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Centerville police officer delivers baby on Route 40

Jessica and Matthew Vojacek thought they knew what to expect with the birth of their third child.

But Poppy couldn’t wait for the hospital.

While driving on Route 40 through Centerville Oct. 29, Jessica knew they weren’t going to make it to Jefferson Hospital. Jessica said she and Matthew noticed a borough police officer was following behind them.

“We pulled over. My husband jumped out of the car and tried to flag him down. I already had my feet above the dash. Her head is coming out,” Jessica said.

Driving the patrol car was Carl Talbert, a 27-year-old officer, who has been with the Centerville Borough Police Department since September.

“I was on my normal patrol for my shift, and I was about to turn onto (Route 40) off of one of the side roads in the borough,” Talbert said. “I observed a vehicle following closely to another vehicle. Just out of curiosity, I turned onto 40 to follow the vehicle. About a half mile up the road, it had pulled off the right-hand side of the road on the shoulder.”

When Matthew told Talbert the situation, he called for an ambulance, grabbed a pair of latex gloves and a clean t-shirt, and delivered the Vojaceks’ newborn daughter.

Poppy Catherine Vojacek came into the world a healthy baby girl, at 7 pounds, 4 ounces, and 21½ inches long.

“You only see that stuff in the movies,” Jessica said. “She was not waiting to come out.”

The whole situation unfolded quickly, Talbert recalled.

“I pulled up behind the vehicle and called up at 6:00, and I was on the radio saying the baby was born at 6:01,” Talbert said.

Jessica and Matthew reside in Deemston Borough, along with Poppy’s two older siblings – Lillian, 11, and Altin, 4.

Jessica, 38, works as a preschool teacher.

“That day I went to work as usual. Nothing was really happening any different,” she said.

Around 3:45 p.m., Jessica said her water broke. The contractions started shortly after and were getting closer together.

“It was maybe 5:30 or so ... I was going to Jefferson. I called them and said my contractions are like three minutes apart now. I think I might have her in the car,” Jessica said.

Matthew, 42, drove his wife to her mother’s house, who lives nearby, to get everything they needed before going to the hospital.

“For a split second, I thought we should stay here and call the ambulance,” Jessica said.

When it was clear they were not going to make it to the hospital, the Vojaceks were grateful for Talbert’s quick action.

“Officer Talbert was phenomenal. He took charge and he knew what to do. We were very thankful he was behind us,” Jessica said.

“He handled the situation with utmost professionalism,” added Matthew.

Talbert said the situation left him speechless.

“You just hope that you’ve been trained appropriately. I luckily have two little kids. I could still remember what happened in the hospital. It gave me a little insight,” Talbert said. “I just went off my life experience to make sure I took care of the situation appropriately.”

After Poppy was born, Jessica and Matthew went the rest of the way to the hospital where their new daughter was kept for two days, a precaution for babies not born in the hospital.

Poppy’s middle name, Catherine, was given to her in honor of both of her grandmothers, Nancy Catherine Zamiska and Virginia Catherine Vojacek.

The first name, Poppy, is in honor of her grandfather, Albert Zamiska, who passed away in June.

“He always got the poppies from the American Legion,” Jessica said. “Growing up, he always had those in the vehicle.”

After they got home from the hospital last Friday, Jessica and Matthew took Poppy to Centerville police station to meet Talbert.

“They wanted to say thank you again for the assistance,” Talbert said.

No real accumulation expected in first snow for Washington, Greene counties

Meteorologists are expecting sub-freezing temperatures and some snowfall, but no serious accumulation for Washington and Greene counties late this week.

“There is no reason to rush out and stock your house full of bread and toilet paper,” said Tom Lovell, who oversees North Strabane Township’s 10 snow routes as municipal director of public works.

There was nothing particularly unusual Thursday morning about the light, steady rain over Washington County and elsewhere in the Pittsburgh region that was expected to turn into snow later in the afternoon, when temperatures were predicted to coast from the mid-40s to mid-30s. For most areas, it would have been the first noticeable snow of the season.

“We’re not looking for any kind of accumulation today, and there may be some rain showers and snow showers this evening,” said Lee Hendricks, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Pittsburgh, late Thursday morning. “At the most, you’re probably looking at a dusting on the ground.”

Still, local officials said they were keeping an eye on things. Lovell said he would have half his fleet “up and ready to go,” with the others in reserve. He said he was more worried about possible ice overnight. His crews would be “spot-salting ice as needed,” he said.

Hendricks predicted the temperature would fall into the mid-20s, but also said he didn’t expect much standing water to accumulate and freeze. He said there was a slim chance of ice on the roads, especially on bridges and overpasses.

“There is an off chance that people should pay attention, but I don’t think it’s a significant concern at this point,” Hendricks said.

Waynesburg Borough manager Mike Simms said the borough’s streets department had its plows and salt spreader ready if needed.

