EXPORT, Pa. - One adult and 21 students were stabbed at Franklin Regional High School in Murrysville Wednesday morning. Two other students were injured in the incident, officials said.
Police said Alex Hribal, 16, ran through the school, slashing or stabbing students with two 8-inch steak knives. The motive is under investigation.
Dressed in scrubs and socks, Hribal was arraigned and jailed without bail. Police said he was wearing scrubs because he was treated at a hospital for lacerations to his hand.
Hribal is charged with attempted homicide and aggravated assault. Authorities said he will be prosecuted as an adult.
“They (Hribal’s family) offer their condolences. They’re very upset. They did not foresee this coming. This is a nice, young man. He has never been in trouble. He’s not a loner. He works well with other kids at school,” said defense attorney Pat Thomassey.
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The attack happened just after 7 a.m., according to police.
“School was in session and students were arriving for morning classes. It happened in numerous classrooms and the hallways," Westmoreland County Emergency Management spokesman Dan Stevens said.
"The kid comes running down the hallway stabbing people, and my best friend jumps in front of me and takes the knife for me," said student Gracey Evans.
Evans said she then helped another male student stabbed in the stomach.
“I started putting pressure on the wound to stop the bleeding, and I probably did that for 10 minutes,” she said.
Emergency officials said they got a call about the stabbings at 7:13 a.m.
"The Murrysville Police Department arrived at the scene. We saw victims in the grass area outside," said Police Chief Tom Seefeld. "We saw a hallway of chaos, blood on the floors and students running about."
Officers said Assistant Principal Sam King tackled the suspect, likely stopping him from doing more harm.
“I was in the school, and I came down the stairs, and I saw the kid. Mr. King was yelling at him, and I didn’t know why. I saw him stab Sarge, the officer. We both jumped on top of him (suspect) and immobilized him,” said student Ian Griffith.
"Just prior to our arrival, Sam King did a role that was admirable. Sam was able to tackle the suspect," said Seefeld.
King reportedly lives on the same street as Hribal. Griffith said he didn’t know Hribal.
Police said the injured school officer called 911, and student Nate Scimio reportedly pulled the fire alarm.
“While he was being stabbed, he went and pulled the alarm and got stabbed again,” said student Christian Manka.
“I was sitting at the cafeteria with some of my friends, and a girl came in. Her hand, you could see veins and muscles. The fire alarm went off. Someone came in and said, ‘Someone has a knife.’ We made sure the one who got cut got out and got help,” said student Josh Carney.
Stevens said 21 of the students stabbed are between 14 and 17 years old. Two other students were injured during the incident but weren't stabbed. The adult who was stabbed, a school security guard, is also a Murrysville police officer.
Four people suffered serious wounds. Doctors expect everyone to survive.
A 17-year-old student is in critical condition and on life support at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital.
Eight people were initially taken to Forbes Regional Hospital. The adult officer was treated and released earlier in the day. Seven students, between the ages of 15 and 17, were also admitted. Three of those students are in the Intensive Care Unit. Two are in serious condition, and two remain fair condition, hospital officials said.
Five students were taken to Children’s Hospital. Two were in fair condition Wednesday night. Among them is a Brandon Brown, 14. His aunt said he was stabbed in the chest and underwent surgery.
“He really did not even realize that he was stabbed. He thought he was being punched, and then another student noticed blood on his shirt,” said Brown’s aunt, Joanne Witkowski.
UPMC East treated and released five students. Another student was released from Allegheny General Hospital.
The school was locked down and students were dismissed only to parents Wednesday. The school district posted on its website:
"After a critical incident at Franklin Regional Senior High School this morning, the campus was locked down. Elementary classes were canceled and high school students were evacuated to the middle school.”
Parents had to sign out students before dismissal.
Students who had cars parked at the school were allowed to pick them up after 7 p.m. Wednesday.
The FBI was at Hribal’s home Wednesday evening. Three computers and several boxes of evidence were removed.
Later Wednesday, several prayer services were held for the victims. Mother of Sorrows Parish in Murrysville was filled with students, friends and family. Those there lit candles and prayed.
“It’s always difficult to come up with the words at times that are painful or confusing, but you just pray and ask God to help you,” said the Rev. William Lechnar.
Following the shooting Wednesday afternoon, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett drove to Export from Harrisburg for a press conference.
“Let me commend the efforts of not only the school but the law enforcement officers, the first responders, police departments and the FBI. There are a number of heroes. Many are students – students who stayed with their friends and didn’t leave their friends. Cafeteria workers that cared for students who were bleeding. Teachers and aides who pulled students out of hallways and into rooms, protecting those children. Obviously, the school resource officer, the sergeant injured, and the principal and assistant principal,” said Corbett.
“This is a difficult day for this community. It’s a difficult day for the region and the country. It’s another sad day when the good word of a place like Franklin Regional attracts attention not because of good work but because of a bad action and a horrific five minute period,” said Corbett.
Other political leaders released statements Wednesday. U.S. Senator Bob Casey said:
“I am stunned by the senseless tragedy at Franklin Regional High School. Our schools should be places where children can learn and grow without fear of violence. I am inspired by the bravery of the school personnel and students, and I am grateful for the heroic work of the first responders, emergency and medical personnel who cared for those injured. My thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families and the entire Franklin Regional School District.”
Rep. Tim Murphy said:
“While we don’t know all of the details at this point, what we do know is that these incidents are rarely spontaneous and in fact have been developing over a long period of time, offering many opportunities to intervene in a mental health crisis situation. We know if we identify kids, get to them early, help them with medication and counseling, it can make a world of difference. But there is a severe shortage of outpatient and inpatient treatment options for these children, which is why we need to pass the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act.”