Man who subdued Moses Lake school shooter 21 years ago pens letter

Jon Lane, photo courtesy iFiber One News

Jon Lane, the former teacher and wrestling coach credited with subduing Barry Loukaitis during the 1996 shooting at Frontier Middle School in Moses Lake, shared his thoughts on school violence following last week’s mass shooting at a high school in Florida.

Our news partner iFiber One News shared the story of Lane’s letter to KXLY4 in Spokane. Lane says his “heart is heavy again” following the latest school shooting in Parkland, Fla. that left 17 people dead. Lane continues to say there is “no one answer” to combat school violence.

“I had an experience that lives with me every day and now may be the time to speak out,” Lane wrote. A teacher and two students were killed, and another student injured in the Frontier Middle School shooting Feb 2nd, 1996.

Jon Lane’s letter:

My heart is heavy again, sorrow for the families and all those who have been touched by the latest school shooting.

My Name is Jon Lane, I was involved in a School Shooting in 1996 in Moses Lake, Washington. A 14-year-old student came in to Frontier Middle School with a rifle and two handguns. He entered a classroom and started firing. A teacher and two students were killed; one student was critically wounded but survived. I heard the shots and entered the room. Fourteen students and I were held hostage. Since that time I have tried to make a difference in my community by sharing my experience and my thoughts on what might make a difference in the future.

I haven’t written or posted my thoughts on this, partly because there is no one answer, and partly because I am surely not an expert on this subject. I had an experience that lives with me every day and now may be the time to speak out.

Many immediately cry out for gun control. Yes, there should be discussion and action to get weapons out of the hands of people who have evil intent. How this can be legislated I really don’t know. I want to talk about other actions that could be unanimously supported and although not easily accomplished will make a difference.

Why do we wait until a tragedy unfolds before we come together as a community? When are we going to start making a difference every day how we genuinely care for everyone we meet? It is my observation that many of those who commit these violent acts are suffering and in many ways are also victims of traumatic circumstances in their lives. That doesn’t excuse their actions but they also become victims to the acceptance of violence in our society. Let me expand this thought.

School violence is not just about guns, it is about the breakdown of the family, the loss of faith in a Higher Being, the rancorous way our politicians act and how they are portrayed in the media. We are a world at war: with barbaric acts commonly inflicted on those who have different political views or religious values. There are violent movies that have millions of fans and make Hollywood billions of dollars, the actors become idolized and imitated. Everyday when we turn on the TV we watch nightly news with shootings and violence as the lead stories. A respected news reporter stated, “Moses Lake turned to their faith communities, as though it was the will of God that there was a school shooting”. Turning to God only when tragedy strikes, is perhaps a common view in an industry that informs and shapes public opinion and thought. MTV, music videos that portray violence and video games promote murder and violence without any consequence. There are books that outline blueprints for carrying out these horrific acts. Our society has embraced “freedom of choice”, a polite way to endorse the killing of the unborn, Pro-life advocates are portrayed as radical, religious nuts. God has been banned from our schools and many public places.

So what is the answer? I believe we need to become communities that make the effort to truly know each other. Teachers and the Government have taken over, not always successfully, many of the roles of parents and families. Schools provide breakfast and lunch, backpacks and school supplies, counseling and nursing, school personnel spend more time interacting with students than “often too tired or too busy” parents. Broken families and single parent families have become too commonplace.

Violence in the Media shouldn’t be so commonplace without acknowledging it’s serious impact, especially on impressionable youth susceptible to violence. Regardless of race, or gender or age or religion we must reach out and get to know, respect and understand each other. We must help each other through the good times and bad. After my incident I went to a Clinical Psychologist who deals with first responders who have been involved in acts of terrible violence. I went not because I thought I needed help but because I wanted to be Healthy. It needs to be a sign of strength when we reach out for professional help when we deal with problems bigger than ourselves.

Be a friend to the homeless, the sick and the elderly. Reach out to young people who need mentors, teachers and confidents helping to make the world a better place. Every day we need to make a difference. Thank a teacher, offer to help them, shake the hand of a first responder, and pray for our military, local and national leaders.

School violence can happen anywhere. Love and Caring about each other can happen everywhere. Don’t wait until it is too late. Make a difference every day with everyone you meet. We must replace evil with good.

