JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – A man accused of stabbing a Kansas City college official intended to instead attack Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon and mistakenly believed he had done so, police said Thursday.
The suspect, 22-year-old Casey Brezik, did not know Nixon and had no particular beef with the governor, but he decided to attack him because he was a top government official, Kansas city police spokesman Darin Snapp said.
Brezik, of Raytown, is charged with two felony counts each of first-degree assault and armed criminal action. A Jackson County judge entered not guilty pleas on his behalf during a court appearance Wednesday.
Nixon, who was in Kansas City for an economic development conference Thursday, said the attack highlighted the dangers of his job, but he vowed to continue traveling around the state for public events.
"I wouldn't want to speak anything about this young guy in particular or what was going on there, but it's disturbing. It's somewhat disquieting" to be the intended target of an attack, Nixon said.
Brezik's father said his son has a long history of mental illness that has not been adequately treated.
"We don't want him depicted as some terrorist — he's delusional," the father, Raymond Florio, told The Associated Press. "He needs help, and we've tried to get him help. But when you're a certain age, nothing can be forced upon you."
Kansas City attorney Daniel Ross said he has been contacted by Brezik's family but does not yet formally represent him and thus could not comment on Brezik's behalf.
Albert Dimmitt Jr., the dean of instruction at the Penn Valley campus of Metropolitan Community College, was stabbed in the neck Tuesday while waiting for Nixon to arrive for a news conference about federal grants for high-speed Internet projects. Nixon was still at a Kansas City airport when the attack occurred, and the event was canceled.
Brezik was arrested after being restrained by witnesses, including Metropolitan Community College Chancellor Mark James, a former law enforcement agent who was cut in the scuffle.
When detectives interviewed Brezik on Wednesday, he told them he had gone to class at the college on Tuesday morning only to learn it had been canceled because of the governor's visit, Snapp said.
"He observed the faculty, and thinking it was the governor, he attacked the faculty" member, Snapp told the AP.
"When the detectives told him it was not the governor, he appeared to be upset," Snapp added.
Police said Brezik was wearing a bullet proof vest. Snapp said it was unclear whether he regularly wore one or had done so particularly for that day.
Witnesses said the attacker first went to the podium where Nixon was scheduled to speak, then ran out of the room while holding a knife and stabbed Dimmitt in the hallway. Dimmitt was hospitalized. Nixon said Dimmitt told him Thursday he is feeling "a little bit better."
Court records from Greene County show that Brezik's mother, Heather Brezik, asked a judge in 2007 to declare her son incapacitated and to appoint her as his legal guardian. She said in those documents that Casey Brezik suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and couldn't adequately meet his own daily needs of food, clothing and shelter.
Casey Brezik "has a history of lack of personal hygiene, delusional thoughts, drug abuse, erratic behavior and homelessness," Heather Brezik said in the court filing.
She dropped the request to be appointed as his legal guardian after Casey Brezik pleaded guilty to drug possession in September 2007 and was sentenced to three years in the Department of Corrections.
Department records show Brezik was released on parole, then returned to prison for violations three times between January 2008 and June 2009. He was freed again from prison May 11 after completing his sentence. He spent less than three full years in the department's custody because he received credit for time spent in jail while awaiting trial, a department spokeswoman said Thursday.
Brezik currently is being held in jail without bond.
"It's sad that something of this magnitude had to happen, and we pray for a speedy recovery for everyone involved," said Florio, his father. "Maybe now that his liberties will be limited, he'll get the help he has so desperately needed for a number of years."