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School Stabbing in Pennsylvania; Suspect Armed with Two Knives; New Signals Detected in Search for Flight 370; Interview with Rep. Tim Murphy

Aired April 9, 2014 - 13:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, officials are trying to find out why a student came to school this morning and started stabbing his classmates. He injured 20 people and now a community near Pittsburgh is reeling from shock.

Also right now, still no sign of debris but two fresh pings and they're convincing searchers they're getting closer and closer to what's left of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

And right now, whether by force or by negotiation, Ukraine says it will reach a resolution with separatist protesters within 48 hours. Defense Secretary, Chuck Hagel, is weighing in on the tension in an exclusive interview with CNN.

Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting from Washington. We're following developments at a high school in western Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh, where one student is being blamed for a mass stabbing attack.

Here is what we know right now. Nineteen students and one school security guard were injured during the attack. That suspect, a 16- year-old sophomore, is in custody. He was also injured. Police say he was armed with two knives. They also say he was tackled by one of the school's principals and handcuffed by the school resource officer who's also a local police officer.

Joining us now on the phone is Mia Meixner, a student at Franklin Regional Senior High School. Mia, thanks very much. I know this must be awful for you, for everyone at the school. But, first of all, tell us what -- where you were and what you saw this morning.

MIA MEIXNER (via telephone): Well, I always go (INAUDIBLE) in the morning before school starts. So, I got to my locker, and I heard a big commotion, like from behind my back, and I turned around and I saw two kids on the ground. And I thought it was just a fight, like a fight at first. And then, I saw blood and I saw the kid who was stabbing people get up and run away.

And then, the freshman who was on the ground and got attacked, stood up and lifted up his shirt and you could see he was, like, hit with a knife and was gushing blood everywhere. And three kids from our school ran over to his aid and they were, like, all right, we need to go to the nurse and started screaming. So, they took him to the nurse. And then, there was a senior girl, who I know, and she also was in, like, the cross fire of him stabbing people. And so, she was standing by the cafeteria doors, and I think I was the first to see her, and she was gushing blood down her arm. And so, I, like, dropped my bookings I was holding and I ran over to her. And I asked her if she was OK and if she needed help. And I told her that we could take her to the nurse and that we'll get her help.

And then everyone -- I started hearing, like, a stampede of students coming down from the other end of the hall, screaming, get out. We need to leave. Go, there's a -- there's a kid with a knife. And then, a teacher came over to me and the girl I was trying to help and she said she handle -- she would handle the girl and that I should run out. So then, I just ran out of the school and tried to get out as soon as possible.

BLITZER: Mia, was the 16-year-old suspect -- we're not mentioning his name -- was this 16-year-old suspect saying anything, shouting anything as he was allegedly doing the stabbing?

MEIXNER: No, he was -- he was very quiet and he just was kind of doing it. And he had this (INAUDIBLE) look on his face that he was just crazy. And he was just running around just stabbing whoever was in his way.

BLITZER: Did you -- and, once again, I want to caution everyone, we're not yet ready to identify the 16-year-old suspect. We're not releasing his name. But did you know this 16-year-old sophomore?

MEIXNER: I didn't know him very personally, but I did know him, because he was in a lot of my classes in the past years.

BLITZER: What was he like?

MEIXNER: He was -- he was more shy and he kept to himself a lot. He didn't have that many friends that I know of, but I also don't know of him getting bullied that much. I actually never heard of him getting bullied. But he just was kind of shy and didn't talk to many people.

BLITZER: And so, what's it like now? I mean, your -- you eye witnessed, you saw what was going on. How are you doing, first of all, Mia?

MEIXNER: I think I'm doing OK. I'm getting along and I'm OK with everything that happened. I mean, yes, it's very scary and it's scary that it happened at my school, because I really never thought something like this would happen at our school. But I think I'm, like, dealing with it well and I'll be OK.

BLITZER: Is there any history at all of violence at your high school?

MEIXNER: I mean, there were a few bomb threats in the past, but there was never anything with kids bringing guns or anything to school. I mean, there was obviously some fights, too, but that happens at a lot of schools so it's nothing very serious like this.

