21 students, security guard stabbed at Franklin Regional High School
Senior Ian Griffith was coming down a stairway in Franklin Regional Senior High School just after 7 a.m. Wednesday when he heard Assistant Principal Sam King shout and saw him and the school security guard scuffling with a student in a first-floor hallway.
King was trying to push the student out of the building, Griffith said.
“I was looking for a garbage can to hit him with,” Griffith said. “At first I didn't know he had a knife.”
He saw the teenager stab John Resetar, the security guard, in the abdomen.
“Once Mr. King got him to the ground, I jumped on top of him and held his arms, and saw he was holding two knives,” Griffith said.
Officer William “Buzz” Yakshe, the school resource officer, radioed Murrysville police at 7:09 a.m.: “I don't know what I got going on down at school here. I need some units down here ASAP.”
As students mingled and chatted in the hallways 20 minutes before the start of classes, Alex Hribal, a 16-year-old sophomore, went room to room with an 8- to 10-inch knife in each hand, slashing and stabbing 21 students and Resetar, police said.
Josiah Wages, a senior, was headed to the cafeteria for breakfast before class when students started screaming and running. Then, someone pulled the fire alarm.
“Everybody was just freaking out,” he said.
Hribal of Murrysville was charged on Wednesday evening with four counts of attempted homicide and 21 counts of aggravated assault. He is being held without bail in the county's juvenile detention center.
In arguing for no bail, District Attorney John Peck said Hribal is a threat to the community and to himself. Peck said Hribal offered no motive and kept repeating that he wanted to die.
Hribal's attorney, Pat Thomassey, said the teen's parents, Harold and Christine Hribal, are puzzled by his behavior. Thomassey said he will seek a delay in proceedings to get him a psychiatric evaluation.
The parents offered their condolences to everyone impacted, Thomassey said.
“He was a nice young man involved in school and does something like this. He was not a loner,” said Thomassey, who has received no information that bullying was involved.
In the hours after the attack, Hribal's neighbors on Sunflower Court expressed shock, recalling the suspect as a quiet teen. Members of the national media swarmed to their well-kept street of newer, two-story homes, many drawing comparisons with the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings. Many neighbors talked about the fact that King, who subdued Hribal, lived on the same street.
The student victims, age 15 to 17, were stabbed in “numerous first-floor classrooms and hallways,” said Dan Stevens, Westmoreland County public safety spokesman.
Within eight minutes of the first call, dozens of police officers and medics swarmed the campus. Several students lay bleeding on the grass. Inside, students ran from the area where other victims lay in bloodied hallways, Murrysville police Chief Tom Seefeld said.
About 1,200 students, teachers and staffers flooded onto the football field as administrators evacuated the building.
Some parents first heard the news through national media; others, through text messages and social media.
Candace Simek of Murrysville learned of the chaos in a text from her son.
“My son texted me there was a stabbing. He saw a kid walking through the hall with a knife,” Simek said.
The victims, some with slashed faces, hands and arms, others with deep stab wounds, were taken to seven hospitals.
The most seriously injured, a 17-year-old, is in critical condition and on life support in UPMC Presbyterian, said Dr. Louis Alarcon, medical director of trauma surgery. The stab wound to his abdomen is nearly 2 inches wide and deep enough to almost reach his spine.
“It was within millimeters of his heart and aorta,” Alarcon said. There was trauma to his liver, diaphragm and major blood vessels.
“He is in critical condition, but we are hopeful,” Alarcon said. “We are very optimistic he's going to make it through this.”
Hribal was driven to a hospital from the Murrysville police station for treatment of wounds to his hands, detectives said. He returned about two hours later wearing a hospital gown.
UPMC spokeswoman Gloria Kreps said 12 patients were treated in UPMC facilities: five at UPMC East in Monroeville, five at Children's Hospital in Lawrenceville, one at UPMC Mercy, Uptown, and one at UPMC Presbyterian in Oakland.
A 15-year-old girl was in fair condition in Allegheny General Hospital, spokesman Dan Laurent said.
Dr. Steven Docimo, chief medical officer at Children's, said two teens were admitted with stab wounds to the abdomen; three were treated in the emergency department for stab wounds to the arms and hands.
Eight patients, all with knife wounds to the abdomen, were taken to Forbes Hospital, spokesman Jesse Miller said.
Dr. Mark Rubino, chief medical officer, said three of the patients' injuries were severe.
“The wounds were all knife wounds, most to the lower abdomen. They seemed to almost have a pattern to the right lower abdomen and right flank,” Rubino said.
“Three or four will likely not require surgery. They have relatively superficial wounds,” he said. Those who had surgery suffered “deep, penetrating wounds.”
“The stories I heard from some of the students were that they didn't see (the attack) coming. They were taken off-guard,” he said.
Rubino expects all to survive.
Condolences poured in from the White House and around the world as details of the assaults unfolded.
Gov. Tom Corbett spent about two hours at the school that afternoon.
“This is an incident that is not typical of this region,” he said.
“There are a number of heroes in this day. Many of them are students,” Corbett said. “Students who stayed with their friends and did not leave their friends.”
He lauded cafeteria workers, teachers, aides and administrators who helped victims, pulled them into classrooms or administered first aid.
Anxious parents hurried to Heritage Elementary School after 9:30 a.m., when the district started to release students to their custody. Students who drove to school were not allowed to leave without a parent.
Seefeld said the investigation will take several days.
“We have a lot ahead of us, a lot to do,” he said. “It's a vast crime scene.”
Superintendent Gennaro Piraino said the middle and elementary schools will reopen on Thursday, but the high school will be closed for two or three more days.
“Counselors will be available to the entire school community,” Piraino said.
Meg Keim of Delmont, who picked up her daughter Becca, a sixth-grader, noted the lack of metal detectors at the school likely “will be a discussion now. It might be something that is unfortunately necessary.”
Bonnie Payton was picking up her freshman daughter, Sabrina Sisk.
“You don't expect anything like that to happen here. You don't want that call,” Payton said.
Her daughter called her shortly after the incident started to tell her mother that she was OK, then put a teacher on the phone to verify it, Payton said.
Donna Sundin, who has a son and a daughter in the district, was at work in downtown Pittsburgh when her cellphone started buzzing with calls from relatives. She said it took her an hour to drive back to Murrysville.
She praised the actions of school officials and their efforts to train students and faculty members on what to do in the event of violence.
“They did a tremendous job under the circumstances, getting as many students as they could out of harm's way. I can't express how grateful I am,” Sundin said.
Paul Peirce can be reached at 724-850-2860 or [email protected]. Renatta Signorini can be reached at 724-837-5374 or [email protected]. Debra Erdley, Luis Fábregas, Margaret Harding, Megan Harris, Mary Pickels and Matt Santoni contributed to this report.