Two murders and a fatal assault on BART over a span of five days

An Oakland woman was stabbed to death on a San Francisco Bay Area BART platform Sunday night. This was the second BART related homicide of the weekend and the third fatal assault over five-days.

John Lee Cowell, 27, is the primary suspect in a double stabbing Sunday night that killed one woman and critically injured another at the MacArthur station. He has a history of violent crimes and homelessness.

Cowell is a transient based in Concord with a history of arrests. Cowell had arrests for assault with a deadly weapon and robbery. In 2016, the Kaiser Medical hospital in Richmond sought a restraining order against Cowell after he threatened to kill an employee. Cowell spent two years in prison after being sentenced for armed robbery and was released on parole four months ago.

He also had prior arrests in Alameda County for one case involving petty theft and another involving misdemeanor vandalism and misdemeanor possession of a controlled substance.

The Saturday Bay Fair attack victim was a 47-year-old homeless man, Don Stevens. Surveillance video revealed that Stevens was on the station platform around 1:20 a.m. Saturday when a suspect punched Stevens on the side of his head. As he fell, Stevens’ head hit the cement platform.

Abdul Bey got into a fight with Pittsburg resident Gerald Bisbee, 51, on July 18. Bisbee left the train with a bloody lip and small cut to the back of his knee. Bisbee later died from an infection to his knee.

Reported BART Crime Statistics

A total of 137 violent crimes were reported on BART through April compared with 150 for the same period in 2017. There were 92 robberies reported through April compared with 110 at the same point last year. While overall violent crime is down, aggravated assaults increased from 34 through April of 2017 to 43 for the same time frame this year.

Through April, BART police made 148 felony arrests and 410 misdemeanor arrests. That’s a 16.5% increase in felony arrests.

There is a BART Crimes website which tracks far more incidents of crime on BART. BART Crimes uses information scraped from daily emails and posted.

Homeless Problem in the Bay Area

In 2016, data shows that San Francisco had the second highest homeless population in the USA.

San Francisco leads the Bay Area in homelessness. They have nearly twice the number of homeless as San Jose and three times the number in Oakland. But statistics go beyond the Bay Area.

A graph shows San Francisco ranks second to New York in homelessness. There are 795 people per 100,000 residents. New York has 887, followed by Seattle with 487, and Philadelphia with 384.

In 2018, the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing said 7,500 people are currently homeless on the streets of San Francisco.

There are significant issues of mental illness, drug and alcohol addiction in the homeless population.

These problems then are on BART as well. It is common to see people injecting themselves with needles on BART. Harassment or encounters with transients and vagrants occurs on many BART rides.

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