BLITZER: I know at some schools, there are metal detectors just to get in. Anything like that at your school?

MEIXNER: No, we don't have metal detectors. Because, like I said, nothing very serious has happened before so we don't think they had any, like, reasoning to have metal detectors.

BLITZER: How are your friends reacting? How are they coping with this awful situation?

MEIXNER: A lot of them are really scared and we're all just happy that everyone -- like, all of our friends are OK. And we're just happy that no one got hurt seriously or is dead or anything. But I think everyone's really scared and just doesn't feel that safe going to school anymore. Just -- I think everyone's going to be very -- like, a lot more cautious.

BLITZER: Obviously, and it's -- you know, what's -- some of those kids were injured pretty seriously. They're obviously -- they're obviously in the hospital right now. But it doesn't seem to be life threatening, at least as far as the hospitals are telling us. One adult was injured in the stabbing rampage as well.

Have there been any drills in your school in weeks or months earlier as far as this kind of an incident or shooting incident? Had you guys gone through any of these drills that we see happening in other schools around the country?

MEIXNER: No, we haven't had any drills for something like this. The most -- the most drills we've had was severe weather drills or a fire drill that we have pretty regularly but nothing this serious.

BLITZER: This is obviously a very, very traumatic situation for you, for all your friends. And so, once again, you were there at your locker. This is just before -- around 7:00 a.m. when school is supposed to start and, all of a sudden, you saw some stabbings going on. I take it, at one point, somebody pulled the fire alarm and everybody just was told get out, get out, get out. Is that what you saw and heard as well?

MEIXNER: Yes, I think -- I was running out because people started panicking after they saw the first person stabbed. So, I think people down by me started running out earlier, and then the fire alarm was pulled and then you saw a lot more kids running out and were panicked. Because some people didn't see the stabbing and didn't know what necessarily was going on.

BLITZER: Mia Meixner, I'm glad you're OK. And I just -- please pass along our best wishes to all your friends at the school. And we will stay in touch with you. And good luck to you. Good luck at -- everyone there at your high school. What an awful, awful situation. Mia MEIXNER was an eye witness to some of those stabbings that went on early this morning at that high school not far, about 15 miles or so, outside of Pittsburgh.

We're also getting more insight into how the horrible events unfolded at the Franklin Regional High School. Listen to the police radio transmissions the moments after the rampage. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE.) I got the whole shift coming your way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jake (ph), (INAUDIBLE) in to the first hallway on the right, halfway down. We've got multiple victims here. We need ambulances here as soon as possible. Be advised, the suspect is in custody, only one suspect.


BLITZER: Well, you heard it, only one suspect. Our Justice Reporter Evan Perez is here with me in Washington. I know you've been checking with police. What are they saying about this suspect?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, you know, all of this went down in one section of the school. And he -- apparently, he ran down the hallway, stabbing with two knives. Some of the kids ended up in some of the classrooms and that's where they were found. We know that the police, the FBI's on the scene. They're doing some interviews with some of the kids to see if there's anything they know of that has happened in the last few days that could possibly explain what set this suspect off, what set the 16-year-old off and caused him to carry out this attack this morning.

BLITZER: Comes to school early with two knives and allegedly just starts randomly stabbing, stabbing 19 kids and one adult. Do they have any clue at all about a possible motive?

PEREZ: Well, you know, one of the things they're doing is interviewing -- there's 1,200 students at this school. And they're going to interview as many of them as they can. People who know the kid. People who may have had any interactions with him. As the -- as Mia just said on the air, he was known to be a fairly quiet kid, did not interact with a lot of the fellow students. So, that's going to be something that they're going to look at.

Whether or not perhaps he was bullied. Whether or not he had any fights recently. That is something that the suspect -- we know he was injured. But he is, right now, in the care of police and with the FBI. And they're going to do some questioning to try to determine that. They're going to have to go to his house, look through anything in his computer to see if there's anything, any threats or anything that he's made in recent days that could possibly explain this -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And I'm sure they'll be speaking to his parents and family, and friends, relatives, others to get a sense who this kid is. All right, Evan, thanks very much.

