Dean praised as hero for confronting knife-wielding student


Five seconds of paralyzing fear.

That's what Chris McEntire described feeling when he spotted a teenage boy holding a switchblade to his secretary's throat in a Monaco Middle School hallway.

Thoughts racing through his mind, McEntire felt calmer after he assessed the situation and decided what he must do.

He had to get his secretary to safety and ensure everyone in the school was safe.

The teen had a knife, not a gun, so McEntire could move closer without the boy hurting him.

McEntire, the school dean, talked the boy into letting the secretary go, then coaxed him outside where he fled and was later arrested.

"As long as I had a plan, I was calm," McEntire said Thursday, after receiving a proclamation from Clark County leaders recognizing his actions on that Sept. 13 morning.

"You're never fully prepared," he said "You have to use your head."

County Commissioner Tom Collins presented a plaque to McEntire in Monaco's cafeteria packed with hundreds of students.

"It's important to recognize heroes," Collins said.

McEntire, 33, played down the kudos, saying he was just doing his job.

School officials made the proclamation a surprise. They told McEntire that he and reporters were meeting in the cafeteria for a story on school lunches.

A much bigger surprise, though, was sprung on him in September.

A 14-year-old boy who had been acting up was scheduled to have a parent-teacher conference. He thought he was getting suspended.

Angry, he went to the dean's office and asked the secretary where McEntire was. She told him McEntire was somewhere else on campus.

The boy pulled out a knife and forced the secretary into the hallway.

McEntire was actually in his office at the time. He received a call notifying him of a tense situation.

When he stepped into the corridor, he saw the teen clutching his secretary with a knife to her throat.

He talked the boy into moving the secretary to a common area, then pleaded for him to release her.

"I said, 'This is between you and me,' " McEntire recalled.

The boy let her go.

McEntire persuaded him to go outside. The boy made a threatening gesture with the knife, prompting McEntire to back away.

A female campus monitor, who had just removed a chain from a gate, called out that she would help. When the boy saw the woman wielding a chain, he ran to his apartment across the street, said Monaco Principal Larry Russell, who watched most of the incident unfold.

Using his radio headset, McEntire ordered the school locked down.

Police arrested the teen at his apartment after a brief showdown.

He was charged with kidnapping, two counts of attempted murder and possession of a deadly weapon on school property. He was not identified because he is a juvenile.

Russell said school staffers are trained to defuse verbal spats between, say, a student and a teacher, but they are not trained to handle a crisis like this one.

McEntire acted on instinct, freeing the secretary and then luring the boy outside, knowing the student couldn't get back into the school because the doors automatically lock, Russell said.

"He had to make these decisions in a split second, and he made the right ones," Russell said.

Last year, the school had seven incidents involving possession of weapons, but McEntire couldn't recall any student pulling a knife on someone during his nine years at Monaco.

He said he was forced to improvise.

If he had done everything by the book, such as calling a school lockdown immediately, he might have spooked the teen and gotten the secretary hurt, he said.

"I was like a hostage negotiator," he said.

Contact reporter Scott Wyland at swyland@review journal.com or 702-455-4519.

 

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