PALM HARBOR — The school resource officer who wrestled and disarmed a 13-year-old student after the boy stabbed him at Carwise Middle School in April has received a national Award of Valor.
Pinellas County School Resource Officer Ken Fridlund, 55, received the honor Tuesday morning during the National Association of School Resource Officers' annual convention in Orlando.
The award was one of three given to school resource officers who overcame life-threatening situations. The other awards were given to an officer shot at a South Carolina school and an officer involved in an armed standoff with a man who pointed a gun at a Tennessee school principal's head.
On April 5, Fridlund was investigating a strong odor of gasoline at Carwise when Kenny Stoltman approached him in a hallway and said he wanted to show him something, authorities said. They went in to a restroom, where Stoltman lunged at Fridlund with a 4-inch knife, stabbing him in the abdomen, shoulder and arm, according to authorities.
The boy struggled so violently to unholster the veteran officer's .40-caliber Glock that he left a bruise on Fridlund's side, Pinellas schools police Chief Thomas Gavin wrote in a nominating letter to the organization.
Though he was bleeding, Fridlund did not let go of the boy until he was handcuffed and another officer was present, Gavin wrote.
Stoltman, an accomplished Boy Scout with no criminal history, was later found to have brought a duffel bag with 11 glass bottles full of gasoline into the school.
"One can only speculate regarding the catastrophic events that might have followed," Gavin wrote. "Officer Fridlund's dogged determination to not give up and to put his personal safety after the safety of the students and staff at this school clearly point to (him) as a hero."
Stoltman faces charges of attempted murder and battery. He has pleaded guilty to charges of possession of firebombs, according to court records. Stoltman is being held at a residential mental health facility for juveniles in Orlando.
The boy's lawyer, Barry Cohen, said he doesn't believe Stoltman intended to kill the officer. Cohen said Stoltman was bullied by other boys at the school and came from an abusive home.
Fridlund retired in 2007 from a 29-year career as a St. Petersburg police officer and went to work as a school resource officer.