ROCKPORT - A 13-year-old boy was arrested after he allegedly stabbed a girl who is a fellow Rockport Middle School student before classes Monday, inflicting serious but not life-threatening injuries, Rockport police said.
The names of the students were not released and police did not provide details on an alleged motive for the attack that took place around 7:30 a.m. near the school. The suspect was arraigned Monday afternoon in Salem Juvenile Court in connection with the stabbing, according to the Essex district attorney’s office. No further information was released regarding the arraignment.
Rockport Police Chief John Horvath said in a statement that the stabbing happened before school opened, and a Rockport police school resource officer, who was in the building, responded immediately. First responders found the girl suffering from “an apparent stab wound."
“The victim was transported to a local hospital with injuries that are considered serious but not believed to be life-threatening,” police said.
Her assailant had fled, but he was captured by police a short time later. Police did not provide information on how or where he was taken into custody.
The school was in lockdown until 9 a.m., when police reported they had taken the suspect into custody. At that point, Rockport Public Schools Superintendent Robert Liebow ordered the lockdown lifted and allowed the school to resume regular activities.
Liebow also said in a statement that he had allowed parents and guardians to take their children home early from school Monday if they wished.
Liebow described the word of the injured student’s medical condition as “reassuring.”
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the student who was injured and their family and we ask you to join us with this same sentiment,” Liebow said.
Liebow said the school’s crisis team, which includes administrators, counselors, nurses, school psychologists, and Rockport police, has mobilized “to respond to any needs of our students to help promote a sense of safety in our community.” Additional counselors will be on site from the school district and Riverside Trauma Center during school days this week, said Liebow.
A forum for parents, which will include discussion about how to talk to children about the incident is scheduled for Tuesday night at a high school auditorium.
“We continue to express our deepest concern for the student who was harmed and are maintaining ongoing communication and support to them and their family,” said Liebow in a statement.
Horvath said there will be an increased police presence at the school, but he stressed that they do not believe there is an ongoing public safety threat since the suspect is in custody.
Nathaniel Mulcahy, who lives on neighboring Dean Road, said he and his twins were in their backyard for their daily ritual of “having breakfast with the birds” when he spotted a “young man” in his backyard and in the abutting swampy wetlands.
His home is about a block away from the middle school and the wetlands connects his neighborhood to the Rockport school campus. He said the only way out of the wetlands is by cutting through the backyard of a Dean Road resident.
“There was a young man, about five feet seven or five eight, in the wetlands behind the house. He was really struggling to get through the wetlands. It’s all swamp and brambles,’’ Mulcahy said in a telephone interview. “It was clearly not somebody who was supposed to be in our backyard.”
He said he distracted the children, returned inside, told his wife what he had seen, locked the doors to the house and called police. A short time later, he said, he learned from social media posting by other Rockport residents that the person he saw in his backyard was in police custody.
“We live in this bucolic neighborhood. It takes a lot of sacrifices to move to a small community like this,’’ said Mulcahy, an announced candidate for the Democratic nomination in the 6th Congressional District. “We don’t want our kids to be traumatized just for going to school.”
Keri Ann Perry has a daughter who is a senior attending Rockport High School, which is located next to the middle school. She said her daughter was shaken up by the incident.
“Something that you see and read about in other communities but never think it could happen in a small town you grow up in. Especially where you think you know everyone,” she said. " I think it really opened up her eyes and her friends knowing that anything can happen at any time."
Amanda Kesterson, whose sons are in the sixth and eighth grades at the school, said Monday afternoon that she immediately called her boys when she heard something had happened on campus.
“I called both of them, they both answered their cell phones, they told me they were okay,” she said, adding that the day’s shocking violence served as a “wakeup call” for the normally peaceful community.
“It’s so sad,” she said. “It’s very surprising for a town like Rockport, it’s such a great little town, so safe, and I think we get lulled into a false sense of security here that we’re not going to be affected by the outside world.”
Kesterson added that she feels bad for all the students.
"It's incredibly sad for all the families involved and the kids," she said. "They're way too young for having to deal with the severity of these type of incidents."
She said she hopes the victim makes a full recovery, and she’ll be praying for everyone affected.
“They’re too young, they’re just way too young,” she said.
John R. Ellement and Travis Andersen of the Globe staff contributed to this report.
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