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Assistant principal who tackled stabbing suspect hailed as 'great man'

By Greg Botelho and Mariano Castillo, CNN
April 10, 2014 -- Updated 1150 GMT (1950 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A mass stabbing takes place at Franklin Regional Senior High School outside Pittsburgh
  • Assistant Principal Sam King brings down the suspect, according to police
  • A former student says if anyone would have done that, "it would be him"
  • King is celebrated on social media as "a hero" and "man of the year"

(CNN) -- It's a special thing when a childhood idol does indeed turn out to be a real-life hero.

Many students and adults responded with courage Wednesday morning when a 16-year-old sophomore allegedly attacked classmates with two knives at a suburban Pittsburgh high school.

But only one person managed to stop the horrific ordeal: Sam King.

The Franklin Regional Senior High School assistant principal tackled the alleged assailant to the ground to end five gory, terrifying minutes inside his school, said Murrysville, Pennsylvania, police Chief Thomas Seefeld.

It was an act of incredible bravery, yes. But not everyone was surprised it was King who did it.

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"Mr. King has always been like a storybook hero, ever since we were little," former student Challon Fisher wrote on Twitter. "Love that man."

Added Julia Bolkovac, who graduated from the school last year: "If there was one guy in the school who I thought would do that, it would be him."

'What Mr. King did is just awesome'

Sam King wasn't alone. Three others -- a school security guard, Assistant Principal Joan Mellon and patrolman William "Buzz" Yakshe, working as the school resource officer -- also played a part in subduing the suspect, identified as Alex Hribal.

"They were all extremely instrumental," said Westmoreland County District Attorney John Peck. "In coming out (and seeing) chaos in the halls (and the aftermath of) an attack on a number of students, people were rushing by ... Those four individuals showed no lack of courage."

The security guard suffered stab wounds in the melee -- the sole adult injured, in addition to at least 20 students -- just before King who provided the tackle that ended the bloodshed.

Heroes in all forms step up during school stabbing

While authorities didn't detail King's role immediately, social media quickly outed him as a hero.

"What Mr. King did is just awesome," wrote one Franklin Regional alumnus now at Penn State. "A great man becoming a hero when people needed him most."

Another former Panther described King as her hero since she was 7. One student lauded him as "the man of the year." And another said King was due a simple, but deserved, tribute whenever the school reopened.

"I'm feeling a standing ovation for Mr. King the next time i see him in lunch," he tweeted.

King known for being 'there for his students'

Many students praising King on Wednesday had known him for years, back to the time he was an elementary school principal.

"He has always had a relationship with each and every student," said Fisher. "... Mr. King's personality is something people look up to, just because of how caring it is."

King graduated, in a sense, to his new job at the high school two years ago, according to Fisher.

Bolkovac said that wherever he went, King was looked up to as "a role model."

"He was a big guy walking around the school," she told CNN. "He made an effort to make everyone feel welcomed."

That's what Matt DeCesare, a current Franklin Regional Senior High student, thinks as well. Students don't have anything negative to say about him; what they will say is that he is "very agreeable" and always willing to help anyone out.

"He's really there for the students," DeCesare said. "... He is always doing things (in their) best interest."

Never was that more true than Wednesday.

Opinion: School stabbing victim's selfie was perfectly fine

CNN's Ray Sanchez and Steve Almasy contributed to this report.

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