A student flashing two knives went on a stabbing rampage through the classrooms and halls of a high school outside Pittsburgh on Wednesday morning, authorities said. At least 19 students and a security guard were hurt, some with life-threatening injuries.
The suspect, a 16-year-old sophomore, was in custody and being questioned by police, authorities said. His motive was unclear, said Dan Stevens, a Westmoreland County emergency management spokesman.
The student was “flashing two knives around” as he moved through the classrooms and a first-floor hallway, said Thomas Seefeld, the Murrysville police chief. A school security guard handcuffed the student and suffered a wound to the stomach, the chief said.
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The attack happened at Franklin Regional High School, in the suburb of Murrysville, just after doors opened for the day. A student described panic in the halls.
“I was walking into the school and a stampede of people were running after me,” said the student, Kari Lee, who said several of her friends had been knifed. “They were screaming, ‘Go to your cars! Go to your cars! Someone is stabbing people!’”
Seven teenagers and an adult were taken to Forbes Regional Hospital, Dr. Chris Kauffman, the trauma director there, told NBC News. The seven were stabbed in the chest, back and abdomen, he said. He characterized some of the injuries as life-threatening but said everyone was expected to live.
At least three students were in surgery. Others were undergoing CT scans and X-rays and could require surgery later, Kauffman said.
“None of these are superficial wounds,” he told reporters. “These are all significant stabbing wounds, every one.”
Reese Jackson, president and CEO of the hospital, said that one of the victims may have saved the life of another.
“A surgeon came out and congratulated one of the victims by saying she had saved the person’s life by applying pressure to the person’s wound,” Jackson told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Stevens told WPXI, the NBC affiliate in Pittsburgh, that the first call for help from the school came at 7:13 a.m. The situation was under control by 7:30 to 7:40, he said.
A school principal was “the lead to putting him in custody,” the police chief said, before the security guard applied handcuffs.
Ambulances swarmed the parking lot of the high school, and nearby streets were sealed off.
The school district said that high school students and middle school students nearby were “secure,” and that elementary school had been canceled for the day. Parents were asked to report to an elementary school to pick up their children.
Students who drove to school were not allowed to drive home without a parent, according to the district.
The high school has about 1,200 students. Murrysville, about 20 miles east of Pittsburgh, is a city of 21,000. Renatta Signorini, a reporter for the Tribune Review newspaper, told MSNBC that it is a city with low crime.
She said that the schools there do not have metal detectors but have been updating their security procedures. The police chief declined to comment on the school security measures.
Gov. Tom Corbett said that he was shocked and saddened. He said he had directed the Pennsylvania State Police to help and would make other state resources available.
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