A Bronx school safety agent who was beheaded while defending a counselor from an alleged armed intruder says he would have made the exact same decision in a split second again if he could.
Parents, principals and even Mayor Eric Adams called Hector Garcia’s actions heroic when he intervened to save an educator inside PS 69, Journey Prep School, and thwarted an attack by the suspect.
But 55-year-old Garcia’s first thought was not about his safety, but about the students.
An intruder who tried to attack a teacher at a public elementary school in the Bronx eventually cut off a “heroic” safety agent at a school on duty who intervened and thwarted the attack, Mayor Eric Adams said. This is reported by Gaby Acevedo of NBC New York.
“I call them my kids, my kids,” he told NBC New York. “I thank God there were no children and young children around.”
The incident occurred around 7:40 a.m. at a school on Thiriot Avenue, when Garcia heard a “commotion” coming on his radio just minutes before the kids were scheduled to arrive Thursday morning. Garcia went to help, and saw a counselor struggling against a man.
“I see the counselor … on the floor, crying,” he said. “Then the teacher, Mr. Nash, came and broke them from the quarrel, and then he started arguing with the offender.”
When Garcia, a 27-year-old veteran by force, tried to pull the suspect from the teacher, he then said the suspect – who was later identified as Claudio Vier – erupted.
“As he aimed, I bent down and he grabbed me here instead of here,” he said as he first pointed behind his ear, then pointed at his neck, believing the attacker was going to go down his throat. “I think he was trying to aim at the main artery.”
Garcia believes one quick shift saved his life, leaving him with a stab wound deep behind his ear.
“He was angry … he wanted to kill someone,” he said.
Villar also cut the teacher in the arm before fleeing. Police arrested him near the school shortly after the alleged assault, and he is in police custody. A senior law enforcement official described the suspect as a former member of the counsel he allegedly tried to attack.
Garcia, who said he spent 10 days in the hospital in 2020 with a serious COVID-19 attack, said he believes “God saved me again.” He said he loves his job, but admits that in more than two decades at the school, the situation seems to be getting worse.
“As time goes on, we notice that the violence is increasing,” Garcia said.
Violence at the school occurred less than a week after an honorary student died and two other students were injured in a shooting outside a high school in the same borough. The latest incident has local supporters calling for more support.
“This recent incident highlights why we need to have a full group of school safety agents,” said Michael Mulgro, president of the United Teachers Federation. “We are on the decline of at least 2,000 safety agents from where we should have been. Today, we are grateful to the school’s teacher and safety agent on PS 69 for coming in to protect their colleague and thanking no one for being more seriously injured.”
Garcia wants to do more and get more support, and New York School Chancellor David Banks agrees.
“It’s not how we should spend our days. And it was day after day after day of madness,” Banks said.
Local Association President 237 Teamsters Gregory Floyd agreed.
Floyd also demanded the mayor provide more safety agents in “now” schools, as did the New York School of Safety Coalition, a local group representing parents, families, religious leaders and community leaders.
“What will it take? Death? Mayor Adams: Hire more school agents now,” Floyd said.
The coalition said there had been 41 attacks on school safety agents during this school year alone, a 30% increase in the previous year, and also sought further help.
Still, Garcia said he was glad he was there to help 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 he would have done without his kids, he asks.