Alleged Oakland killer gently arrested as racist group planned demonstration

John Lee Cowell murdered Nia Wilson in cold blood in Oakland, California (Image Source: BART Police Nia Wilson/Facebook)

People in Oakland, California, are a little happier today now that the man who slit the throat of Nia Wilson, 18, and stabbed her sister at the McArthur Park BART Station is in custody. John Lee Cowell, 27, a violent felon on parole, was arrested after a BART police officer received an anonymous tip.

BART officials posted the following to Twitter:

Before Cowell was apprehended, Black Twitter was on fire with calls for the community to go out and hunt him down. Noted journalist Shaun King posted to Twitter:

Despite the horrific nature of his crime, when police took Cowell into custody, he did not fight and seemed relaxed. On social media, many citizens complained that the police response was incredibly gentle for this violent felon and murderer. Cowell was allowed to stand with dignity as he was handcuffed. It was a startling contrast to the way Black suspects are treated when confronted by BART police.

In January 2009, BART police shot Oscar Grant III, in the back of the head when he was unarmed and lying face down in the ground in compliance. His murder by police led to public protests and rioting in the community.

At this time, police are not calling the attack on Nia Wilson and her sister Tashiya Wilson a hate crime. But on the same day Cowell attacked these Black women, a White Supremacist group called The Proud Boys announced that they were planning to hold a demonstration on Monday. The mayor and city were opposed to the event. The Proud Boys have been linked to racist violence since its founding in 2016 in Southern California. Members of the group were present at the violent Charlottesville, Virginia, demonstrations last year that led to a woman’s murder and attacks on Black counter-demonstrators. Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf posted on Twitter in response to their planned demonstration in Uptown Oakland, “We refuse to be intimidated and will not back down or stand by quietly as racist hate groups threaten violence and bring messages of hate to our neighbors.”

There are numerous comments in social media that state Cowell harbored racist views and that the murder of Nia Wilson was not a random attack, but a targeted hate crime.

Mo Barnes
Mo Barnes

Maurice "Mo" Barnes is a graduate of Morehouse College and Political Scientist based in Atlanta. Mo is also a Blues musician. He has been writing for Rolling Out since 2014. Whether it means walking through a bloody police shooting to help a family find justice or showing the multifaceted talent of the Black Diaspora I write the news.