How did BART police arrest deadly stabbing suspect John Cowell?


Officials at BART are defending the decisions their police department made during the manhunt for murder suspect John Cowell.

Cowell is accused of killing BART passenger Nia Wilson as she exited a train at one station. Within hours, the man who was considered armed and dangerous was on another train filled with passengers.

Just about everywhere you look on the BART system, you will see a surveillance camera before you enter the ticket gate, inside the ticket gate, up on the platform, and in the train cars.

“We have cameras everywhere,” BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost said.

BART police are examining their security cameras to pin down John Cowell’s movements before, during, and after he allegedly fatally stabbed Wilson and wounded her sister.

Trost says Cowell was first spotted when he entered the BART system on Sunday at the Concord Station.

“We’ve already pulled the train car video with him getting on at Concord with the three ladies, and we have that video,” Trost said.

The deadly stabbing occurred at the MacArthur Station Sunday at 9:36 p.m. However, BART police did not alert the public until around noon on Monday.

Trost explains why.
“I believe that we handled it appropriately knowing that…that we knew where he has laid down to sleep on other occasions at those known addresses,” Trost said. You want to try to get him that way before you blast it to the public, and we still released it hours after the incident.”

After BART police released these photos of John Cowell, investigators received their first tip from a male passenger who spotted him at the Coliseum station.

Trost admits it was a bit of a surprise to learn that he was back on the trains.

“We’re thinking he is obviously going to go run off in hiding,” Trost said. “He is sleeping at someone’s house. We’ve got these known addresses. We would never assume that he was still on our system or return to the system when the system opens.”

But he did.

Trost says ultimately that tip from the Coliseum station led to his arrest within the hour.

“We had two officers at MacArthur, and we hold that Richmond bound train,” Trost said. “That is when another passenger told us that we think we see him on an Antioch train. We have two officers at Pleasant Hill, so we hold it at Pleasant Hill, and he was arrested and in handcuffs before 6:30 p.m.”

What is her response to critics who say BART police should have got him as soon as he tried to re-enter the system?

“The system did work,” Trost said. “We knew who he was within hours. We put out a flier with his image. We released the image to the public and we arrested him within 24-hours.”



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