A legal claim filed against BART on Friday says that murder suspect John Lee Cowell twice menaced patrons of the transit system in the days leading up to the fatal knife attack on Nia Wilson, 18, at Oakland's MacArthur station.
The claim filed by San Francisco attorney Robert Arns on behalf of Wilson's family accuses BART of a systematic failure to protect riders from violent crime through inadequate staffing, lack of prompt action on passenger complaints, and allowing rampant fare evasion among other alleged shortcomings. The legal claim is a likely prelude to a lawsuit.
The claim's most explosive allegation revolves around Cowell, 27, a Concord resident with a violent criminal history.
Arns' filing says that about a week before the attack that killed Nia Wilson and seriously wounded her sister, Lahtifa, a passenger "encountered Cowell brandishing a knife in a BART train car. Fearful for her life, the rider exited the car at the next station. Upon finding no BART personnel present, she called the police and reported the incident."
Arns said in a media briefing Friday that the episode occurred near MacArthur station.