BY KEN LITTLE
A charge of attempted first-degree murder was filed Tuesday afternoon against a 16-year-old South Greene High School student who stabbed another student in the school cafeteria Tuesday morning.
The condition of the 15-year-old student who was stabbed had stabilized by Tuesday afternoon, Sheriff Steve Burns said.
The victim is identified by Greene County-Greeneville Emergency Medical Services (EMS) as Daniel A. Birchfield Jr.
Authorities are considering eventually charging the 16-year-old suspect as an adult, Third Judicial District Attorney General C. Berkeley Bell said this morning.
The 16-year-old, who has not been identified by authorities because of his age, will appear Friday morning in Greene County Juvenile Court.
MAY BE TRIED AS ADULT
"We are exploring transferring him to try [him] as an adult. We're just waiting for the investigation to be complete to make a decision," Bell said.
A later hearing in Juvenile Court would be necessary to transfer him from Juvenile Court to be tried as an adult, Bell said.
The teenager remains in custody at a juvenile facility, according to Sheriff Burns.
Bell, who has been district attorney general in the four-county Third Judicial District since 1982, said the school stabbing case is unique in his experience.
"We've never had one like it before," Bell said.
A dispute between the 16-year-old and the stabbing victim over a girl may have prompted the stabbing, Bell said.
"My information is, it was over a girl," he said.
The stabbing happened about 7:45 a.m. Tuesday when the 16-year-old approached Birchfield from another table in the cafeteria, where students congregate before classes begin.
The alleged assailant pulled a knife from his waistband and stabbed Birchfield multiple times, Burns said.
Robert Sayne, Greene County-Greeneville EMS director, said this morning that Birchfield was stabbed three times.
He was flown by Wings Air Rescue to Johnson City Medical Center. An updated condition was not available this morning.
Burns confirmed that a female student who was sitting at the cafeteria table when the stabbing happened intervened and took down the knife-wielding assailant.
"One of the young ladies that was at the table appeared to knock him to the ground, and some of the other students and other staff came and subdued him," Burns said.
The teenager who took down the attacker declined to be interviewed Tuesday.
Burns described the weapon used as a "kitchen-type" knife. The EMS crew at the scene described the knife "as something you would be able to cut meat with," Sayne said.
"It was not serrated. It was not a great big knife," the sheriff said.
LOCKDOWN AT SCHOOL
The incident prompted a lockdown at the high school.
Students were confined to the school gym for about 45 minutes as sheriff's deputies, EMS crews and other first responders arrived at the scene.
Classes resumed about 9 a.m. Counselors were available at the school to speak with students.
Burns said other students were not targeted by the assailant.
"I think this assault was directed at the victim. It wasn't directed at any other students," he said.
Burns said he is satisfied with the response of law enforcement.
School buses were dropping off students when the stabbing occurred, and the school security officer was outside at the time, the sheriff said.
Dr. Vicki Kirk, Greene County director of schools, responded to the high school minutes after the incident occurred.
"We have been told that the young man is in stable condition, and we are thankful for that," Kirk said Tuesday afternoon in an email response to questions.
"I will tell you that we will debrief this, as we do all incidents that are serious. But from my standpoint, the students, faculty and staff did a marvelous job of containing the situation, placing the students in lockdown, and keeping everyone safe during the situation," Kirk said.
She called the stabbing "one of those unpredictable things."
'A GREAT JOB'
"We cannot prepare for every eventuality, but we rely on our training and judgment. They did a great job at South Greene today. I am grateful to the parents and community as well for their outpouring of support," Kirk said.
She added that the Sheriff's Department "did an outstanding job."
"They came out in force to make sure students were safe, the area was secure, and the scene was properly managed," Kirk said.
"Sheriff Burns placed an officer in a cruiser in the parking lot for the remainder of the day to help us feel secure."
The school system's Safety Committee, which met several times following the school shootings in Newtown, Conn., last December, "will be convening at some point," Kirk said.
No schools in Greene County currently have metal detectors.
"We will be planning at our retreat in October, and there may be some discussions about next steps and purchases at that time," Kirk said.
Parents and others close to the South Greene community expressed shock at the stabbing incident, and applauded the courage of the young woman who intervened.
"It was brought to our attention that a young lady, a fellow classmate, brought down the suspect after the stabbing.
"I would like to see some sort of recognition for this student. Perhaps the mayor could pay a visit and congratulate her," the school parent said in an email to The Greeneville Sun.
"This student, even though [it] was a risky move, showed great courage. She probably saved that young man's life, and I believe she should be recognized," wrote the woman, who has two children at South Greene High School.
'A SAD MOMENT'
Added the mother:
"Kids should not have to go through something like this. It's a shame that they resort to such violence to settle such small disagreements.
"As a parent, I should not be afraid to send my kids to school. It's truly a sad moment for South Greene High School and the staff and students ...
"I do not want to feel like I need to pull my children out to protect them."
Three cars parked Friday night at South Greene High School were vandalized, and a glass window at the school was smashed, sheriff's Deputy Randy Christy said in a report.
The incidents remain under investigation.
A window was broken in the outside door to the band room. Damage totals $800.
The three cars were parked in the senior parking lot, the report said.
One car had hood damage totaling $1,500. The sides of a Jeep parked in the lot were scratched, and gasoline was poured on the vehicle, causing $3,000 damage.
Another car had damage totaling $1,600 to the hood, trunk and doors.
A young man wearing white shorts and a t-shirt is seen in school surveillance videos in the area when the vandalism occurred, the report said.