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Following Updates from School Stabbing in Pennsylvania; FBI Aiding Police in Investigation at High School; Would Could Drive a Mass Stabbing?

Aired April 9, 2014 - 11:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, we are following the breaking news in Pennsylvania, in Murrysville about 15 miles east of Pittsburgh, a mass stabbing. It sounds horrible just to say those words. A mass stabbing at the Franklin Regional high school Nineteen students hurt, as well as one adult. It was a 16-year-old sophomore boy, the suspect, is in custody. He went down the hall just before 7:15 with two knives stabbing people.

I'm joined on the phone by Mark Drear, who is vice president of business development at Capital Asset Protection. Mark, your company is partially responsible for the security at the school. I do understand you had some personnel on the scene this morning. What can you tell us?

MARK DREAR, VICE PRESIDENT OF BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT, CAPITAL ASSET PROTECTION: Yes, that's correct. We had three security officers on site at that time of the morning along with a full-time police officer. From what I understand, the suspect got two knives into the school and, as you say, he pulled the knives out and was just running down the hall stabbing kids as they were going by.

From what I understand, some of the students were going out of the front door. That's where a lot of our security officers were on parking lot detail. They told him what happened. He went running in and when he did, he witnessed another security officer and a staff member trying to subdue the suspect. He went over and assisted. The three of them were able to get the weapons off of the suspect. Unfortunately, one of the security officers was stabbed. He was one of the ones injured, along with multiple students.

BERMAN: One of your employees, one of your security officers, was stabbed, you are saying. Hsow is he doing right now, Mark?

DREAR: From what I understand, he is doing okay. I have not spoke with him directly. I was able to speak with the other officer involved. I have not been able to contact the officer that was stabbed.

BERMAN: You say this student, the 16-year-old sophomore was somehow able to get two knives into the school. I just read in the local newspaper "The Pittsburgh Post Gazette," that this school doesn't have metal detectors. Is that your understanding as well?

GREET: That is correct. There are no metal detectors.

BERMAN: Now, I understand the security officers, teachers, principals, school personnel or all kinds right now, unfortunately, receive training much of the time for school shootings. Does your staff have any training for this type of event, stabbings?

DREAR: Well, not directly for stabbings but for any type of occasion like this. There is also a full-time police officer on staff as well. He was better trained for situations like this. Along with three security officers, there is a full-time police officer on site as well.

BERMAN: You say you were (ph) able to speak with one of your security officers who was there. One of the questions that a lot of people have right now, 19 stab victims are students, one security guard. That seems like an awful lot. Any sense of how this one 16-year-old student was able to do so much damage so quickly?

DREAR: I don't believe the actual number of stabbings was 19. I think there was 19 injured, from my understanding, and I cannot confirm this, but from my understanding there 10, possibly 11 stabbings. I believe ten students and a staff member. Some of the other injuries were not stab related.

BERMAN: (INAUDIBLE) in the chaos of the moment, no doubt. People were injured in other ways. Doctors in various news conferences this morning have raised the possibility that some of those students were hurt, either by stabbings or otherwise, were hurt trying to defend other students. Have you heard anything about that?

DREAR: I have heard the same thing you have. I can't confirm it one way or another, but I have heard that on the news myself.

BERMAN: Mark Greer, again, your company employs some of the security guards at the school, and whose guards were very helpful in subduing the 16-year-old male suspect. Mark, thanks so much for being with us. Our thoughts are with you and your staff today. I appreciate it.

We are going to follow this mass stabbing in Pennsylvania all morning long. There is other news today including key developments in the search for flight 370. We are going to talk about those new pings detected by the underwater towing device. What they mean and how close they are to finding that wreckage, next.


BERMAN: We are following breaking news from Pennsylvania. The town of Murrysville, about 15 miles east of Pittsburgh. A mass stabbing at a local high school there. Some 19 people were hurt. Some of those stab victims, some of those with life threatening injuries are being treated right now, 19 students hurt. One adult victim as well. The suspect, a 16-year-old male sophomore is in custody.

Just a second ago, we got a statement from the FBI spokesperson in Pittsburgh. Let me read it to you.

"The FBI is assisting police at this time. Right now, it is currently being investigated on the local level. The FBI is playing a supporting role in this investigation. We don't comment on investigations that are not ours."

The important thing to note is that the FBI is helping out as needed. This high school, the Franklin Regional high school is a crime scene right now. All the schools in that town are closed for the day.