19 Comments on "Man who subdued Moses Lake school shooter 21 years ago pens letter"

  1. Excellent letter. Thank you for sharing. We can do it!

  2. The #1 change for the better we can make as an individual, community, and country is to turn our faces back to God. We MUST return to Him and bring Him back into our schools, society, lives, and even churches. Without God, we can do nothing. Humanism is not the answer; God is.

  3. Mr. Lane, I appreciate your thoughts of what may be serious components of what is happening in society. I have wanted to speak out for some time and have not taken the time to articulate my thinking. I, 100%, agree that we have a breakdown in our society. Trying to express this idea without coming across judgmental is challenging. Your thoughtful expression is well written. I wish there was a way to emphasize the need to care and regard children differently in the United States. I wish parents had the opportunity to gain skills regarding healthy structures to give children the best towards their development. This would take a mega change in our focus as a country. We would need to become comfortable with one parent working, valuing the parent who works in the home for the care and keeping of children, legislating paternity and maternity leave without penalty and sacrificing some of our consuming ways. For now, I will choose and promote kindness with the intent of offering hope to those I have the privilege of crossing paths and being in relationship.

  4. Amen! Mr. Lane, thank you for your bravery in subduing Barry & saving countless lives. I’ve saif this many times, but it’s true. The heart of the matter, is the matter of the heart. When America let the few & squeaky wheels demanded that prayer & the Plege of Allegiance be removed from our schools, was the beginning of the demise of America.

    Time & time again, throughout history, when the people have turned their backs on God, He too has turned His back on them. We NEED God, right here, right now to be able to turn this disastrous situation around.

  5. Thank you for sharing your personal experience.
    Until one has lived with trauma first hand, it is easy for many to say what should be done.
    The issues are multifaceted and require communities to cone together.
    Teachers planning walk outs aren’t going to accomplish anything and neither will just gun control.
    Evil has been in our world because of free will.

  6. Betty Rosenkranz | February 20, 2018 at 7:34 PM | Reply

    the news headlines scream “gun control”. Jon Lane writes one of the best “gun controls” I have ever read. It is called people control. we must all reach out to one another

  7. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and story. I couldn’t agree with you more. As a former educator and elementary principal, I have seen too many children that are just looking for validation and desperately in need of someone that notices them in a positive way and truly cares. If only children followed what they learn in kindergarten, to accept and include all children and to treat others as you want to be treated, we’d live in a far better world. Unfortunately, parents are too quick to defend their children and fail to allow them to learn from their mistakes. We need to offer classes every year K-12 to students on the consequences of their behavior. I know many children don’t realize the effect their behavior has on others. Being ignored and treated as if you don’t exist is almost as bad as bullying. I have seen many children turn around when acknowledged by others, both adults and students.

    Unfortunately the schools can’t make change happen alone. If we are to make a difference, it will take schools, parents, media, government, and businesses to work together to stop the tremendous hate that Americans seem to be displaying toward each other. In all my years, I have never experienced the degree of hate in the world that I see today. I pray that people will come to their senses and begin working together for a better America.

  8. The one difference between the Moses Lake school shooting and other recent shootings is the weapon used. Had the shooter used an assault weapon, far more students and teachers would have died.
    We will never fully stop these shootings. We can stop kids from getting hold of weapons of war.

  9. Bill, your statement of fact is factually incorrect. You really should educated yourself about the difference between an AR 15 and a semi-automatic rifle before you speak on the topic. I will give you a hint. There is no difference. An AR is semi-automatic rifle. Of all gun purchases 70-80 percent are semi-auto. They are all black and look scary though. Are you saying they are more dangerous because they are black and scary looking? I believe the difference in these two shooting is that this latest guy was more insane and had an even bigger disregard for human life.

    • Matt, according wot Wikipedia, the Moses Lake student had “was armed with a .30–30 caliber hunting rifle and two handguns (.357 caliber revolver and .25 caliber semiautomatic pistol)” Elsewhere on line the rifle is described as having “lever-action”. Bill’s point was not that the Cruz weapon was “black and scary looking”, it was that it had more firepower, delivering high velocity .45 bullets and having a significantly higher firing rate and number of rounds. The two shooters may differ in their level of insanity and disregard for human life but the recent shooter had better tools for killing and wounding. I wish he had not.

      • Mickey, it is wonderful that such folks as you are gaining in their understanding of weapons and weapon systems. However, AR-15 style rifles do not fire/deliver high velocity .45 (caliber) bullets. Do add that fact to your flash cards as you continue to educate yourself.

