Virginia Tech Police were called to the Drillfield Wednesday afternoon following a report of a student stabbing his own hand with a pen.
Police were called at 1:19 p.m. by a 911 call from a witness at the scene.
Alexander M. Huppert, a freshman university studies major, then assaulted an officer who approached to check his welfare, according to a police press release. After a short struggle with the officer and several witnesses, he was taken into custody.
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The incident took place near a table promoting a local version of “Ask an Atheist Day.” The student group Freethinkers at Virginia Tech sponsored the table.
Witnesses said Huppert stood near the table for nearly an hour. Approaching the table, Huppert borrowed a pen and drew a circle with a cross inside on the back of his hand.
Nicole Schrand, a senior psychology major, said Huppert then asked students at the table to stab him in the cross with the pen to “prove to us God existed.” The students declined.
“We don’t believe in assaulting people,” Schrand said. “We’re very against assaulting people.”
Huppert then asked for the pen back, a request Schrand and other students declined. Seeing another pen, Huppert grabbed it and began stabbing himself in the back of the hand.
“If it had been a more streamlined pen, I would have expected it to go through,” Schrand said.
Wade Duvall, who was also working at the table, walked away from the table to call police. Duvall, a graduate student studying physics, first called the Tech Police non-emergency number.
“They told me to hang up and call 911,” Duvall said.
Tyler Pease, a freshman communication major, intervened when he saw Huppert attempting to stab himself in the wrist. Pease, a member of Campus Crusade for Christ, convinced Huppert into giving him the pen.
Schrand said Huppert attempted to confront Duvall after seeing him on the phone, but several people at the table stood between the two.
Duvall said an officer showed up in less than a few minutes. He said Huppert did not cooperate with the officer’s command to take his hands out of his pocket.
Duvall said Huppert then “smacked” the officer on the scene. In the resulting struggle, the officer called for assistance to apprehend Huppert.
“He kept calling for help,” Duvall said. “So I joined.”
Duvall initially grabbed Huppert’s arm. Pease also assisted in subduing Huppert. With additional officers responding, Huppert was taken into custody.
“I was shaking after it was over,” Duvall said.
Pease said the incident ended “better than I expected.”
“As soon as he started hurting himself I was thinking to myself this could go really, really badly," Pease said.
Onlookers were surprised at how quickly the situation escalated.
“I didn’t realize what was going on until police subdued him,” said Brenda Hawkinson, who observed the incident. Hawkinson described Huppert as “glassy-eyed.”
The release said that while in custody Huppert broke out a police car window and assaulted two other officers. None of the officers’ injuries required medical attention, and no other individuals were injured during the incident.
Huppert was charged with three counts of felony assault on a police officer, as well as charges of resisting arrest and destruction of property.
He was processed and transferred to Montgomery County Jail, where he is being held without bond.
The report said the investigation was still ongoing.
Schrand said the incident was not “what we were hoping would happen” during the event. Schrand noted the desire to remain polite during the event.
“We did not try to be offensive ever,” Schrand said.
Pease commended the group for having a “very open dialogue” during the event.