July 25, 2018

USA: Police Have Arrested Homeless Man Released From Prison In May Who Brutally Stabbed Two Sisters At Oakland BART Train Station On Sunday. Violent Crimes On BART Jumped 69%.

Los Angeles Times
written by James Queally and Alene Tchekmedyian
Monday July 23, 2018

Police in the Bay Area have arrested a 27-year-old man who they say brutally stabbed two sisters at an Oakland train station Sunday night, leaving one of them dead.

John Lee Cowell, a parolee who was released from state prison a few months ago, is accused of stabbing 18-year-old Nia Wilson and her 26-year-old sister in the neck and body about 9:30 p.m. at the MacArthur Bay Area Rapid Transit station in Oakland, according to BART police. Authorities believe it was a random attack.

Wilson died at the scene, and her older sister remains in stable condition, officials said.

BART Police Chief Carlos Rojas told reporters Monday evening that the suspect came up behind Wilson and stabbed her twice in rapid succession before doing the same to her sister in what he called a “prison-yard type of attack.”

“It basically happened at the snap of the fingers, at the drop of the pin — that quick,” Rojas said.

Shortly before 6:30 p.m. Monday, authorities received a tip from a BART rider and found Cowell aboard an Antioch-bound train at the Pleasant Hill Station, where he was taken into custody. He was not armed, Rojas said.

News of the killing stoked public concern that a hate crime had been committed. Cowell is white and Wilson is black.

Rojas said detectives have not found evidence that Cowell is tied to a hate group, but they are investigating a motive and plan to interview him.

“While we don’t have any facts that suggest he’s connected with any white supremacist group, we are going to explore all options and all possibilities,” Rojas said. “He does have a violent past.”

In 2016, Cowell was sentenced to two years in prison for second-degree robbery, said California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokeswoman Vicky Waters. A judge credited him 159 days for time served in jail while awaiting sentencing and he was released to parole supervision in May, she said.

Around the time Cowell was arrested Monday evening, about 1,000 people marched from the MacArthur BART station to downtown Oakland to remember Wilson.

When the crowd was downtown, a dispute broke out between multiple people, said Officer Johnna Watson, a spokeswoman for the Oakland Police Department. It’s unclear who was involved in the dispute.

Officers detained two men, and while authorities took them away from the area, a portion of the crowd became disruptive and began throwing M-80s. Police deployed a chemical agent.

The two men were later released.

In a statement late Monday, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said that while investigators have no evidence to suggest Cowell’s attack was racially motivated, “the fact that his victims were both young African American women stirs deep pain and palpable fear in all of us who acknowledge the reality that our country still suffers from a tragic and deeply racist history.”

“I recognize that Sunday’s tragic events came on the heels of news that white supremacists were attempting to gather at a downtown bar this evening,” she said in the statement. “I appreciate the commitment of these establishments to prohibit such activity in their businesses and then decided to hold a ‘Pro Oakland Movement’ event this evening to support organizations that fight bigotry and discrimination on behalf of our community and our values. Oakland has no room for hate or white supremacy.”

Cowell was described as a transient with a criminal history. Police had searched for him at addresses in Contra Costa and Alameda counties.

Cowell and the sisters boarded the train at the Concord station, according to a statement released by BART. He did not interact with either woman until the attack, which took place at the MacArthur station, said Alicia Trost, a spokeswoman for BART.

Surveillance footage captured Cowell changing his clothes after the attack, Trost said.

11: 05 p.m.: This article was updated with a statement from Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf.

10:40 p.m: This article was updated with details about a march in Oakland and the suspect’s criminal history from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

9:30 p.m.: This article was updated with comments from the BART police chief at an evening news conference.

7:50 p.m.: This article was updated with the suspect’s arrest.

This article was originally published at 2:40 p.m.