    • Matt, according to Wikipedia, the Moses Lake student had “was armed with a .30–30 caliber hunting rifle and two handguns (.357 caliber revolver and .25 caliber semiautomatic pistol)” Elsewhere on line the rifle is described as having “lever-action”. Bill’s point was not that the Cruz weapon was “black and scary looking”, it was that it had more firepower, delivering high velocity .45 bullets and having a significantly higher firing rate and number of rounds. The two shooters may differ in their level of insanity and disregard for human life but the recent shooter had better tools for killing and wounding. I wish he had not.

  10. Full disclosure I have known Mr. Lane for many years in our community and he is one of our finest! I encourage all of you to take the time to really read the words and the emotion behind this letter. Too often we are in an us against them mentality, but this is our children, our future leaders. Do they not deserve to know compassion, forgiveness and respect? This is not a battle of evils but more of a battle of morals. We have 2 working parent households, less dinner around the table, texting and video games have replaced actually interaction and communication. We live in a world where we can surround ourselves with only the echos of those who feel and think they same way, which does not lend itself to growth, caring and respect.

    The weapons are not the problem, the hearts are. Until those are mended and those wounds have healed we will continue to see those who are marginalized, mentally ill, or suffering will continue to act out in the limited ways they know.

  11. I saved the newspaper articles on this because at the time, my husband and I were teaching classes on divorce, remarriage and blended families. The articles stated that Barry’s parents were going through an ugly divorce and he was living with his mom at the time. According to the articles, she said a lot of disturbing things to her son, including a desire to end her own life. We used this example to warn parents that what they say does influence their children and to always take the high road during divorce proceedings, especially the comments they make about the “other parent”. I’m not saying that Barry isn’t responsible for his actions but I always wondered if the outcome might have been different if the adults around him had been positive and responsible in what they said and how they influenced their very impressionable child. And yes, at fourteen, he was a child who acted out his pain and frustration in a horrible way. And he will pay for that for the rest of his life. And so will the families of his victims.

  12. All well and good, but too abstract and lofty – we’d be lucky if family values can be set in order in the next 50 years (note the unstable example of the current US president).

    The FIRST question after a shooting is easy to answer… WHERE AND HOW did the shooter get the gun. Had we started HAMMERING on gun owners who leave unsecured weapons around for nutcase teens to grab and shoot up a school in 1996 (or a 4-year old kid pick up and shoot/kill a deputy’s wife in the kitchen), at least half of school shootings wouldn’t have happened – and thousands of people/kids wouldn’t have died from accidental shootings. If slacker gun owners spent a year in prison if their gun is taken (e.g. to school for ‘show and tell’), 5 years for each resulting injury, and 10 years for each resulting death, even the dumbest, laziest gun owner would be more likey to LOCK up firearms that aren’t in their possession. Of course, such harsh penalties wouldn’t apply to those who are summarily executed by their nutcase kid like Mrs. Lanza or Mr. Griego (by his family annihilating teenager)- we know they won’t be leaving guns laying around anymore.

  13. People did reach out to this latest shooter, a couple going so far as taking him in under their roof. No luck.

  14. JoAn (Daniels-Brown) Forsyth | February 27, 2018 at 11:27 AM | Reply

    Thank you Jon!! I was working at the hospital that day and was proud of your action. I still am! Your comments have been so needed and are greatly appreciated! Hopefully this message will extend far and wide. Well said. Sooo proud to know you

  15. Jon Thanks so much for your comments. I remember this incident well. I’m so sorry one of these incidents happened rhete. When I young I spent a fair amount of time in Moses Lake. My uncle spent most of his life working for U & I Sugar. Every time one of these incidents happens I am just blown away (no pun) intended. Every one immediately turns to talk about guns. I personally am all in favor of hunting rifles and things like that. Hunting is an important part of our heritage. Mass murder and even personal protection weapons have no place in our society.

    You are so right on in your thoughts. When people first came to this country most of them only had one book – a bible and they wanted the freedom to worship in peace. How far we have strayed from that. If everyone sold most of their toys and went to church on Sunday just about all of our problems would go away. We have become a society obsessed with being entertained 24/7 and obsessed with having bigger better toys than our neighbors. Pretty barbaric indeed.

    Thanks again for your thoughts Jon.

  16. A standard AR-15 uses the .223/5.56mm which is about 40% smaller than a .30-30 round.

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