During an otherwise calm Sunday evening in Oakland, California, Lahtifa and Nia Wilson became the victims of a senseless and random attack at a BART Station. The pair were minding their own business when 27-year-old John Lee Cowell approached them and stabbed them.
The attack rocked the community of Oakland, but none more so than the surviving sister, Lahtifa. Despite being stabbed in the neck, Lahtifa survived the attack while Nia, who was also stabbed in the neck, died in her arms.
“I’m her protector and I feel like I didn’t protect her,” Lahtifa said in an interview with ABC 7 News. She then recalled her sister’s last moments, yelling her name over and over. “She’s just yelling my name, ‘Tifa, Tifa, Tifa,’ and I said, ‘I got you, baby, I got you.”
Nia died shortly after the attack, despite Lahtifa’s assurances that they were “gonna get through this.”
Lahtifa and Nia were on the MacArthur platform when Cowell allegedly targeted them at random. According to Lahtifa’s account, after being blindsided by Cowell, she saw him standing on the stairs. “I looked back and he was wiping off his knife and stood at the stairs and just looked,” she recalled.
According to a press release from the BART Police Department, the 27-year-old suspect was arrested late Monday after an anonymous tip from a BART rider. Cowell was aboard a train heading toward Antioch at the Pleasant Hill Station when the call came in.
Footage of the arrest made its way online and people were quick to point out just how calm the whole thing was. Tariq Nasheed (@tariqnasheed) described it as if they were “arresting him like he shoplifted something.”
BART Police Chief Carlos Rojas told reporters that Cowell was on parole after being released from prison four months ago. He had been convicted of felony second-degree robbery and, in 2013, was convicted of battery.
Despite claims that Cowell was linked to white supremacist groups, investigators have yet to connect him to any.
In response to the attack, before Cowell’s arrest, Nia’s godfather Darryle Allums rallied the public to come together. “We need the community, especially the African American community to stand right now,” he said.
“We don’t know if this was racism, we don’t know if it was random, we don’t know what it was. Let’s get the information to find out what really happened, let’s get the facts so we can deal with this situation.”
In support of Nia and Lahtifa, mourners and protesters took to the streets of the Bay Area. While mostly peaceful, there were minor squabbles between the local police and protesters.
Since the attack, a GoFundMe has been started in honor of Nia.
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