A teenager in the village of Kotlik allegedly armed himself with a butcher knife last Friday and tried to force his way into the village school. He is accused of stabbing his sister and another community member when they tried to wrestle the knife away from him, and his original target may have been the school’s principal.
Principal Cory Stringer said that he was just trying to get Rick Andrews to go back to school. The 19-year-old dropped out about a year ago, and Stringer says that he wasn’t sure why he stopped going to classes. Andrews was quiet and respectful when Stringer met with him, but he could also have a temper. The night before the stabbings, Stringer received a call about a disturbance at the school.
“ When I got there I could hear screaming,” said Stringer. “And when I ran around the corner there was Rick [Andrews], pulling on his girlfriend. He looked like he was about to hit her.”
Andrews’ girlfriend is only 15, and she’s one of Stringer’s students. Stringer managed to get in-between them. “We got her home and away from him,” he said. Stringer suspects Andrews held that against him.
The next day, at around 1:00 p.m. on Friday afternoon, a parent ran into Kotlik’s school. “She said there’s some guy going crazy down the boardwalk and coming this way,” said Stringer, “and she could hear him say he was going to stab me.”
According to an affidavit filed by Alaska State Trooper William Connors, Rick Andrews was armed with an 8-inch butcher knife. Stringer says that he saw Andrews approaching and told the custodian to lock the front doors. He called the State Troopers and put the school on lockdown. Teachers herded their high schoolers into the school gym, where the students played basketball and tried to figure out what was going on. Stringer tried to stay near the windows, drawing Andrews’ focus away from everyone else.
“The first time he saw me he pointed the knife at me, said he was going to kill me,” Stringer said. “I just stood there. I mean, what are you going to do? You have to stay calm.”
It was about 30 minutes before someone tried to stop Andrews. When the 19-year-old tried to push his way through the back doors, his sister and another community member, Frank Aparezuk, tried to stop him. In his affidavit, Trooper Connors writes that they tried to convince Andrews to drop the knife. When that didn’t work, they tried to knock it out of his hands. Andrews stabbed Aparezuk in the chest and his sister in the stomach. His sister wrestled the knife away from Andrews after he stabbed her and threw it in a nearby pond.
Andrews fled, but was caught by several local men who handcuffed him and locked him in a holding cell until the State Troopers arrived. Stringer described them as a sort of unofficial law enforcement; while Kotlik has Village Police Officers, he considers the village under-policed. Upon the State Troopers’ arrival, Andrews’ sister and Aparezuk were medevaced to the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation in Bethel. According to Trooper Connors' report, Aparezuk had lost more than a pint of blood.
Stringer says that he still doesn’t know why any of this happened. The Troopers don't think alcohol was involved in the incident, but Andrews was struggling. His Facebook page is riddled with posts about anxiety and depression, and Stringer says that Kotlik didn’t have the resources to help him. Or, when he became violent, to stop him.
“They need help to get people trained for a police force; we can’t keep up,” said Stringer. “They need to get some help out to the villages because the kids suffer the most from it.”
Andrews is charged with two counts of assault in the second degree and one count of assault in the third degree. His next hearing is scheduled for May 22, 2018.