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BART Police Arrest Suspect in Fatal Oakland Stabbing - July 23, 2018 - SF Weekly
SF Weekly

BART Police Arrest Suspect in Fatal Oakland Stabbing

BART has identified John Lee Cowell as the suspect in the fatal stabbing at MacArthur station on Sunday night. (Photo courtesy BART)

BART police arrested the man suspected of fatally stabbing a teenager and injuring her sister at MacArthur BART station, officials announced Monday evening.

John Lee Cowell, 27, was found at the Pleasant Hill BART station this afternoon after BART released photos of him earlier on Monday. He is accused of stabbing two sisters as they left a Warm Springs-bound train on Sunday around 9:36 p.m.

One of the sisters, 18-year-old Nia Wilson, died at the scene.

“The senseless and violent stabbing of two young women on a BART train platform last night has shaken our community,” Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said in a statement. “Every parent who saw the father of Nia Wilson grieve for his daughter is heartbroken by this horrific act.”

Wilson and her sister, 26-year-old Lahtifa Wilson, boarded the train at Concord Station at the same time as the suspect, who also got off the train at MacArthur Station at the same time, according to BART police. Wilson died at the station and her sister was taken to the hospital.

Police sought the public’s help in finding Cowell on Monday, by releasing photos and giving a description. He was considered dangerous and cautioned anyone who spotted him to call 911. 

The stabbing on Sunday is the third possible homicide on the transit system in five days, which were not immediately disclosed to the public, the Chronicle first reported.

This is breaking news story. Check back for updates.

UPDATE, 7/24 4:48 p.m.: In a statement to KRON, Cowell’s family said that he was released from the Atascadero State Mental Facility in May, has shuffled in and out of jail. He was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder and schizophrenia and has not had proper treatment due to a lack of mental institutions. At one time, they had to get a restraining order against him.

“First and foremost, we want to let the Wilson Family know that our hearts go to them & are mourning for your family. This horrific tragedy never should have happened.”

The family also clarified that an address in Concord linked to him was not Cowell’s residence, but his aunt’s. They said she has faced death threats and harassment.