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:
Murder suspect identified in MacArthur stabbing. John Cowell is considered dangerous. Please call 911 if spotted. RIP Nia Wilson. We will bring this suspect to justice. Our thoughts are with the family and friends. Details: https://t.co/DEkTJvJnNe pic.twitter.com/igZU2bdel7
— SFBART (@SFBART) July 23, 2018
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:
URGENT – ALL HANDS ON DECK
Last night in Oakland a 25-30 year old heavyset white man targeted and slashed the throats of 2 teenage girls – killing 18 y/o #NiaWilson and critically injuring her sister.
We need to find this man IMMEDIATELY.
Full Story: https://t.co/38OjRbbXQn pic.twitter.com/dL2S7RgVuZ
— Shaun King (@ShaunKing) July 23, 2018
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.