BART officer who responded to Nia Wilson stabbing testifies of gruesome scene
OAKLAND — A BART officer who responded to the report of a stabbing at the MacArthur station found a young woman, sprawled on the ground, blood gushing out of her neck and leaking from her mouth.
Even though he tried life-saving measures, she was already dead, he said Thursday.
The young woman was 18-year-old Nia Wilson, who was fatally stabbed by John Lee Cowell on July 22, 2018 at the MacArthur BART station around 9:36 p.m. The defense doesn’t contest that Cowell was responsible for her death, but said he was suffering from severe mental illness. Nia Wilson and her two older sisters were on their way home from a family party in Concord when she and sister Letifah Wilson were attacked by Cowell.
Former BART Officer Andres Rocha, now with the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office, testified to the gruesome scene he and his partner responded to that night. Crime scene photos shown to the jury depicted Nia Wilson, slumped over against a wall, lying in a pool of her own blood around her. The wall behind her, was smeared with blood too.
Members of her family and friends, which packed one side of the courtroom Thursday morning, wept quietly, wiping away tears at the grim photos. Some got up to leave the courtroom.
Rocha said when he arrived at the crime scene, Nia Wilson was leaking blood profusely. He tried talking to her, but she didn’t respond.
“Was Ms. Wilson already dead?” asked prosecutor Butch Ford. “She was,” Rocha said, solemnly nodding.
Letifah Wilson had also been stabbed and was holding her neck on the right side. In a photo shown of her at the scene, blood was also dripping from her hand. She survived the attack and Cowell is charged with her attempted murder.
Rocha and his partner were already at the station that night, assisting with a medical call, when they heard people screaming and running from the station. Three people ran toward them, as depicted in his police body camera video, indicating that someone had a knife at the station.
One of those people, was Cowell. He could be seen running, and pointing back to the station. Rocha said he said “back there, back there,” as he ran off. It wasn’t until later that the officer realized that they had come face-to-face with the suspect.
Thursday marks the second day of trial; and Cowell himself was not present. Judge Allen Hymer kicked him out Wednesday first during opening statements for the prosecution for commenting, and then again in the afternoon after he spoke again. The judge admonished jurors that they are not to take his absence under consideration when they deliberate.
AC Transit bus driver Hector Perdomo Jr. also testified about his interaction driving Cowell, about an hour after the murder. Cowell had walked to the intersection of Stanford and San Pablo Avenue in Oakland, and told the driver his ankle was messed up, and asked for a ride. Perdomo said he gave him a “courtesy ride,” usually given to passengers who ask who don’t have money, or are injured.
Perdomo testified that after he gave him the ride, he got an alert from his supervisors that police were looking for a suspect believed to be involved in a homicide. Perdomo realized the man he gave a ride to matched the description, and alerted his supervisors.
Others that testified in the case so far include BART communications technicians who pulled video surveillance for the investigation, and other BART police who helped process the crime scene.
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