6 stabbed, suspect shot in hostage situation at Pa. mental health facility

A man who entered a mental health facility stabbed six people before he was shot by police and taken into custody

By Andrew Goldstein, Torsten Ove and Liz Navratil
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

MUNHALL, Pa. — A man who entered a mental health facility in Munhall this afternoon stabbed six people before he was shot by police and taken into custody.

The incident unfolded this afternoon at the Turtle Creek Valley Mental Health facility at 1800 West Street in Munhall. Multiple police departments and the Allegheny County Police SWAT team converged on the building shortly after 2 p.m. today.

Allegheny County police Superintendent Coleman McDonough said officers were called to the center about 2 p.m. after receiving a call for a stabbing and sexual assault.

When local police arrived, people were exiting the building and told officers to go to the fifth floor. Police also received calls at some point from stabbing victims who were inside the center.

Police said 38-year-old Dustin Johnson, whose address was not immediately available, had two kitchen knives and a BB gun without markings. Mr. Johnson was standing at the end of a hallway when police first encountered him.

Some of the victims had barricaded themselves inside an office.

"The urgency escalated as the situation went on," and police learned that some victims were bleeding badly, Superintendent McDonough said.

Three SWAT officers "engaged the suspect," and fired shots at 3:13 p.m. The suspect was hit and was still alive and in surgery when the police last checked.

"Right now, no one is deceased as a result of this incident," the superintendent said about 5 p.m.

Six stabbing victims and Mr. Johnson were taken to at least four local hospitals for treatments.

It's unclear how Mr. Johnson got in with weapons.  

"Some of the staff recognized him almost immediately," the superintendent said.

At least one witness said someone had been pistol-whipped. Asked if that happened, Superintendent McDonough said "not to my knowledge, but that's certainly a possibility."

As police converged on the scene, schools in the area were locked down and friends and relatives who were outside the building got text-message updates from employees within the facility. 

Cherrell Fulton, 28, of Wilkinsburg said she was sitting in her fifth floor office when a man she knew as Dustin came in, even though he wasn't scheduled for an appointment.

"I knew something wasn't right," said Ms. Fulton, who is a resident adviser at the facility.

She said she started asking Dustin how he was doing, and he said he was OK. But within seconds he pulled a gun from his pocket.

"He just told me to sit down, I'm not going to hurt you," Ms. Fulton said.

Ms. Fulton said she dove under her desk and closed her eyes as the man attacked three of her coworkers.

He kept repeating "You ruined my life!" Ms. Fulton said.

Eventually, Dustin left the office and Ms. Fulton locked the door behind him, where she stayed until authorities arrived.

Ms. Fulton’s aunt, Elena Lawson, was outside and got information from texts her niece sent. 

Ms. Fulton told her aunt that the patient stabbed two people, and pistol whipped another person.

Ms. Fulton was still inside the facility hiding under the table when she sent the messages, her aunt said.

Ms. Fulton, 28, of Wilkinsburg, later exited safely.

Her sister Courtnie Hill said she was overjoyed that her sister was all right.

"My sister is a very strong person," Ms. Hill, 38, of Swissvale said, still in disbelief about the day's events. "This only happens on TV."

Ms. Hill said she was at work in Oakland when her aunt called to tell her about the situation. She said she shut down her computer and raced to Munhall.

Ms. Hill said her sister, who had worked at the facility for two years, told her that police shot the attacker. She said the man had a gun and a knife, according to what her sister said. Ms. Hill said one of the victims was her sister's supervisor.

A 23-year-old man who said he is a patient at the hospital said he was sleeping in his room on the fifth floor when he heard someone screaming to call an ambulance.

He looked down the hall from the door in his room and saw what he described as a large man with a handgun.

"I was scared," the patient said. "I didn't know if the dude was going to try to bust open my door, shooting."

"I hid in my shower because I didn't know what was going on," he said.

Kharissa Kightlinger, 14, was visiting her grandmother nearby when she heard five or six shots.

"I saw a lady walk out holding her neck 'cause she was stabbed in the neck," Kharissa said.

The woman was put on an ambulance. Other witnesses reported seeing a bearded man put on a stretcher and taken away in an ambulance.

Dozens of civilians, including anxious relatives of those inside, and dozens of police officers were milling about the scene this afternoon. The police hailed from Munhall, Braddock Hills, Pittsburgh and other municipalities.

Arnold Holliday, 64, works in rehabilitation helping people with mental health and drug addiction issues at the facility. He was at home when the stabbings happened. He said he called another person at the office, who confirmed it.

Mr. Holliday said he's been in contact via phone with some coworkers who were inside when the attack occurred. Officials escorted those people outside and they were safe on a different side of the building, he said.

He was waiting across the street about 4 p.m. so that he could go to work to start his shift.

Mr. Holliday said many patients live at the facility for a few months.

West Street was shut down to traffic in the area. Barrett Elementary School in Homestead was locked down as a result of the situation. Barrett is part of the Steel Valley School District.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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