This community clearly in shock right now. Police say that 16-year- old student went on a stabbing spree before classes even got started today. We're going to check in with a lawmaker to see how the community is doing,

And later, new signals detected in the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines' plane. Renewed optimism that the plane now will be found.


BLITZER: A community in shock. And the 16-year-old student accused of stabbing his classmates in custody. It's almost unthinkable. Let's discuss what's going on with Representative Tim Murphy. He's a clinical psychologist who represents Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District, right next door to this high school.

Congressman, I know you're in touch with local officials, school officials, the mayor and others. What are you hearing about what happened?

REP. TIM MURPHY (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, in terms of hearing what happened, pretty clear, the student came in with knives and began doing this around 7:10 this morning. And chaos ensued and a number of students were stabbed and badly injured. The police responded quickly. The mayor, Bob Brooks, told me they have trained for such a thing. And they had had a training exercise a while ago on this, so they were on the scene. By that point, the damage had occurred to the students. But people subdued him.

What is also emerging is a lot of questions we'll find out over the next few days of what happened to this student. I really want to point out, it's so important when people say what set him off. In a situation like this, usually there's a long fuse. And at some point, the part of the mental health part is that we can intervene and help kids if we know these things. But there's finally some event that occurs and sometimes we don't even know what it is. But when you come to school with two knives with intent to doing this kind of harm, it's not a normal response. And it's one we better, we better start paying attention to a lot of these mental health aspects with kids.

BLITZER: Have you heard that the student was also wearing body armor in addition to having two knives?

MURPHY: No, I hadn't heard that yet.

BLITZER: I have - I mean I'm just -- there's a lot of stuff circulating out there about - we're not - as I say, we're not identifying this student yet. But have you heard anything at all about a possible motive? What may have motivated the young 16-year-old like this to go to school with two knives and start stabbing kids?

MURPHY: Well, broadening (ph) to things like this, what one would look for in a typical case, as we've studied these things and as I work on these mental health issues in Congress, is that many times this person is not someone who suddenly appeared out of nowhere. You'll find that there's been something simmering for a while. A person who has crawled into the cracks, been more isolated, maybe a little bit more alone. It may have been a student who was teased or seen by classmates as awkward. And they may, in their own life at home, begin to plan, how can I get back at others? How can I make a name for myself? How can I go down swinging? And all those things we'll find out what emerges from this. But it isn't the singular issue. I mean the same thing happened when people tried to explain Fort Hood. Oh, he had an altercation. People don't shoot other people because they have an altercation over their leave. In a situation like this, you don't come to school stabbing because you get teased. But I bet you we'll find out more information in terms of difficulties he's had, and the difficulties to adjustment. And, again, it points out, we need legislation to change the way we approach this (INAUDIBLE).

BLITZER: Well, let's talk about -- what can we do about -- Sandy Hook Elementary School, that's with gun - with a gun, obviously. This is with two knives. How do we deal with this? What lessons do we need to learn? You've studied -- you're a clinical psychologist. You've spent a lot of time on mental health related issues. And I suspect there was some mental health issues here. How do we move forward?

MURPHY: Well, and we study this in my subcommittee, Oversight and Investigation Energy and Commerce. A yearlong working this and then I introduced the Helping Families and Mental Health Crisis Act, HR3717. Many things have to be done. We don't have enough psychiatrists and psychologists who work with kids. It's plain and simple, we need more. And so our goal we'll (ph) create some more mechanisms for them to work and consult with pediatricians to provide mechanisms.

We don't have enough training for police on how to work on these things. We - so our bill provides more grants for that. We have more research we need to do in what's going on with the brain. We authorize the brain research models and authorize something called Response After Initial Schizophrenic Episode. I'm not diagnosing him, but I'm saying, we know if we identify kids, get to them early, help them with medication and counseling, it can make a world of difference and several other things are in our bill as well.

BLITZER: And as you say, there are warning signs but, unfortunately, sometimes either the family member, friends, educators, they missed those warning signs and something like this can happen.

