“It doesn’t happen here.” Stabbings in Pittsburgh Suburban School
Bill Rehkopf, a KDKA radio host and Franklin Regional High School graduate, reported on air that he was shocked by the stabbings. He said he kept thinking, “It doesn’t happen here, it can’t happen here.”
Sadly, it did happen.
Imagine being 16 years old, and coming to court in a hospital gown and shackles. That is what happened to Alex Hribal who stabbed or slashed 19 students and a police officer at a suburban Pittsburgh high school. Alex also injured his own hands. Alex, a sophomore, brought two knives to Franklin Regional Senior High School in Murrysville, Pennsylvania on Wednesday. The knives have been described as 8 to 10 inches long.
A doctor who treated six of the victims said most of them didn’t immediately know what happened. “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’s Ashleigh Banfield.
“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.”
At least five students were critically wounded, including a boy whose liver was pierced by a knife thrust that narrowly missed his heart and aorta. Some victims suffered deep abdominal puncture wounds.
As of Friday, 8 students remained hospitalized. Four are in critical condition.
Student Mia Meixner was standing at her locker. She said that she saw three students help a bleeding freshman, saying they were taking him to a nurse. Then she saw a senior girl she knew.
“She was standing by the cafeteria doors. … She was gushing blood down her arm.” Meixner dropped her books and went to help the girl.
“I started hearing a stampede of students coming down from the other end of the hall, saying ‘Get out, we need to leave, go, there’s a kid with a knife.’ Then a teacher came over to me and the girl I was trying to help. And she said she would handle the girl and that I should run out. So then I just ran out of the school and tried to get out as soon as possible.”
Wolf Blitzer of CNN asked Mia if Alex said anything. “No. He was very quiet. He just was kind of doing it,” Meixner answered. “And he had this, like, look on his face that he was just crazy and he was just running around just stabbing whoever was in his way.”
Mia described Alex as shy and someone who didn’t talk to many people.
15-year old Nate Moore saw Alex tackle and knife a freshman. He was going to try and break it up when Alex slashed Nate in the face, opening a wound that required 11 stitches. After 5 minutes of stabbing and slashing, Alex was tackled by Assistant Principal Sam King who disarmed him, and a school resource officer handcuffed him.
Nate described Alex as having the same expression on his face that he has everyday – not anger – just a blank expression.
Murrysville Police Chief Thomas Seefeld said investigators are looking into reports of a threatening phone call between the suspect and another student the night before. Chief Seefeld didn’t say whether the suspect received or made the call. The FBI went to Alex’s house to confiscate and search his computer. Alex is not cooperating with authorities so they do not know what motivated the attacks.
Alex’s attorney, Patrick Thomassey said, “I think a lot of things have happened. I don’t want to comment specifically, but I think there are some things that occurred that led to where we are today.”
An FBI official familiar with the investigation discounted bullying as a motive and said that Alex was “disaffected but not bullied.” The official spoke under the condition of anonymity.
Philadelphia CBS local news reports that Alex has been charged with four counts of attempted homicide and 21 counts of aggravated assault. He was jailed without bail, and authorities said he would be prosecuted as an adult. At the brief hearing, District Attorney John Peck said that after he was seized, Alex made comments suggesting he wanted to die.
The Hribal neighbors of 13 years say that the family is great and that they never saw anything out of the ordinary. Sonya Kukalis, said: “It should be an eye-opener for everybody. Everyone always thinks it’s the other neighborhood, the other town. We need to be kinder and show compassion to more people. Something must have been going on for him to do this.”
A video of Alex being placed in a police car is available on NBC Philadelphia.
In 1999, I attended the last graduating class for the century at my former high school. I had not been inside the small building since 1968. There was a metal detector at the main entrance which reminded me that times have changed.
This bothers me because there are school, domestic violence, and other programs that teach that violence is never the answer to resolve problems. Teens are just beginning their lives. Have we not learned from Columbine, Sandyhook and other schools that our children need to be secure and safe in school? What wounds are being made upon their young minds?