OAKLAND, Calif. (BCN/KTVU) - BART officials said police have arrested the suspect in the fatal stabbing of an 18-year-old woman Sunday night at BART's MacArthur station in Oakland.
As of 6:45 p.m. today John Lee Cowell, 27, had been arrested by BART police who were led to Cowell through an anonymous tip from a BART rider. Cowell was arrested without any trouble on an Antioch-bound train at the Pleasant Hill/Contra Costa Centre station.
At a Monday evening news conference BART Police Chief Carlos Rojas said Cowell was held at BART's police station and was due to be questioned by the Alameda County district attorney before being booked into jail.
Rojas described the stabbings of the sisters as a "prison-style attack." When asked how the suspect got back on BART, Rojas said public transportation is "very porous" and that Cowell had evaded fare as recently as last week.
The godfather of the woman who was fatally stabbed called today for the community to remain calm in the wake of the deadly crime.
Daryle Allums of the group "Stop Killing Our Kids," the godfather of Nia Wilson, said, "We need the community, especially the African American community, to stand down right now."
Allums said, "We're asking the community to respect the family and don't put any blood on our hands."
Joining Allums at a news conference at BART police headquarters, BART Police Chief Carlos Rojas said there's no indication at this time that the fatal stabbing of Wilson at the MacArthur station at about 9:36 p.m. on Sunday was racially motivated, even though Wilson was black and Cowell, is white.
Later this afternoon, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf echoed those comments.
However, Rojas said he can't completely dismiss the possibility that the stabbing was racially motivated and said police haven't yet determined a motive for it.
Allums said, "We don't know if this was racist, we don't know if it was random, we don't know what it was."
But Allums said, "Let's get this information and find out what really happened. We don't need us to break down right now and act crazy and tear up our city, or do anything that's crazy right now."
He said, "Our family needs prayer, we need support."
Rojas said video surveillance and witness statements indicate that Cowell attacked Wilson and her older sister, 26-year-old Lahtifa Wilson, "very quickly" and without provocation.
He said a third sister was also with them at the time.
Rojas said Lahtifa Wilson was stabbed in the neck but is in stable condition at a hospital.
Rojas said, "In my close to 30 years of experience, it was probably one of the most vicious attacks I have seen."
Video surveillance indicates that Cowell allegedly entered the parking structure at the station and discarded his clothes.
"In my opinion that indicates consciousness of guilt," Rojas said.
Investigators recovered the knife that they believe was the murder weapon at a nearby construction site, according to Rojas.
Allums said social media accounts that state that they are raising money for Wilson's family are "fake accounts" and he asked people not to contribute to them.
Allums said that if Wilson's family sets up a GoFundMe account it will work with BART officials to publicize such an account.
Schaaf said, "I want to send my sincere condolences" to this family. Schaaf said she wants to be mindful of the tensions in Oakland and there is no room for hatred in the city.
A vigil was scheduled for this evening at the MacArthur BART station to remember Wilson.
The event was organized by the groups Anti Police-Terror Project and Community READY Corps. The event's Facebook page said it would provide on site self-defense training for those who want it. It also called for the immediacy and efficiency in the capture of the suspect. The group called for city leaders to take a public stand against white supremacy. Mayor Schaaf acknowledged hate crimes and white supremacists in her address and said they are not welcome in Oakland.
Several Oakland bars are planning fundraisers, in response to an appearance by Proud Boys. They are self-described male chauvinists who are categorized as a hate group by Southern Poverty Law Center. They also have been linked to the alt-right and white supremacy, but in the past have distanced themselves from those ties.
Murder suspect now in custody! BART Police took him into custody at Pleasant Hill BART. Full details to come and Chief availability at Rockridge BART at 8pm. Thank you BPD and thank riders for keeping your eye out!! https://t.co/OxZmOw2OkI— SFBART (@SFBART) July 24, 2018
Say Her Name Vigil for #NiaWilson set to begin at 5:30pm at #BART MacArthur Station. The 18-y/o was stabbed to death on BART's platform Sunday night. The community is calling for immediate justice in capturing the suspect, calls for public officials to disavow white supremacy pic.twitter.com/AAHgJod6nH— KTVU (@KTVU) July 24, 2018
in a news conference earlier Mayor @LibbySchaaf reiterated BART by saying there was no indication the crime was racially motivated, she did take a stand against hate crime and white supremacy and said it was not welcome in #Oakland— KTVU (@KTVU) July 24, 2018