arnie Fritz and Manuel Vela "could have created something. They could have cured diseases or invented things." He said teacher Leona Caires "made the world better... she should have been there to watch and help her family grow."

He also credits the other students and staff who helped to stop the shooting and attend to the victims.

Then, took time to dispel a rumor of what caused him to go off that day. He said Manuel Vela was never physically abusive to him, despite long-standing explanations that it was the cause of the shooting.

"Manuel Vela's father told me I'm not fit to tie his son's shoes," Loukaitis wrote. "He's correct. Manuel Vela was a better person than I am, and I know it."

Loukaitis described his younger self as hostile and rude. He apologized to his community, saying "it was at its best when I was at my worst."

He apologized to the investigators and prosecutors who worked on his case, saying, "You all had jobs to do and you did them well, but you never should have had to do them. None of this should have happened." He apologized to the judge, who once said this is the case that kept him up at night.

Arnie Fritz's sisters issued a joint statement in response to Barry's letter. "We are relieved to read that Barry is taking responsibility for his actions. We've waited a very long time to hear those words. We are also reminded, some 20 years later, of the far-reaching impact this tragedy has on every person involved, including Barry. We hope the hearing brings closure to everyone involved."

At least some of the victims' families are expected in court next week when prosecutors recommend a 189 year sentence.