Congressman, thanks very much.

MURPHY: Thank you.

BLITZER: We'll stay in close touch with you.

We're also hearing more from students who were inside the school when the attack started. Listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The fire alarm went off. I was walking over towards the exit. And there was blood all over the floor. I thought maybe someone had a nose bleed or something. And someone yelled, she got stabbed.

ZACH SHEDD, STUDENT: I just thought it was a normal fire drill. I mean I saw people running and screaming and crying. And so I thought, something - oh, something has to be wrong. Then I saw people holding each other's hands. I saw other people getting cut. Just blood everywhere. It was very traumatizing.

NORRIS HUNDLEY, FATHER OF STUDENT: She told my wife that one of the kids was her best friend that got stabbed, yes, and that even makes it even more difficult for what I have to say to her, you know, once I get her home.


BLITZER: What a horrendous story indeed. We're going to have more coverage of these stabbings at this high school in Pennsylvania. That's coming up.

Also, other news we're following. Pinning the hopes right now on those new pings that have been discovered. Why investigators appear a lot more confident today than yesterday that they will find the missing Malaysia Airlines plane.

That and a lot more news coming up.


BLITZER: We want to get an update right now on the injuries from that stabbing attack at a Pennsylvania high school this morning. Joining us on the phone right now is Dr. Steven Docimo, he's chief medical officer at Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh, part of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Doctor, thanks very much. I know this is an awful situation for you, everyone at your hospital, throughout the area. Give us the latest on the number of children that have been brought to your hospital.

DR. STEVEN DOCIMO, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL IN PITTSBURGH: So we've had five children brought in through our emergency department. Two of them have been admitted, both in fair condition. One of those went to the operating room. The other three are being treated in the emergency department.

BLITZER: So two are in obviously very serious condition, three less serious, is that right?

DOCIMO: That's correct.

BLITZER: Describe the wounds, describe the stab wounds as far as you can.

DOCIMO: So we have the two patients who have been admitted have stab wounds to the chest. The remainder of the patients had stab wounds to the extremities.

BLITZER: Like the arms and the legs, stuff like that?


BLITZER: And, obviously, the stab wounds to the chest are much more serious than the stab wounds to the right arm or left arm or right hand, anything along those lines? DOCIMO: They have the potential to be more serious. We expect both of those teenagers to do well.

BLITZER: So there's a 17-year-old male, we're told, at least at Presbyterian Hospital, who's in pretty critical condition, but you say there are -- there's one in critical condition at Children's Hospital and two in serious condition, is that right?

DOCIMO: We have upgraded the two who were in serious condition to fair condition and the three that are in the emergency department are all being described as good condition.

BLITZER: Good condition. All right, that's good.

Is there any conclusions we can make based on the wounds that you've seen, the stabbing wounds, on the nature of the attack?

DOCIMO: Really not. We're still somewhat mystified by exactly what happened.

BLITZER: Have you ever seen anything along these lines in the Pittsburgh area, Dr. Docimo?

DOCIMO: Never. Never a mass stabbing.

BLITZER: And how were the kids doing? I assume their parents are there, educators are there as -- are they getting the kind of support they really need?

DOCIMO: They are absolutely getting support. I have not spoken with any of them or their families, so I can't comment specifically. But, yes, they are getting all of the appropriate support.

BLITZER: And what are you hearing from your colleagues at some of the other hospitals? You're at Children's Hospital, but we know Presbyterian, Mercy, East, some of the other hospitals affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, they're also receiving victims, right?

DOCIMO: They are. In fact, I was just speaking with Dr. Alercon (ph) from Presbyterian. They received the most seriously wounded teenager, who is also out of surgery at this point, in critical condition.

BLITZER: Still in critical condition. Let's hope - let's hope for the best.

Dr. Docimo, Steven Docimo, chief medical officer of the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. Thanks so much for joining us. Good luck. And thanks for all the important, critical work that all of you and your staff are doing.

We'll take a quick break. Much more on the stabbings at this high school in Pittsburgh coming up. Also, the very latest on the search for the Malaysia Airlines plane.