There is other news I want to tell you about right now, including very big developments in the search for flight 370. Two new pinger signals consistent with the plane's black boxes have been picked up by the Ocean Shield. that's the Australian ship carrying a U.S.-made pinger locator. We have details on the pinger signals from Angus Houston, who heads this now-huge international search effort.


ANGUS HOUSTON, JOINT AGENCY COORDINATION CENTER CHIEF: It looks like the signals we've picked up recently have been much weaker than the original signals we picked up. That means probably we're either a long way away from it or, in my view, more likely, the batteries are starting to fade. As a consequence, the signal is becoming weaker.

The detection yesterday afternoon was held for approximately five minutes and 32 seconds. The detection late last night was held for approximately seven minutes. Ocean Shield has now detected four transmissions in the same broad area. Yesterday's signals will assist in better defining a reduced and much more manageable search area on the ocean floor. I believe we are searching in the right area but we need to visually identify aircraft wreckage before we can confirm with certainty that this is the final resting place of MH-370.


BERMAN: You can hear it in his voice. They think this is a major development in the search for missing Malaysia flight 370. The Australian ship, Ocean Shield, has picked up two more signals within 17 miles of the signals that were picked up on Saturday.

Let's talk about it. Joining me, CNN aviation analyst, Mary Schiavo and Jeff Wise. Mary, I want to start with you, here, because until today we were talking about this as a giant race against time. They needed to find these black boxes before the batteries on the pingers ran out. Today, it seems to me, there is a huge shift. It is no longer a race against time because they have heard what they believe to be the pings. Now, they seem to be taking their time before what is the next step, which is to put a submersible in the water to look for this thing on the ocean floor. Explain this.

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: I think what they are thinking is if they take a little extra time now, they will save a lot more time later, sort of like a stitch in time. What they want to do is narrow down their search area. Seventeen miles certainly sounds really good when we were talking about, you know like first, the continental U.S. and then the size of Texas. But if they can narrow that down to say, like, a diameter, a circle, of maybe five miles or six mile, then they put the submersibles down, they can comb that area and map that area in a few days as opposed to a few weeks or a few months.

They want to get every little last ounce out of those pingers, every last little juice, before they die. Then, they will have a smaller area.

BERMAN: And it doesn't seem like there is the risk to take this time to try to get that more exact search area. All right, Jeff Wise, you know Angus Houston right there just delivered that news conference, he really did seem awfully optimistic. Probably more optimistic than he was saying with his words, because he wanted to temper everything with caution. Mr. Optimistic. You have been Mr. Skeptical every step of the way here. They have now heard four pings. They think are consistent with these flight data recorders right now. Mr. Skeptical, be skeptical. Why aren't you convinced this is it?

JEFF WISE, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Listen, I want to find this as much as anybody. I don't want my enthusiasm and optimism and hope to color the data. Is there some problem with these pings, the fact that it is 17 miles across or 12 miles across, depending on how you count it, that's too big. The pinger locator is only supposed to be able to detect within 2-3 miles. How is it detecting something that's that far away. It indicates it might be a false positive. That's what we're worried about here - that all these signals are in fact false positives. We know these locators can detect something that turns out not to be the thing we are looking for. This has happened in the past. We remember very recently, the Chinese detected something, which I guess was give up on --

BERMAN: They don't trust nearly as much as what they are using now.

WISE: Although, the other British ship that's designed to do this kind of thing, they had a false positive a little while back. Listen, his language is very positive. He is saying that he believes that within the next couple of days, this whole mystery will be resolved. I say, alleluia. I want that to happen as much as anybody.

BERMAN: One of the big problems you have to not bring up, but I can see he is thinking about it is where is the debris. If these black boxes are under the water where they're looking right now, how are we 33 days into this without any sign of any debris field. Are we now to believe that somehow this ship landed or fell into the water intact and sunk?

SCHIAVO: Well, that's one theory. The other theory is that you wouldn't expect to find the debris on the surface above where the pinger is now, 34 days later anyway. The debris wouldn't be there. The debris wouldn't be there in any body of water that far away. So they are putting less emphasis on the debris field around where the pinger is. They could continue to look in other areas but by now it is hundreds of miles away.

They are hoping that once they zero in on a smaller search area for the submersibles and put them down that they will find the wreckage literally right there. So now they're looking -- they hopefully will find it right under the spot where they are, not hundreds of miles away.

