PITTSBURGH – The 16-year-old boy accused of stabbing 22 people at his high school was dazed like a deer in the headlights hours later and doesn’t fully grasp what he did, his attorney said Thursday as he sketched out the beginnings of a possible mental health defense.
Deepening the mystery of what set off the violence, attorney Patrick Thomassey said Alex Hribal had no history of mental illness or troublemaking, didn’t abuse drugs and was no outcast at school, where the lawyer described him as a B or B-plus student.
In a case like this, it’s pretty obvious to me that there must be something inside this young man that nobody knew about, Thomassey told the Associated Press.
Authorities seized the family’s computer as they searched for clues to Wednesday’s rampage at Franklin Regional High, about 15 miles from Pittsburgh. Authorities said Hribal armed himself with two kitchen knives and stabbed 21 students and a security guard before an assistant principal tackled him.
The slender, dark-haired boy was jailed without bail on four counts of attempted homicide and 21 counts of aggravated assault. Authorities are prosecuting him as an adult, but Thomassey said he will try to have the case moved to juvenile court.
He said he plans to get his client examined by a psychiatrist before a preliminary hearing April 30.
I think his mental state now is unstable. I’m not sure that he recognizes the enormity, if that’s the word, of what has occurred, Thomassey said.
A school security consultant said it is often the case that school attacks are perpetrated by kids who officials say weren’t on their radar.
In incident after incident, when you start peeling back the onion, you find there were some indicators, there certainly were some issues. But it takes some time to find, said Ken Trump, president of National School Safety and Security Services.
I think the one consistent theme across all of these is mental health.
Ten boys remained hospitalized, three in critical condition. Police and doctors said one 17-year-old victim had surgery again overnight and was in very critical condition after suffering a knife thrust that pierced his liver.
Another student, Brett Hurt, 16, told of being stabbed in the back.
What was going through my mind? Hurt said at a hospital news conference. Will I survive, or will I die.
Hurt said he pushed his friend Gracie Evans out of the attacker’s way, and then after he was stabbed, she stayed with him and put pressure on the wound.
Gracie was screaming and asking me if I was all right, Hurt said.
As for the assailant, Hurt said he hopes that someday I can forgive him, and everyone else who got hurt can forgive him. First of all, he needs to forgive himself.