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Missouri college dean stabbed in neck

A student holding a knife bolted from a Metropolitan Community College-Penn Valley computer lab Tuesday morning and for a split second stared into associate vice chancellor Tom Vansaghi's eyes.

The student — wearing black clothes and a bullet-resistant vest — darted past Vansaghi and lunged at Al Dimmitt Jr., stabbing the campus dean of instruction in the side of the neck.

The 55-year-old Dimmitt fell to the floor, his attacker on top of him.

Vansaghi and MCC chancellor Mark James wrestled the knife away and pinned the attacker down. Students and staff raced to help. Some quickly turned to Dimmitt, using their hands and later paper towels to stem the flow of blood.

Dimmitt underwent surgery at an area hospital and was stable Tuesday afternoon with injuries that weren't considered life-threatening. Later, prosecutors charged Casey Brezik of Raytown with two counts of first-degree assault and two counts of armed criminal action.

Before the 9:35 a.m. stabbing, Dimmitt, James and about 50 other top brass from the five MCC campuses were in the Penn Valley Humanities building awaiting the arrival of Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, who had planned to speak to students, faculty and staff in the first-floor computer lab at 10 a.m.

It was to be Nixon's first stop of a three-city visit Tuesday to detail the $57.6 million expansion of high-speed Internet services across 31 Missouri counties, including $5 million to create computing centers at seven community colleges.

Nixon had wanted Penn Valley, 3210 Southwest Trafficway, as a backdrop for the announcement and he wanted students present.

He had just landed at the Wheeler Downtown Airport when word of the attack reached him. He canceled the appearance and continued instead to Springfield, Mo., his next planned stop.

His security detail had swept the Penn Valley Humanities building and computer lab area earlier Tuesday, Vansaghi said.

"Every thing was clean," Vansaghi said. "We had no way of knowing that guy was going to be in there with a knife."

Kansas City police were investigating whether the attack originally was intended for Nixon because of the bullet-resistant vest and Brezik's political views, including recent rants on his Facebook page.

Described by family as an anarchist, Brezik mostly sat quietly in the back in classes but sometimes argued with professors about political issues, Penn Valley students said.

About an hour before the stabbing, the digital media student posted on his Facebook page: "Pharaoh let my people go! We have but two options."

In earlier postings, he referred to himself as a radical and posted several updates challenging people to take a stand, including being willing to "lay your life on the line."

Also on Facebook, he bragged of being arrested in June for spitting on an officer during a protest at a Toronto G-20 summit.

Yet college officials awaiting the governor said Brezik hadn't been on any campus watch list.

"He wasn't even on our radar," Vansaghi said.

Dimmitt has worked at MCC for over 20 years, the last eight as a dean. Campus officials described him as a "well-respected member of the college's administration," and an active civic leader.

In light of Tuesday's stabbing, MCC officials plan to evaluate security measures throughout all their campuses.

"And now, after this I think maybe we should have had metal detectors and screened everyone," Vansaghi said. "We are going to have to be a lot more cautious in the future, especially when we have a guest like the governor coming."

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