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Charleroi Area student faces bomb rap

| Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012, 7:33 a.m.
The entrance on the side of an addition in the rear of 136 River Avenue where authorities conducted an investigation related to bomb-making on November 20, 2012 in Speers. Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review

An 18-year-old Charleroi Area High School student was arrested Tuesday at home for allegedly making pipe bombs and bringing one onto school property.

Charleroi Regional police said Ryan Pfrogner, 18, was found to have at least three plastic pipe bombs at his 136 River Ave., Speers, residence. He was released to his mother, police said.

Police did not specify the charges Tuesday evening but said a summons would be mailed to Pfrogner.

The Allegheny County Bomb Squad was called to Pfrogner's home on Tuesday. Investigators told WPXI-TV, The Valley Independent's news partner, that one of the bombs was detonated in a nearby wooded area.

Charleroi Area School District Superintendent Dr. Brad Ferko said the problem started Friday, when parents called and complained that Pfrogner had made a bomb in chemistry class.

Ferko said that rumor was determined to be false, but that Pfrogner – an honors student – admitted Tuesday to having a bomb in the trunk of his car, which was parked on school property.

Ferko said Pfrogner's punishment would be immediate, but did not confirm if the action would be grounds for expulsion.

Ferko mentioned that there was another student involved in the investigation, initially led by Charleroi Area school police. He did not provide the students' identities.

“I asked if he got parts from the classroom, and we determined that no, he did not,” Ferko said of Pfrogner. “He had made it at home. He brought his car to school; it was in the trunk, and he forgot about it.”

Ferko described Pfrogner as “a great kid.”

“He was cooperative, but he did a stupid, stupid thing,” Ferko said. “If you bring a weapon onto school grounds, that's it.”

Act 26 of 1995 and Act 30 of 1997 of the state Safe Schools Act prohibits possession of weapons and requires expulsion for “any student who is determined to have brought onto or is in possession of a weapon on any school property, any school-sponsored activity or any public conveyance providing transportation to a school or school-sponsored activity.”

Section 1317.2 H defines a weapon as “not limited to, any knife, cutting tool, nunchaku, firearm, shotgun, rifle, and any other tool, instrument or implement capable of inflicting serious bodily injury.”

Charleroi Area School Police Chief Mike Kresich deferred all questions to Ferko.

“We did the investigation and called the police Monday night. We searched the two lockers, and we find nothing. I mean nothing,” Ferko said. “(Tuesday), I call the kids in the office and, lo and behold, the one kid (Pfrogner) said, ‘I had a pipe bomb in the trunk of my car' on school grounds Friday.'

“So, he admits it, and we have to take disciplinary action, and the investigation ends up at this house.

“I can't discuss the disciplinary procedure. We need to make sure the school environment is safe, and he has his rights.”

Pfrogner's friends and family throughout Charleroi and the Mon Valley have taken to Twitter and Facebook to show support for their classmate.

Hashtags of #freePfrogner and #TeamPfrogner were created to show support. One tweet with the hashtag #letRyanwalk was created by a Charleroi Area student with the idea of petitioning the school board to let the honor student walk with classmates for graduation. Numerous Facebook posts were also made in support of Pfrogner, some laced with profanities blaming media and administrators for rushing to judgment.

On Oct. 10, Pfrogner was the driver in a pedestrian accident on Route 201 in Rostraver. He was not charged after police determined he accidently hit Charles Carlos Beltran, who was wearing dark clothing while crossing an intersection around 8 p.m., as Pfrogner turned left off the Interstate 70 ramp.

Rick Bruni Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 724-684-2635.