Family of Nia Wilson sue Oakland transit agency over fatal stabbing

Nia Wilson John Cowell
Nia Wilson | John Cowell

The accused killer of Nia Wilson, who was brutally stabbed at an Oakland’s MacArthur BART station last month, had reportedly trolled the BART station days before and was even stopped for fare evasion.

Wilson’s family is now suing BART saying that the transit agency should have done more to prevent stabbing suspect John Cowell from coming into the Oakland station and attacking the two sisters.

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Cowell was arrested as a suspect in Wilson’s murder and the attempted murder of her sister Letifah Wilson. He stands accused of stabbing both young women multiple times.

BART spokesperson Alicia Trost released this statement:

“The murder of Nia Wilson on BART is a tragedy and we continue to extend our deepest condolences to the Wilson family. We are thankful the suspect is in custody due in large part to our surveillance system.

Nothing is more important than the safety of our riders and employees. In the last several years BART has launched a multi-prong approach to reduce fare evasion including a new proof of payment ordinance and inspection teams as well as infrastructure changes to make it harder to bypass fare gates.

We’ve installed working cameras on all train cars and have a robust network of more than 4,000 surveillance cameras. We’ve had stepped up patrols using overtime since Spring 2017 and have worked tirelessly to fill officer vacancies.

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Arrests surged last year by nearly 40% due to the fact our officers were in the right place at the right time. We also publish our crime data to the public through multiple venues, to provide transparency and public awareness.

Our hearts break for the Wilson family. Their grief must be unbearable. BART as an agency will continue to do all we can to ensure a safe trip for our riders.”

Cowell, made an appearance in the East County Hall of Justice in Dublin last week ABC 7 reports. He was recently released from prison on parole after serving two years for robbery.

At the hearing, Cowell said he could not afford an attorney so the judge set a Tuesday court date to address the need for legal representation.

According to ABC7, dozens of Wilson’s friends and family showed up in court on Wednesday for Cowell’s arraignment. Many of them donned shirts with Wilson’s likeness on them.

“I’m just so sad for my baby that’s all I know,” said Alicia Grayson, Nia Wilson’s mother in an interview with ABC7. “She was smart, energetic, loved doing her makeup, her makeup, her makeup, her makeup… that makeup got on my nerves. I’m going to miss that makeup.”

Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley says they are still trying to determine if the murder and attempted murder should be considered hate crimes. “There has to be evidence that it was motivated by hate and in this case, whether it was motivated by their gender or by their race, we’re still gathering the evidence to look at that,” said O’Malley.