Shanked for Fun

Shamieke Pugh, 28, was playing cards with three prison buddies when he was attacked by another inmate. Fortunately, although of little consolation to Pugh, the knife attack was caught on video. Greg Reinke stabbed Pugh and three others multiple times. It would have ended worse for the four, none of whom died, but one fought back.

As the four men were handcuffed and shackled to a table in a recreation room of the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, they were sitting ducks. Pugh believes the only way Reinke could have gotten into the room with his 7-inch shank was with the connivance of guards. More than three minutes passed before guards freed the inmates chained to the blood-drenched table. According to a prison report after the attack, convicted murderer Reinke “‘just felt like killing someone.”

A Political Act

Waiting for his 9:30 p.m. train, Li Wei, 39, was hemmed in by the chattering, jostling crowd. Thus, he was not aware that eight men and women dressed in black had rushed into the station wielding long knives and cleavers. They began indiscriminately slashing at passengers and staff. The hundreds of waiting people panicked and ran, resulting in a packed crowd — a virtually immobile target — at one end of the station.

The attack, in Kunming, Yunnan, China, was perpetrated by Uyghur separatists. It left 31 civilians and four of the attackers dead1 and more than 140 others injured. An official of the Yunnan Communist Party said the absence of a clear threat meant terrorism prevention had not been a high priority. He admitted to inadequacies in resources, policing and intelligence gathering, none of which were a comfort to Li Wei, who died in the attack.

Teenage Jealousy

Bernadette Protti wanted to be Kirsten Costas’ friend. So one summer day in 1984, Protti invited Costas to a high school dinner and party … except there was no dinner. The girls quarreled. Costas ran and, in those days before cellphones, could not reach her parents for help. A good Samaritan drove her home, but Protti followed and caught up with Costas on the steps of her house. There, she stabbed “her friend” five times with a butcher knife and fled. Kirsten died at a nearby hospital. 2

Law enforcement needed six months to find Costas’ killer. Protti passed a lie-detector test, but upon checking her alibi, police suspected she was lying. Protti eventually made a full confession to her mother. She was sentenced to nine years in prison and released on parole after seven.

And So, Surviving a Knife Attack…

Yes, the above stories are cherry-picked to illustrate that no two knife attacks are alike. The first by a prisoner with a homemade shank. The second by terrorists in a society with an absolute gun-control policy. And the third by a quarrelsome “friend.”

A knife is an equal opportunity, close-range weapon. Men and women use them. Terrorists with carefully planned agendas or teenagers with immature emotional control use them. There’s no way to predict the who and when of a knife attack. But you do know that it will take place within arm’s length.

A green olive, stuffed with a pimento, skewered on the point of a thin knife with a wooden handle

If attacked by a man with a knife, it will be close … and you’re going to get cut. Your only chance to live is to fight back. (Photo by Rick Sapp)

The important thing to remember about a knife attack is that the perp will strike multiple times. The victim, stabbed or slashed, will bleed a great deal. It will be horrifying, but the average adult has 1.2 to 1.5 gallons of blood circulating inside his or her body. People may lose what appears to be an immense volume without having undergone great harm.

I believe that surviving a knife attack requires a willingness or ability to accept a horrifying situation and to fight back. You’re going to get cut: first, someplace on the hand or arm, side or shoulder. To live, you must accept the damage and keep the knife as far away as possible, grabbing the perp’s arm or wrist. The wrestling match that ensues will require every bit of your concentration and strength, so reaching for a concealed handgun while in the clutches of a potential murderer may or may not be the best initial route. But then, if you get a chance to pull the trigger, do so justifiably until the threat stops.



  1. Video of the Kunming Train Station knife attack (and others) can be found on by requesting “Yunnan knife attacks.”
  2. A larger account of this murder can be read on under “Murder of Kirsten Costas.”

*Want to learn more about surviving a knife attack? Watch the replay from our recent Live Training Broadcast where Kevin Michalowski, Tim Schmidt and Tom Grieve discuss everything you need to know!

About Rick Sapp

Rick Sapp earned his Ph.D. in social anthropology after his time in the U.S. Army working for the 66th Military Intelligence Group, USAREUR, during the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. Following his time in Paris, France, he worked for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service before turning to journalism and freelance writing. Along with being published in several newspapers and magazines, Rick has authored more than 50 books for a variety of publishers.

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