A teenage boy wielding two kitchen knives went on a stabbing rampage at his high school in Murrysville, Pennsylvania, early Wednesday, before being tackled by an assistant principal, authorities said.
Twenty students and a security officer at Franklin Regional Senior High School were injured in the attack, Westmoreland County District Attorney John Peck told reporters.
The accused attacker has been identified as 16-year-old Alex Hribal, according to a criminal complaint obtained by CNN. Hribal, who was arraigned as an adult, faces four counts of attempted homicide, 21 counts of aggravated assault and one count of possession of a weapon on school grounds, the documents show.
A doctor who treated six of the victims, primarily teens, said at first they did not know they had been stabbed.
“They just felt pain and noticed they were bleeding,” Dr. Timothy VanFleet, chief of emergency medicine at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, told CNN.
“Almost all of them said they didn’t see anyone coming at them. It apparently was a crowded hallway and they were going about their business, and then just felt pain and started bleeding.”
Hribal is accused of using two 8-inch stainless-steel knives in the attack, according to the complaint. He is being held without bail at the Westmoreland County Regional Youth Services Center.
No one knows yet what might have motivated the attack.
But pieces of Hribal’s story are starting to come together, so far painting a portrait of a teenage boy no one ever expected to show such violence.
“He’s a typical young kid. He’s a B+ student. The family is like Ozzie and Harriet. They have dinner together every night,” said his attorney, Patrick Thomassey.
“All the students liked him. He wasn’t a loner. He worked well in groups, and this happened. So there’s a reason for it — that’s what I’m saying. And we have to get to the bottom of that,” the attorney said.
Hribal, who was arraigned as an adult, faces four counts of attempted homicide, 21 counts of aggravated assault and one count of possession of a weapon on school grounds.
His attorney said he would file a motion to move the case to juvenile court. He also said it would be important to have his client examined by a psychiatrist to help determine “where he is mentally.”
“I’m not sure he knows what he did, quite frankly,” Thomassey said, adding that Hribal feels remorse.
“He’s scared. He’s a young kid. He’s 16, looks like he’s 12. I mean, he’s a very young kid, and he’s never been in trouble, so this is all new to him,” the attorney said.
‘Don’t know what I got going down’
The carnage began shortly before the start of classes, when an attacker began stabbing students in a crowded hallway and then went from classroom to classroom.
Student Matt DeCesare was outside the school when he heard a fire alarm ring and then saw two students come out of the school covered in blood.
Then he saw teachers running into the building and pulling “a couple of more students out,” he told CNN. The students had been stabbed.
To stanch the bleeding, the teachers asked the students for their hoodies.
“We all took our hoodies off and handed them to the teachers to use as tourniquets to stop the bleeding,” he said.
Recordings of emergency calls released in the wake of the attack provide a soundtrack of sorts to the terror and chaos that played out inside the school.
“I don’t know what I got going down at school here but I need some units here ASAP,” one officer can be heard saying.
Minutes later in another call, another official, breathlessly, can be heard detailing casualties: “About 14 patients right now.”
Then another call for help. “Be advised inside the school we have multiple stab victims,” one of the officers said. “So bring in EMS from wherever you can get them.
Tackled by an assistant principal
Assistant Principal Sam King is being credited with bringing the carnage to an end.
King tackled the teen, Peck told reporters. A school resource officer was able to handcuff the suspect, Police Chief Thomas Seefeld said.
The accused teen was being treated for injuries to his hands, the chief said.
Police Officer William “Buzz” Yakshe, who also serves as a resource officer at the school, helped subdue the suspect, said Dan Stevens, the county deputy emergency management coordinator. Yakshe is “doing fine,” Stevens said. “He’s more upset than anything else over what happened, because these are his kids.”
A fire alarm that was pulled during the attack probably helped get more people out of the school during an evacuation order, Seefeld said. Students were running everywhere and there was “chaos and panic.”
At one point, a female student applied pressure to the wounds of one of the male victims, possibly helping to save his life, said Dr. Mark Rubino, chief medical officer at Forbes Regional Hospital in nearby Monroeville, Pennsylvania, where seven teens were taken for treatment.
The students who were hurt range in age from 14 to 17, Stevens said. All of the injuries are stabbing-related, such as lacerations or punctures, he said.