A few workers are out for illness, leaving the department “a little short-staffed,” Simms added, “but as long as the snow doesn’t get too heavy, we should be able to muddle through.”

Hendricks said what he was predicting was “really not out of the norm.”

“In this time of year, the month of November, we average for the month about 2.1 inches of snow,” Hendricks said. “So it averages out to about a 10th of an inch of snow a day.”

Meanwhile, Allegheny County public works Director Stephen Shanley said officials were monitoring conditions. The department’s 20 salt trucks could be deployed if necessary.

“While we are expecting little to no accumulation from today’s snow event, we are prepared in case the forecast changes or problem areas arise on our roads and bridges,” Shanley said in a statement.

Secret Service study: School attackers showed warning signs

WASHINGTON – Most students who committed deadly school attacks over the past decade were badly bullied, had a history of disciplinary trouble and their behavior concerned others but was never reported, according to a U.S. Secret Service study released Thursday.

In at least four cases, attackers wanted to emulate other school shootings, including those at Columbine High School in Colorado, Virginia Tech University and Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. The research was launched following the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

The study by the Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center is the most comprehensive review of school attacks since the Columbine shootings in 1999. The report looked in-depth at 41 school attacks from 2008 through 2017, and researchers had unprecedented access to a trove of sensitive data from law enforcement including police reports, investigative files and nonpublic records.

The information gleaned through the research will help train school officials and law enforcement on how to better identify students who may be planning an attack and how to stop them before they strike.

“These are not sudden, impulsive acts where a student suddenly gets disgruntled,” Lina Alathari, the center’s head, said in an Associated Press interview. “The majority of these incidents are preventable.”

The fathers of three students killed in 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., attended a media conference Thursday in support of the study.

Tony Montalto, whose daughter, Gina Rose Montalto, died, said the research was invaluable and could have helped their school prevent the attack.

“My lovely daughter might still be here today,” he said. “Our entire community would be whole instead of forever shaken.”

Montalto urged other schools to pay attention to the research.

“Please, learn from our experience,” he said. “It happened to us, and it could happen to your community, too.”

Nearly 40 training sessions for groups of up to 2,000 people are scheduled. Alathari and her team trained about 7,500 people during 2018. The training is free.

The Secret Service is best known for its mission to protect the president. The threat assessment center was developed to study how other kinds of attacks could be prevented. Officials use that knowledge and apply it in other situations, such as school shootings or mass attacks.

Since the Columbine attack, there have been scores of school shootings. Some, like Sandy Hook in 2012, were committed by nonstudents. There were others in which no one was injured. Those were not included in the study.

The report covers 41 school attacks from 2008 through 2017 at K-12 schools. They were chosen if the attacker was a current or recent former student within the past year who used a weapon to injure or kill at least one person at the school while targeting others.

“We focus on the target so that we can prevent it in the future,” Alathari said.

Nineteen people were killed and 79 were injured in the attacks they studied; victims included students, staff and law enforcement.

The Secret Service put out a best practices guide last July based on some of the research to 40,000 schools nationwide, but the new report is a comprehensive look at the attacks.

The shootings happened quickly and were usually over within a minute or less. Law enforcement rarely arrived before an attack was over. Attacks generally started during school hours and occurred in one location, such as a cafeteria, bathroom or classroom.

Most attackers were male; seven were female. Researchers said 63% of the attackers were white, 15% were black, 5% Hispanic, 2% were American Indian or Alaska Native, 10% were of two or more races, and 5% were undetermined.

The weapons used were mostly guns, but knives were used, as well. One attacker used a World War II-era bayonet. Most of the weapons came from the attackers’ homes, the investigators reported.

Alathari said investigators were able to examine detailed information about attackers, including their home lives, suspension records and past behaviors.

There’s no clear profile of a school attacker, but some details stand out: Many were absent from school before the attack, often through a school suspension; they were treated poorly by their peers in person, not just online; they felt mistreated; some sought fame, while others were suicidal. They fixated on violence and watched it online, played games featuring it or read about it in books.

The key is knowing what to look for, recognizing the patterns and intervening early to try to stop someone from pursuing violence.

“It really is about a constellation of behaviors and factors,” Alathari said.

The attackers ranged in age but were mostly young adults, seventh-graders to seniors. More than three-quarters initiated their attack after an incident with someone at school.

In one case, a 14-year-old shot a classmate at his middle school after he’d been mocked and called homophobic names. The attacker later reported the victim made comments that made him uncomfortable, and they were the final straw in his decision to attack. Seven attackers documented their plans, and five researched their targets before the attack.

Thirty-two were criminally charged, with 22 charged as adults. Most took plea deals. More than half are incarcerated. A dozen more were treated as juveniles. Seven killed themselves, and two were fatally wounded.

Alathari said the report shows that schools may need to think differently about school discipline and intervention.

The report does not weigh in on political topics such as whether guns are too accessible or whether teachers should be armed.

She said their goal is to make schools a safer place where no more attacks occur.