The death of 18-year-old Nia Wilson, who was fatally stabbed in the neck in Oakland last month, could have been stopped, lawyers for the slain teen’s family said Friday (Aug. 17).
Wilson’s death at a BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) station on July 22 has sparked outcry, and John Lee Cowell was charged with the murder. The killing happened just days after two other female passengers faced a similar threat from Cowell, attorneys said in a claim filed against BART last week, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. One of the women was physically touched by Cowell, who slid his hand across her neck to suggest he would slice her throat open, at the Civic Center BART Station in San Francisco. Another woman saw the man reveal a knife on a train in a separate incident, lawyers said.
The women weren’t able to get help from BART workers during the incidents — events that may not have been followed by Wilson’s death if transit agency personnel had heeded warnings, attorneys said.
“Nia’s death is not some horrific anomaly that occurred in two seconds that nobody could do anything about,” said Robert Arns, a lawyer for Wilson’s family. “There’s a serious and endemic public safety problem on BART, and just about everybody who rides BART knows that.”
Wilson’s killing was a “simple case of cause and effect,” attorneys also said. If Cowell was taken into police custody and BART personnel did more to protect riders, Wilson may have never been harmed, they added.
Grief-stricken family members represented by the attorneys were teary-eyed on Friday. Wilson’s sisters, Letifah and Tashiya Wilson, both saw their sister take her last breath on the BART station platform that day. Letifah Wilson was also stabbed in the neck but survived.
The family should get “just” compensation, with a dollar amount that would likely be decided on by a jury, according to the suit. Attorneys, on behalf of the family, also want “transparency when it comes to criminal activity on BART property” and “a new system to prevent fare evaders.”
BART tried to defend themselves against the family’s and attorney’s statements, saying that “safety” was a “top priority.” The agency is investigating the threats outlined in the claim, Anna Duckworth, an agency spokeswoman, said.