MURRYSVILLE, Pennsylvania: He always seemed to be “the shy kid in the corner,” a classmate said.
Hours after a startling and savage attack on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila) morning that left 21 students and a security guard wounded, that was the picture that began to emerge of 16-year-old Alex Hribal, a sophomore at Franklin Regional Senior High School. Armed with two 8-inch knives, he is accused of stabbing and slashing his way through a crowded hallway in an assault that was labeled “bizarre” by both a prosecutor and his own lawyer.
Interviews with nearly two dozen students on Wednesday evening at various vigils organized by churches yielded precious little background about Hribal, who was arraigned on charges of attempted homicide, aggravated assault, and weapon possession. Four of his alleged victims remained in critical condition on Wednesday night.
Many students said they did not know him. Others, like sophomore Anissa Park, who knew Hribal from elementary school but hadn’t talked with him for some time, invariably used the words “shy” and “quiet” to describe him. Some said he was involved in athletics, including street hockey, track and tennis, though The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette could not confirm those details on Wednesday night.
Another student who knew Hribal, though he spoke on condition of anonymity, said he was stunned by the attack.
“I know him pretty well,” the boy said, adding that Hribal’s interests swung toward the usual for a teenage boy, including hockey and video games.Though his parents could not be reached on Wednesday, Hribal’s lawyer, Patrick Thomassey said he had spoken to them about an hour before the teen’s arraignment.
“They did not foresee this coming. They expressed absolute horror,” Thomassey said, adding that the family’s thoughts were with the victims.
Though she would not discuss the Franklin Regional case specifically, Mary Margaret Kerr, chair of administrative and policy studies and a professor of psychology in education and psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh, said it can be difficult for schools to predict violent behavior in students.
She said standard psychological tests haven’t been successful in predicting targeted violence in schools, adding that many school attackers had no histories of mental disorders.