STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Man arrested in deadly subway stabbing attack

Police have identified John Cowell as the man who stabbed a woman to death at a public transit station in Oakland, California, marking the third death in unrelated attacks on San Francisco's public transit system.

Posted: Jul 24, 2018 9:27 PM
Updated: Jul 24, 2018 9:51 PM

An 18-year old woman was stabbed to death at a public transit station Sunday evening in Oakland, California, marking the third death in less than a week from unrelated attacks on the Bay Area transit system known as BART.

On Sunday night, Nia Wilson was walking on the subway platform with her sisters when a man stabbed her in an unprovoked attack, according to the Bay Area Rapid Transit officials. Nia's sister Lahtifa, was also stabbed and seriously injured.

"In my close to 30 years of police experience, it was probably one of the most vicious attacks that I've seen," BART Police Chief Carlos Rojas said, citing surveillance video in a Monday press conference.

Police identified the suspect as John Cowell, 27, who was taken into custody Monday, according to BART police.

Rojas described Cowell as a violent felon, saying he was currently on parole after getting out of the California prison system four months ago. Surveillance video showed not just the stabbing on the platform, but the attacker removing his clothing in the parking structure as he fled, police said.

BART police officers were patrolling the MacArthur station on Sunday night when the two sisters were stabbed around 9:36 p.m. They rendered aid to the two victims, according to a BART news release.

As the search intensified for Cowell in the hours after the attack, BART police received a call Monday evening that a passenger had spotted the suspect on one of the trains, Rojas said. Officers were able to take Cowell into custody.

He was not armed when he was detained, Rojas said.

"We're very glad that less than 24 hours, we were able to get this suspect into custody," Rojas said.

It was unclear whether Cowell has a lawyer. Rojas said he had not yet been charged.

On Monday evening, marchers held a vigil for Wilson that brought nearly 1,000 people to downtown Oakland, according to an estimate by the Oakland police.

"The senseless and violent stabbing of two young women on a BART train platform last night has shaken our community," said Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf in a statement.

"Although investigators currently have no evidence to conclude that this tragedy was racially motivated or that the suspect was affiliated with any hate groups, 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," she said.

Cowell is white, but police say no motive has been established. Cowell hasn't been connected to any radical right wing or white supremacist group, but police are investigating all angles because he "has a violent past," Rojas said.

Cowell was paroled in May after being sentenced to two years in prison for second-degree robbery, according to California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokeswoman Terry Thornton.

Discussing the motive that it is so far unknown, Wilson's godfather Daryle Allums said, "We are asking the African-American community to stand down right now."

Attacks on the public transit system

Wilson's stabbing was the third death after other attacks in recent days on the BART system, which serves as the backbone of public transportation in the Bay Area.

Rojas discussed the two other incidents. In each case, the victim died after an assault at a BART station.

On early Saturday morning, a 47-year-old man was found injured on the platform at the Bay Fair Station, which is located in San Leandro, south of Oakland.

He was declared brain dead at the hospital. The victim, identified as Don Stevens, a transient, was punched at the side of his head by an unidentified suspect, according to BART surveillance videos. After being struck, Stevens fell to the cement ground on the platform. Authorities are searching for a suspect.

On Wednesday, a 51-year-old man was assaulted at the Pleasant Hill Station in Walnut Creek. The victim, identified as Gerald Bisbee suffered a minor bloody lip and small cut to the back of his knee, and went to the hospital the next day because he said he wasn't feeling well. The man went to the hospital on Thursday, and was later released. On Friday, he was found dead in his bed.

An autopsy found the cause of death came from an infection stemming from a small cut on Bisbee's knee, according to BART. The suspect in this case is in custody, according to BART.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 33291

Reported Deaths: 555
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Multnomah7257140
Marion474395
Washington458160
Umatilla299841
Clackamas244862
Malheur164230
Lane126717
Jackson11715
Deschutes85912
Yamhill76914
Jefferson5458
Polk53515
Linn52513
Morrow5096
Lincoln48113
Union4462
Benton3226
Wasco2963
Klamath2902
Hood River2520
Douglas2394
Clatsop2180
Josephine2032
Columbia1821
Coos1580
Baker952
Crook631
Tillamook530
Lake330
Wallowa321
Curry310
Sherman180
Harney120
Grant100
Gilliam80
Unassigned00
Wheeler00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 815654

Reported Deaths: 15782
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles2692846551
Riverside591731216
San Bernardino54849952
Orange535571249
San Diego46985781
Kern32019369
Fresno28517390
Sacramento22438412
Alameda21323408
Santa Clara21294318
San Joaquin20357447
Contra Costa16702206
Stanislaus16496359
Tulare16071263
Ventura12812150
Imperial11877317
San Francisco11238101
Monterey1000872
San Mateo9950150
Santa Barbara9133113
Merced8939143
Kings766180
Sonoma7412122
Marin6727118
Solano641969
Madera455765
San Luis Obispo359729
Placer359645
Butte283744
Yolo282555
Santa Cruz23799
Sutter171711
Napa170513
San Benito134811
Yuba11588
El Dorado11444
Mendocino93918
Shasta88320
Lassen7410
Glenn5933
Tehama5795
Lake55911
Nevada5407
Colusa5326
Humboldt5098
Calaveras31714
Amador29616
Tuolumne2274
Inyo18815
Mono1662
Siskiyou1650
Del Norte1391
Mariposa762
Plumas500
Modoc270
Trinity160
Sierra60
Alpine20
Unassigned00
Medford
Scattered Clouds
68° wxIcon
Hi: 96° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 68°
Brookings
Overcast
57° wxIcon
Hi: 68° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 57°
Crater Lake
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 70°
Grants Pass
Clear
72° wxIcon
Hi: 96° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 72°
Klamath Falls
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 43°
Feels Like: 70°
Hot and dry week, smoke returns
KDRV Radar
KDRV Fire Danger
KDRV Weather Cam

Community Events

Latest Video

Image

Wednesday, September 30 morning weather

Image

Tuesday, September 29th Evening Weather

Image

MEDFORD SCHOOL DISTRICT RESPONDS AFTER EXPLICIT 'ZOOM BOMBING'

Image

Tuesday, September 29 morning weather

Image

Possible housing solutions after wildfires

Image

Monday, September 28th Evening Weather

Image

Similarities in days had southern Oregonians on edge

Image

Monday, September 28 afternoon weather

Image

Monday, September 28 morning weather

Image

Sunday, September 27 evening weather