KPIX5 CBS San Francisco local
written by Staff
Tuesday July 24, 2018

OAKLAND — A man accused of viciously attacking a pair of Oakland sisters on a BART platform with a knife, killing one and stabbing the other, was in a Santa Rita jail cell Tuesday as authorities tried it unravel the motive behind the crime.

The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office confirmed to KPIX 5 that John Lee Cowell has a litany of arrests on his record from when he turned 18 to present day. Those arrests include vandalism, burglary, theft, trespassing, weapon charges, assault with a deadly weapon, stealing a vehicle, shooting into a dwelling, felony assaults and various drug charges.

Cowell had been released from state prison a few months ago and was on parole at the time of his alleged crime. He was being held without bail on first degree murder and other charges.

“We don’t have a motive at this time,” said BART police chief Carlos Rojas during a Monday news conference.

Nia Wilson and her two sisters were traveling on BART Sunday night when they stopped to help a woman struggling with a stroller exit a train. It was at that moment that a man — identified as Cowell — pulled out a knife, slashed Nia across the neck and stabbed her sister, Latifa, before fleeing. Nia’s wound proved to be fatal while her sister was treated and released from a local hospital.

The manhunt for Cowell intensified Monday with BART officials releasing photos from surveillance cameras.

According to a BART source, authorities received an anonymous citizen call saying the suspect was on an Antioch-bound train in the East Bay. Police stopped the train at Pleasant Hill station, where officers boarded and arrested Cowell without incident.

The viciousness of Sunday night’s stabbing still stuns veteran police officials.

“In my close to 30 years of police experience, it was probably one of the most vicious attacks that I’ve seen,” Rojas said.

When asked later to elaborate, Rojas came up with a stunning comparison.

“To me,” Rojas said. “It (the attack on the sisters) is more reminiscent of a prison yard assault. Where you have an individual with a sharp object or a shank and they do their attacks so quickly that before anyone can realize or react the person takes off running.”

KPIX CBS San Francisco Bay Area published on Jul 24, 2018: Anne Makovec reports on BART officials trying to reassure passengers about the transit system's safety after attacks (7-24-2018)
San Francisco Chronicle
written by Demian Bulwa
Wednesday July 25, 2018

Violent crimes on BART jumped 69 percent in the past 10 years, even as they fell 7 percent across California during the same period, according to figures released this month by the state Department of Justice.

Safety on BART is once again a paramount issue for customers after Sunday night’s killing of 18-year-old Nia Wilson on the train platform at MacArthur Station in Oakland. A transient parolee with a troubled history was arrested Monday and is expected to appear in court Wednesday to face charges that he stabbed Wilson in the neck in an unprovoked attack.

The state statistics show BART recorded 428 violent crimes in 2017. That’s 293 robberies, 130 assaults, five rapes and no homicides, compared to 254 total violent crimes in 2007.

Some of the added crime on BART — though not all of it — can be attributed to a roughly 22 percent increase in ridership in the past decade.

When factoring in population growth, California’s per-capita violent crime rate fell 14 percent in the past decade.

The trend on the BART system appears to be holding strong this year. Internal agency data show BART reported 222 violent crimes in the first six months of 2018, a slight uptick from the 218 crimes in the same period last year. At this pace, BART may establish a modern high mark for violent crimes.
And the agency is now investigating three possible homicides in the past week. The state figures show killings on BART are rare, with just half a dozen from 2007 to 2017.

CBS Sacramento published on Jul 9, 2018: One case was an attempted murder, while the other was a murder.

KPIX CBS SF Bay Area published on Apr 8, 2018: Police release details of a BART stabbing attack that left three people injured

KPIX CBS SF Bay Area published on Jun 3, 2018: The El Cerrito Del Norte BART station closed overnight after stabbing

KPIX CBS SF Bay Area published on Oct 8, 2017: Three wounded in stabbing attack at East Bay BART Station

KPIX CBS SF Bay Area published on Jun 3, 2018: Phil Matier discusses the state of BART stations with BART director Bevan Dufty. (6-3-18)

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