White Man Who Killed Black Woman At BART Station Has A Violent Past

“In my close to 30 years of police experience, it was probably one of the most vicious attacks that I’ve seen. He does have a violent past.”



A white man reportedly attacked and killed a young African-American woman and wounded her sister at an Oakland Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) station.

The suspect was later identified as 27-year-old John Lee Cowell by the BART Police Department. He brutally stabbed 18-year-old Nia Wilson, who died on the spot, and then attacked her 26-year-old sister, Lahtifa, who was rushed to a nearby hospital and is in stable condition.

According to BART Police Chief Carlos Rojas, the suspect attacked Wilson from the back and stabbed her twice in the neck. Initially he was on the loose but was later taken into custody from a train.    

Cowell was described by Rojas as “a dangerous individual” who “has a violent past.”

According to court records, he has committed traffic-related offenses as well as criminal offenses.

In 2016, Cowell was sentenced to two years in prison after being convicted of felony second-degree robbery. The same year, he was accused of harassing and threatening staff members at a hospital in Richmond and in a separate incident, was found under the influence of a controlled substance.

In 2013, he was convicted of battery. According to Alameda County court records, some of his other offenses include vandalism, petty theft and misdemeanor infractions.

Cowell was released on parole in robbery case in May 2018.



Rojas said the motive behind the attack currently remains unclear but people on social media said it was a racially motivated attack.

“In my close to 30 years of police experience, it was probably one of the most vicious attacks that I’ve seen. While we don’t have any facts that suggest he’s connected with any white supremacist group, we are going to explore all options and all possibilities. He does have a violent past,” Rojas said.

The stabbing took place when the Wilson sisters were returning home from a family function. It was a usual trip for them where they were listening to music and were enjoying their time. The sisters reportedly got off their train at MacArthur and were about to board a transfer train when the incident took place.

“For what? I don’t know why. And I looked back, and he was wiping off his knife and stood at the stairs and just looked — and from there on, I was just caring for my sister. I was in shock. ... I didn’t know I was cut because I was paying more attention to my sister. But he just stood there, like it was nothing,” said Lahtifa.

She added they didn’t know the attacker and she struggled to help her sister who repeatedly called for help.

Daryle Allums, Nia’s godfather, said the incident had shaken the entire town but he called on people to remain calm in the tough time.

“They didn’t ask to get cut or stabbed. Those are baby girls. Those are our children. Our family needs prayer. We need support,” he said.

Allums added, “We don’t know if this was racist. Let’s get this information to find out what really happened. Let’s find out the right facts to then be able to deal with this situation.”

Ansar Mohammed, who identified himself as the father of the African-American victims, said he wanted justice.

“I work at Highland Hospital. I see this every single day but I never imagined myself going through nothing like this. That’s my baby girl up there.  It’s nothing imaginable, seeing your child on the BART platform with a yellow tarp over her body. That is an image I’ll never forget for the rest of my life. So I want justice. All I want is justice,” he said.

On the other hand, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf also released a statement that said the attack was “senseless.”



Banner/Thumbnail Credits: BART Police Department

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