It's technically possible. I mean there's lots of ways -- you are trained to ditch on the water. Most people can't really do it. Specially in ocean waves and at night. And it was only, what, a half moon or a quarter moon that night, so it wouldn't be bright lights. It is technically possible. You are trained to do water ditchings. The bad news is almost nobody can do it. So that's - and if you didn't do it right, your plane'd break up, but maybe this guy could do it right.

BERMAN: All right, Mary Schiavo, just one of the questions we have been faced with right now, Jeff Wise thanks so much for being with us. Really appreciate it.

The families of the 239 people on board that plane, they are desperate for answers. So you can log on to to find out how the families are really coping 33 days after that jetliner disappeared.

Ahead for us at this hour, we're going to talk about the psychology of a stabbing. It is different than a mass shooting or is it? Is it more personal? These are the questions we want to ask. We have psychologist, Jeff Gardere, to break this down when we come back.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I set off to get my breakfast. I was walking -- I was talking to Jerry Baricoli's (ph) mom actually. The fire alarm went off. I was walking over towards the exit and there was blood all over the floor. Thought maybe someone had a nose bleed or something. And someone yelled she got stabbed.


BERMAN: There was blood all over the floor. At least 19 students and one adult have been injured in a stabbing rampage at a high school in Murrysville, Pennsylvania. This is east of Pittsburgh. Authorities say the suspect, a 16-year-old sophomore male, is in custody. He apparently, they say, ran down a hallway and into classrooms. He was wielding two knives.

Police are now saying that a, quote, "interaction with a school principal" there led to his apprehension. There was a school resource officer also involved. A trauma doctor tells CNN that Forbes Regional Hospital which is nearby is treating an adult and seven teens for injuries including stab wounds to the torso, abdomen, chest and back areas. He does say some of those injuries are, quote, "clearly life threatening."

Franklin Regional senior high school was immediately put on lockdown right as this incident was happening with parents slowly now being reunited with their children as they show up to campus. Joining me now to talk about this from Long Island via Skype is Carolyn Reinach Wolf, she's a campus consultant on mental health and safety issues. Also on the phone is Molly Born (ph), she's a reporter at the "Pittsburgh Post Gazette."

Molly, your report was one of the first to come from that scene right now. Tell me what's going on at that high school now.

MOLLY BORNE, REPORTER, PITTZBURGH POST GAZETTE: Sure. Well, I'm sitting outside the high school now, not directly outside, but sort of at the bottom of the hill. There's school buses still lined up here. I can't see too well at the top. I believe most of the emergency vehicles have left. It's a little calm at the moment. There are a few students that have been walking by. I talked to a couple of them. Some parents walking by as well. But significantly less chaotic scene than it was this morning no doubt.

BERMAN: We heard from one student just a moment ago who said he saw blood on the floor there. I don't know how quickly you did arrive at the high school, but as far as you have seen, have you seen any children in distress? Do they all seem okay at this point to you?

BORN: I arrived -- I'm not sure what time exactly. I didn't see any kids in distress or any kids coming out. I think they had been moved to the middle school at that point. Certainly there are a lot of students who are shaken up a bit. I talked to several students who have friends that are among those injured. They're just hoping to get some information from them as the day goes on.

BERMAN: Quickly, any sense from these students you've talked to about the suspect?

BORN: We know the suspect is 16 years old. He is in police custody. He was -- he did suffer some injuries to his hands. I believe they were minor injuries. And is being treated for those. I believe he's also a sophomore. We don't know a whole lot more at this point. It's still early. But police are investigating and looking at all the angles, I'm sure.

BERMAN: Caroline, the parents are now being reunited with many of these students, probably parents leaving work when they found out about this incident. To find their sons and daughters at this high school. What do you tell parents at a time like this?

CAROLYN REINACH WOLF, EXEC. PARTNER, ABRAMS, FENSTERMAN: You know, you just, you reassure them. You say we're doing everything we can to make sure the students are safe now. We have plans in place. It was activated, people did what they were supposed to do. We certainly will do a comprehensive follow-up as the crisis winds down. Look into what our systems were, what happened. Maybe we could have identified the potential for this earlier on. But it's really just to reassure parents.

BERMAN: We're told by some officials some of the systems they had in place worked very well. It was the school principal along with, we understand, the school resource officer, who did subdue the suspect. We're hoping that all of those injured do recover. Hospital officials tell us that's what they're hopeful for also. There were some procedures I think that will be questioned an some point. Including we learned that there was not metal detector at this school. Clearly a metal detector might have detected those knives before they went in the door.

