An "Anomalous" String of Murders Is Taking Place Near BART Stations in California
CALIFORNIA — July 24, 2018
Nia Wilson, 18, and her sister, Latifa, got off a BART train at MacArthur Station at 9:36 p.m. on Sunday when a man who also had been on the train attacked them, slashed Nia’s throat and stabbed Latifa, according to police.
The girl was rushed to the hospital, but her injuries were too severe. She died an hour and a half after her parents arrived at the hospital.
Wilson's sister has been hospitalized and is in critical condition. BART Police Chief Carlos Rojas called it “one of the most vicious attacks I’ve ever seen.”
The sisters were returning home after commemorating the birthday of Nia Wilson’s former boyfriend, who drowned two years ago.
Rojas added that the series of deaths are “an anomaly”, saying the attacks are the “highest priority” of transit police.
“It’s rare that we have a homicide so, of course, this is ramped up to the highest priority when you have three deaths,” he said. “It doesn’t matter that we have one person in custody on one — so that person’s in custody and will be held accountable. We have pictures of the other two. These are all very serious crimes whether they happen on BART or right outside our station.”
“It was a very random attack that occurred at MacArthur,” Rojas said in regards to the case. “We had officers at the station. In order for that to have been prevented, it would have been very difficult. You would have had to be standing right next to the individual. You can’t have an officer on every square inch of a station.”
Earlier BART police found Don Stevens, 47, at 1 a.m. Saturday unconscious on the platform at the BayFair Station in San Leandro. Stevens died of head injuries Sunday in the hospital.
According to a review of a security camera video, an unknown man punched Stevens in the side of the head. Stevens then collapsed onto the platform. Police are still seeking the assailant.
According to provisional data, a possible suspect is John Lee Cowell, 27, a local homeless man.
Police recovered the knife at a nearby construction site, and arrested Cowell Monday evening. The arrest was made after getting an anonymous tip from a train passenger at the Pleasant Hill BART station.
The third homicide stemmed from an altercation at the Pleasant Hill station. The 51-year-old victim — Pittsburg resident Gerald Bisbee — got into a verbal altercation with another passenger. The altercation then turned violent.
According to the police report, he suffered a cut on his face and cut to his knee during the fight. He was transported to a hospital but was sent home soon after.
Later Bisbee was found dead in his home. An autopsy showed he had died of an infection, officials said.
20 year old Abdul Bey has been arrested in connection with the attack, police told the station.
Crime on BART trains and in the system’s stations has been a hot-button issue for nearly a year. BART Police say they have ramped up patrols and working video cameras have been placed throughout stations and on the train cars.
BART police operate 25 officers below their optimum staffing level, and still have to patrol 110 miles of rail line and 42 stations on a system that carries two million riders a week.
"We can't concentrate our officers in one particular location because we have to cover all of the systems," said BART Deputy Chief of Police Lance Haight.
BART Board President Robert Raburn had no easy solution to the problem either.
"This was an incident that occurred at a station where police were at, so we are at a loss as to how to protect passengers from somebody that is troubling a vicious individual.”