Motive Unclear in Stabbing

MURRYSVILLE, Pa. (AP) – Officials say a western Pennsylvania high school where 21 students and a security guard were stabbed or slashed by a student is no longer being treated as a crime scene and will likely reopen Monday.

Murrsysville police Chief Thomas Seefeld and Superintendent Gennaro Piraino announced those developments at a pre-dawn media briefing outside Franklin Regional High School on Thursday.

Seefeld said the “crime scene was quite bloody with clothes and personal belongings.” But investigators have finished processing it, meaning the school district can hire a company that the superintendent says will “clean and restore our building to pre-incident condition.” Piraino also said, “We’re looking to have students back in our building Monday.”

Sixteen-year-old Alex Hribal has been charged as an adult with attempted homicide and aggravated assault in the attacks.

It was just before the start of class and the hallways were packed as usual with students at their lockers or chatting with friends.

Nate Moore was walking to homeroom, book in hand, when a classmate he knew to be quiet and unassuming tackled a freshman boy a few feet in front of him. Moore thought it was the start of a fistfight and went to break it up.

But 16-year-old Alex Hribal wasn’t throwing punches – he was stabbing his victim in the belly, Moore said. The suspect got up and slashed Moore’s face, then took off down the hall, where authorities said he stabbed and slashed other students in an attack that injured 21 students and a security guard – and might have been even worse but for the “heroes” who Pennsylvania’s governor said helped prevent further injury or loss of life.

An assistant principal tackled and subdued Hribal, who was charged Thursday night with four counts of attempted homicide and 21 counts of aggravated assault and jailed without bail.

Authorities said he would be prosecuted as an adult.

The suspect’s motive remained a mystery.

“He wasn’t saying anything,” Moore recalled hours later. “He didn’t have any anger on his face. It was just a blank expression.”

At a brief hearing Thursday night, District Attorney John Peck said that after he was taken into custody, Hribal made comments suggesting he wanted to die. Defense attorney Patrick Thomassey described him as a good student who got along with others, and asked for a psychiatric examination.

At least five students were critically wounded in the attack, including a boy who was on a ventilator after a knife pierced his liver, missing his heart and aorta by only millimeters, doctors said.

The rampage comes after decades in which U.S. schools have focused their emergency preparedness on mass shootings, not stabbings.

While knife attacks at schools are not unusual, they’re most often limited to a single victim, said Mo Canady, executive director of the National Association of School Resource Officers.

Nevertheless, there have been at least two major stabbing attacks at U.S. schools over the past year, the first at a community college in Texas last April that wounded at least 14 people, and another, also in Texas, that killed a 17-year-old student and injured three others at a high school last September.

The attack Wednesday unfolded shortly after 7 a.m., a few minutes before the start of classes at 1,200-student Franklin Regional High School, in an upper-middle-class area 15 miles east of Pittsburgh.

Mia Meixner, 16, said the freshman boy who was tackled tried to fight back, then, when his assailant got off him, stood up and lifted his shirt to reveal a midsection covered in blood.

“He had his shirt pulled up and he was screaming, ‘Help! Help!'” said another witness, Michael Float, 18. “He had a stab wound right at the top right of his stomach, blood pouring down.”

As students rushed to the boy’s aid, the attacker slashed Moore before taking off around a bend.

“It was really fast. It felt like he hit me with a wet rag because I felt the blood splash on my face. It spurted up on my forehead,” said Moore.

The boy ran down about 200 feet of hallway, slashing and stabbing other students with kitchen knives about 8 to 10 inches long, police said.