WOLF: I think every school needs a safety plan obviously. But once again we're in a situation where we're being reactive, we're responding to a crisis. A lot of what we talk about in my mental health law practice about safety is you want to be proactive, you want to be preventive. You want to look at what's going on in your environment, with your students. We recommend threat assessment teams be set up in the high schools and lower grades as we've done on college campuses, particularly after Virginia Tech. You want to be preventive and proactive. Because then you can be -- as opposed to always being in crisis mode. Likely if you look back at who the student was and what was going on with him, you likely could have identified red flag behaviors. And had you had a system set up to intervene earlier on or take some sort of preventive action, this might have been prevented.

BERMAN: Carolyn, quickly, the time this happened, before 7:15 a.m., seems like a very vulnerable time at any school, when children are arriving, it's when the teachers are arriving. It's a time of flux and chaos.

WOLF: That's correct, and you have a lot going on. And again, that's not the time you want to start to think about your safety systems. You want to think about it before it even happens. Imagine it will happen. Look what we've seen across the country. And when we go back and review these, there were red flags. We could have set up systems. And many of them may have been able to be prevented.

BERMAN: Right. You do have to plan. A lot of us would not like to imagine this happening. I do understand the need to be ready for this type of thing. Caroline Reinach Wold, Molly Born, thank you for joining us. There are a lot of questions about this incident. It raises a lot more questions as well.

Joining me now to talk about this, psychologist Jeff Gardere. Jeff, this is a mass stabbing. It sounds strange to say it. We're not used to saying it. We've seen school shootings before. We've seen shootings at workplaces before. But this is a mass stabbing. Is there a difference from your perspective, as a psychologist, between a shooting and a stabbing? Is a stabbing more personal? There's no distance there between the perpetrator and the victims.

JEFF GARDERE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: That's exactly what it is. You don't have that proximity that you would -- that normally the less proximity you're having now with this individual because he is in close. He is feeling it. It's much more emotional. You see that rage much more. Whereas with the gun shooter, there is much more of a distance between yourself and the intended victim. The gun is a buffer. And we've seen that the gun shooters have been much more flat in their affect, much more calculating. Look at this stabbing as being more of what I would call a wild rampage versus a cold-blooded massacre of someone using a gun. BERMAN: So we don't know anything about the person who did this other than the suspect is a 16-year-old sophomore male. But the fact that it was a stabbing and not a shooting does tell you something.

GARDERE: Yes, it does tell us this is a person certainly who is much more emotional and probably didn't care as much as to who he killed, who were the ones who were injured. Probably didn't know the other individuals as much. The ones with who have gone in with the guns. There have been some ideas where they want to go. This young man from what we know was just running up and down the halls stabbing people randomly. We should also acknowledge that perhaps he used knives because he couldn't get a gun or didn't know how to use a gun. It also tells me there might have been less premeditation because it's much easier to get the knives, get them at, you know, a quicker pace than actually getting the guns.

BERMAN: Maybe not premeditated, you think. You maybe think he was in school with those knives and something set him off?

GARDERE: I think perhaps he knew he was going to do something. But there comes much more planning when you actually have to go out and get the guns, where you have to learn how to use the guns. Putting that plan in place with the knives, what we're talking about is someone who can go in just at a moment's notice, rampage, slice, stab, and getting your hands dirty. You're in there knowing that you have to use brute strength and so this tells me this is someone who was extremely rageful. We have to also look at what the mental health history is here.

BERMAN: Of course, always.

GARDERE: Because it's not just about rage, it's about emotional stability too.

BERMAN: It's about what led up to today. You're looking at pictures of the school quickly. What do you say to the parents and students who are being reunited?

GARDERE: You let them know that everything is under control. Be brief as much as possible. Let them talk about their feelings. But let them know that everything is stabilized as far as the physicality. But there's going to have to be a lot of counseling. Trauma counseling with this unprecedented type of massacre.

BERMAN: Just the beginning for these students and teachers and parents.

GARDERE: Especially given the tender age of these young students.

BERMAN: Jeff Gardere, great to have you with us. Really appreciate it right now.

GARDERE: Always a pleasure.

BERMAN: We of course will be following this all afternoon here on CNN. Thanks for joining us @ THIS HOUR. I'm John Berman. "LEGAL VIEW WITH ASHLEIGH BANFIELD" starts right now.