Hero school security guard describes risking his life to save NYC counselor from knife attack – NBC New York
A Bronx school security guard who was hit in the head while defending a counselor from a suspected armed intruder said he would make the exact same decision in a split second if he could.
Parents, administrators and even Mayor Eric Adams called Hector Garcia’s actions heroic, as he stepped in to save an educator inside PS 69, Journey Prep School, and thwarted an attack of the suspect.
But Garcia, 55,’s first thought was not for his safety, but for the students.
An intruder who attempted to attack a teacher at a public elementary school in the Bronx ended up cutting off a “heroic” school security guard who stepped in and foiled the attack, Mayor Eric Adams said. NBC New York’s Gaby Acevedo reports.
“I call them my children, my children,” he told NBC New York. “I thank God that there were no children and grandchildren around.”
The incident happened around 7:40 a.m. at the school on Avenue Theiriot, when Garcia heard a “commotion” on his radio minutes before the children were due to arrive on Thursday morning. Garcia went to help and saw a counselor struggling with a man.
“I see the counselor…on the floor, crying,” he said. “Then the teacher came by, Mr. Nash, and stopped them from fighting, and then he started fighting with the culprit.”
When Garcia, a 27-year-old veteran of the force, tried to pull the suspect away from the teacher, it was then that he said the suspect – later identified as Claudio Villar – had unleashed.
“When he took aim, I ducked down and he caught me here instead of here,” he said, pointing first behind his ear and then pointing to his neck, believing the assailant intended to go to his throat. “I think he was trying to aim for the main thoroughfare.”
Garcia believes a quick shift saved his life, leaving him with a deep puncture wound behind his ear.
“He was furious…he wanted to kill someone,” he said.
Villar also allegedly cut the teacher in the arm before fleeing. Police arrested him near the school shortly after the alleged attack and he is in custody. A senior law enforcement official described the suspect as the former boyfriend of the adviser he allegedly tried to attack.
Garcia, who said he spent 10 days in the hospital in 2020 with a severe COVID-19 crisis, said he believed “God saved me again.” He said he loves his job, but admits that in more than two decades at school, things seem to be getting worse.
“Over time, we notice that the violence has increased,” Garcia said.
The school violence came less than a week after an honor student was killed and two other students were injured in a drive-by shooting outside a high school in the same borough. The latest incident has local defenders calling for more support.
“This recent incident shows why we need a full contingent of school security officers,” said Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers. “We have lost at least 2,000 security guards from where we should be. Today we are grateful to the PS 69 teacher and school security guard for stepping in to protect their colleague and grateful that no one was more seriously injured.”
Garcia wants to do more and get more support, and NYC Schools Chancellor David Banks agrees.
“That’s not how we should be spending our days. And it’s been day after day after day of madness,” Banks said.
Local 237 Teamsters union president Gregory Floyd agreed.
Floyd also asked the mayor to provide more school safety officers “now,” as did the NYC School Safety Coalition, a local group representing parents, families, faith leaders and community leaders.
“What will it take? The death ? Mayor Adams: Hire more school officers now,” Floyd said.
The coalition said there had been 41 attacks on school security guards this school year alone, up from 30% the previous year, and also called for more help.
Still, Garcia said he was happy to be there to make sure no one was seriously hurt, saying “if I had to do it again, I would do it again. To save someone’s life.”
Since the attack, Garcia says many people have told him he should retire, but he’s not sure – after all, what would he do without his kids, he asks.