'Responded off of instincts:' Details emerge of stabbing at Brockton Therapeutic school

BROCKTON — John Williams was leading his students to the gymnasium from the cafeteria following breakfast inside Brockton Therapeutic Day School when he passed by a student and said, "good morning, young man."

"He said something kind of unintelligible back," said Williams, a mentor for the Champion City Mentor Program on the third floor of the building.

As the bell rang, Williams said he tested the gym door. When he turned his head back, the student he passed had already stabbed his fellow classmate.

Police arrived at the school at 9:38 a.m. on March 16 following the stabbing. The 17-year-old victim was transported to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. He's been recovering at home since March 18.

According to Brockton Public Schools (BPS) Superintendent Mike Thomas, no one knew that the 16-year-old student snuck a knife through the school's metal detectors. The student has since been arrested and arraigned after receiving an evaluation at South Shore Medical Center.

From left, John Williams and Rakim Turner took down the 16-year-old suspect in a stabbing at Brockton Therapeutic Day School.
From left, John Williams and Rakim Turner took down the 16-year-old suspect in a stabbing at Brockton Therapeutic Day School.

"When we talk about safety in our schools, it's paramount," said Mayor Robert Sullivan during a press conference that afternoon.

Once Williams realized a student was stabbed, he got behind the student and grabbed him as fellow Champion City mentor Rakim Turner happened to be coming through the door, Williams said.

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"He just responded off of instincts right behind me," Williams said. "And we were able to subdue the suspect, remove the knife from his hand and hold him until authorities got there."

Champion City staff member Shakyila Turner sat with the victim and called the police while Williams and Turner held the suspect, Williams said.

A traumatic time for the school

Williams said "a lot of students" were present during the incident, which BPS officials have confirmed, most of whom were students in WIlliams' program. He said students and staff across the building "have had a traumatic response" to the incident.

"We've absolutely been supporting one another as a staff," he said. "Everyone in our program was affected by it that day. We've been looking to do follow up with students, follow ups with parents. We've been following up with each other as staff members."

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Just two days before the stabbing, a student from Brockton Therapeutic Day School — a small 40-student school for students who have disabilities — was killed in his home, allegedly by his stepfather.

"The school staff has had a tough week," Thomas said after the stabbing while the community has been mourning the recent loss.

'Something greater than us'

Williams happened to be bringing his students to the gym that Thursday morning for an activity. Turner happened to be coming through the door just in time to react. The whole scene happened "very, very fast," Williams said.

"There were a number of things that would not have placed us at that moment at that time, so we know it was just something greater than us placing us there," Williams said.

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The Brockton Police Department is investigating the stabbing, and BPS is conducting its own internal investigation. Since the case involves active criminal charges, most details are confidential.

"It would be very difficult to talk about it today if they weren't there," Thomas said about the school staff at a school committee meeting on March 21.

"They did not hesitate to jump into action."

This article originally appeared on The Enterprise: Brockton Therapeutic Day School: Mentors took down stabbing suspect