20 Injured In Stabbing At Pennsylvania High School

Apr 9, 2014

Nineteen students and a security guard were stabbed as the school day began today at Franklin Regional High School in Murrysville, Penn., outside of Pittsburgh. They are expected to survive.

Authorities say a student wielding two knives went on a rampage down one hallway in the school and was tackled by the school principal. The student is now in custody and being questioned.

Deanna Garcia of public radio station WESA in Pittsburgh joins Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson with the latest.


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This is HERE AND NOW from NPR and WBUR Boston. I'm Jeremy Hobson, along with Robin Young. And we'll start this hour with the latest on that school stabbing outside of Pittsburgh. A 10th-grader is being questioned by police after allegedly stabbing 19 other students and a security guard, some seriously wounded at the Franklin Regional High School in Murrysville, Pennsylvania, this morning.

Murrysville Police Chief Thomas Seefeld said a school principal stopped the suspect by tackling him, and he praised the person who pulled the fire alarm.

POLICE CHIEF THOMAS SEEFELD: What we teach and we try to talk about is the first thing you want the students to do is to run. You know, and upon my arrival and the arrival of the other officers, that's what we saw. We saw a chaotic scene outside with people running everywhere. So yes, the fire alarm being pulled probably assisted with evacuating the school, and that was a good thing that that was done.

HOBSON: Well, joining us now with the latest from Murrysville is Deanna Garcia. She's a reporter for the Pittsburgh public radio station WESA. Deanna, thanks for being with us, and tell us what the latest is.

DEANNA GARCIA, BYLINE: The latest, the doctor - three have been in surgery, three of the victims who were critically injured. Three are in the ICU at this point. All will be staying overnight. They are not out of the woods, though they are all expected to survive. Another who was injured, the security guard who tackled the suspect, he's in stable condition.

Authorities are saying the blade was more than an inch wide, at least one of them. The suspect still hasn't been identified, though he is in custody. Doctors are also saying if there hadn't been a trauma center nearby in the suburbs, had they had to travel even an extra 30 minutes, that would have been too long, and this would have had a very different outcome.

HOBSON: And that trauma center is just a year old, I think, right?


HOBSON: Deanna, you spoke with a senior at the school, Josiah Wages(ph), who was sitting in the school cafeteria when this happened. Let's listen to what Josiah had to say.

JOSIAH WAGES: And me and my friend, just all of a sudden we heard screaming and people running through the cafeteria, and we were like that's weird because we didn't know why. And then the fire alarm went off at that point, so we're like oh, there must have been a fire or something. We weren't really quite sure what was going on.

And then we were going outside, and people were talking, and then at that point, one of the girls had come out, and we saw that her hand was all cut open. And I wondered if it had just been some sort of accident, and then at that point, I talked to one of my friends who saw the whole thing, and he said that this kid was starting to stab people, and it was just kind of a - it was a mess.

HOBSON: Deanna, tell us, how are people feeling there now? This is several hours later.

GARCIA: You know, the area around cleared out pretty quickly. They got the students secured a little bit away from the high school. Parents, a steady stream were trickling in and out, picking up their kids. Not a lot of them wanted to talk. Josiah was visibly shaken. He said he had been in touch with many of his friends. Several of them were victims, including one who he said was in surgery. He said one of his friends had been stabbed in the back.

So most of the people are just very shaken. The high school is right across the street from a local restaurant, diner-type place, and several of the kids were there with their families, and visibly shaken is probably the best way to describe how people are in the area.

HOBSON: Do we have any sense at this point of why this might have happened, of any motive?

GARCIA: At this point there's no known motive, though there are rumors flying that the suspect was possibly being bullied online. There are reports of some sort of phone threat, though details on that are pretty murky. There's an investigation going on, a woman is reporting that her son received a phone call yesterday, possibly from the suspect, that was threatening. Though again, that has not been completely confirmed, though I guess that is under investigation.

Josiah actually said he didn't know this - the suspect personally, though he knew the suspect's brother and said for all accounts he was a nice guy. And he also echoed that, the bullying rumor, so that seems to be what's flying around out here.

HOBSON: And what about security at the school? We do hear that there is a fulltime Murrysville police officer stationed there.

GARCIA: Yes, there is, and other than that, the authorities are being very tight-lipped about other security measures. Press briefings have been taking place throughout the day, and at almost each one, somebody asks about metal detectors, and the public safety spokesman will not answer that. He says they'd like to keep the details of school security under wraps for security reasons. So it's unclear, though there are reports that there aren't any metal detectors and there's just officers.

HOBSON: Can you tell us a little bit about Murrysville? What kind of a place is it?

GARCIA: Oh, you know, it's a suburb. It's quiet. It's upper middle class and just, yeah, quiet is probably one of the best ways to describe it.

HOBSON: Although not so today, of course. And I just want to go back to what we heard at the beginning, Deanna, which was this, the police chief talking about the fact that somebody pulled the fire alarm and that that was a good thing. I just think of the possible risk, though, to the students who might then come out into the hallways and try to exit the building. But it sounds like police are saying that's the thing to do in a case like this perhaps.

GARCIA: Yes, that's what they're saying, that they like that, you know, it gets people out of the building really quickly. According to the public safety director, apparently there had been a drill of some sort, a safety drill in the last three months. As long as a year ago, there was another, more comprehensive drill. So while everyone around here is saying they never thought something like this could happen at a school like this, they were prepared, and everyone is being applauded for their actions.

HOBSON: Deanna Garcia with WESA in Pittsburgh. Thanks, Deanna.

GARCIA: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.