Posts Tagged ‘stabbing aboard Amtrak’

Man Found Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity in Connection with Stabbing Aboard Amtrak Train

October 16, 2015

A Michigan man accused of stabbing four people aboard Amtrak’s Blue Water last year has been found not guilty by reason of insanity.

The ruling was rendered on Wednesday in the trial of Michael Darnell Williams, 45, of Saginaw, Michigan.

Judge Dennis Wiley found Williams not guilty by reason of insanity. Williams will now be processed by the Michigan mental health system.

The incident occurred in December 2014 as the train neared Niles, Michigan.

Trial testimony showed that as the train stopped and police approached, Williams stabbed a conductor and three passengers.

Nile police, who had been called prior to the train’s arrival due to what was termed strange behavior by Williams during the train’s journey from Chicago, used a stun gun to subdue Williams.

On a motion from his attorney, Williams was examined by the Michigan Center for Forensic Psychiatry.

An examiner found Williams to be mentally ill and suffering from a delusional disorder that “caused him to be incapable of accurately perceiving his environment, a symptom of his mental illness which was documented in the days preceding the offenses,” the report concluded.

“Rather than consider his options and make a decision to engage in illegal behavior, Mr. Williams appears to have reacted spontaneously and only in consideration of delusional information. Based on his report of the offense, supported by collateral information, he harbored specific delusions that others were following him with the intentions to cause him serious harm or kill him. It appears Mr. Williams was unable to reflect as to what would happen if he acted in such a manner.”

Michigan law defines legal insanity as a mental illness that results in a person lacking substantial capacity either to appreciate the wrongfulness of his or her conduct or to conform that conduct to the requirements of law.

Berrien County Prosecutor Michael Sepic hired an independent examiner to review the report and found it to be credible.

Stabbing Suspect to Undergo Mental Evaluation

December 16, 2014

A judge in Michigan has ordered the suspect charged with stabbing four aboard an Amtrak train to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.

The evaluation will determine if Michael Darnell Williams is mentally fit to stand trial on four counts of assault with intent to murder.

Williams has been charged in connection with an incident aboard the eastbound Blue Water in Niles, Mich., on Dec. 5 in which an Amtrak conductor and three passengers were stabbed.

Williams is being held in the Berrien County Jail on a $1 million bond. Each charge carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.

Niles police used a stun gun to subdue Williams as the train sat in the Niles station.

Several of Williams’ family members have told reporters that Williams, a Saginaw native who was employed as a truck driver, is suffering from paranoid hallucinations that made him fear for his life.

All four of the stabbing victims have since been released from Niles area hospitals.

Family Members say Michigan Amtrak Stabbing Suspect Has a Long History of Mental Problems

December 9, 2014

A Michigan man charged in connection with the stabling of four people aboard an Amtrak train Friday night told police that he was fighting a “demon.”

Michael Williams, 44, of Saginaw, Mich., pleaded not guilty during an arraignment hearing on Monday to four counts of attempted murder. He requested a court-appointed attorney.

He continues to be held on $1 million bond in the Berrien County Jail in Niles, Mich., where the assault occurred aboard the eastbound Blue Water en route from Chicago to Port Huron, Mich., with 172 aboard.

Williams will be back in court on Friday.

The revelation of what Williams told Niles police following the attack was made public on Monday in court documents.

“Michael Williams said he did not remember exactly what he did but that he did have a knife in his hand,” according to an affidavit for his arrest.

Williams told police that the “guy he was talking to on the train turned into a demon and he had to fight” him, according to court documents.

Court records show that Williams stabbed and cut the train’s conductor, Dontrol Bankhead, 40, twice in the head, twice in the neck and several times on his body, police said.

He stabbed Bonnie Cleasby, 59, in the abdomen, Dan Stewart, 59, once in the chest, and Gayle VanHorst, 47, in the chest, according to the report.

All of the victims were hospitalized but reported to be in stable condition.

A Niles police officer who responded to the attack said he was forced back out of a passenger car by the fleeing passengers.

He then saw the suspect running at him with a “large hunting knife” with a 5-inch blade.

The officer pulled out his Taser and struck Williams in the chest, “incapacitating” him and causing him to drop the knife as he fell to the floor.

Members of Williams’ family told reporters that he had a history of mental problems.

A sister, Tracy Williams, told the Saginaw News that when she spoke with her brother last week he seemed to be hallucinating and feared for his life as he tried to get to Saginaw.

“We were having conversations back and forth, and I said, ‘You know, Mike, this doesn’t make any sense. Why are they after you?’ ” Tracy Williams said.

“Whatever he believed in his head was real to him. Nothing I could have said could make him think any different.”

Family members said Williams is military veteran who moved to Atlanta last summer to get a commercial driver’s license and work as a cross-country trucker.

“My heart goes out to the victims because they were innocent,” Tracy Williams said. “He wasn’t specifically targeting them. They did absolutely nothing to deserve this.”

Williams’ history of mental health problems dates back at least nine years, when he was petitioned for treatment after arming himself with a hammer and knives in his own home, according to court documents..

Family members said that Williams began suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after serving in the U.S. Army during Operation Desert Storm.

Saginaw County Probate Court records show that Williams suffered from paranoid delusions due to cocaine abuse and acute psychosis due to drug use when his family filed a petition to have him involuntarily committed in November 2005.

A judge didn’t rule on the petition because he voluntarily went in for treatment, records show.

According to the petition filled out by an aunt, Williams told his family “people are following him, people are under (the) house and jumping out windows and no one else can see them.”

His mother and sister said he was carrying a hammer and knives in a “threatening posture” in the house, “throwing objects” and digging, apparently in the crawl space, to find people.

Family members summoned Saginaw police eight times in three days in November 2005. Police threatened to use a Taser to get him out from under the house, records show.

A cousin, Lawhawn Scroggins, who lives in Utah, told a Grand Rapids TV station that Williams called her on Tuesday — three days before the Amtrak stabbing — to say that people were following him and trying to kill him.

He told her he was leaving Kentucky and was headed home to Saginaw to escape the people. He was working as a truck driver, she said.

“I don’t think it’s something he did intentionally,” Scroggins said. “I think maybe something triggered him, maybe he was already like paranoid about something before. I don’t know what happened, what triggered him or what was going on.”

An uncle told the TV station that Williams has suffered from mental illness since leaving the military and that it worsened after the deaths of his mother and father.

He said he doesn’t believe Williams meant to hurt anybody. “He’s not that type of person,” he said.

Man Charged in Michigan Amtrak Stabbings

December 7, 2014

The four people stabbed aboard an Amtrak train Friday night in Niles, Mich., were reported to be in stable condition on Saturday while the man taken into custody in connection with the assaults has been charged with four counts of assault with intent to murder.

Michael Darnell Williams, 44, of Saginaw, Mich., was charged Saturday and is being held in the Berrien County Jail. Authorities are still searching for a motive in the case.

Williams was being held on $1 million bond and faces an initial court appearance on Monday. Each count carries a possible life sentence.

The assault occurred at about 7 p.m. aboard the eastbound Blue Water as it made a station stop in Niles en route from Chicago to Port Huron, Mich.

Williams is charged with assaulting an Amtrak conductor and three other people.

Passengers aboard the train who were interviewed by reporters following the incident said that police officers stormed the train and subdued the assailant with a Taser.

Niles Police Chief Jim Millin said that police rushed to the Amtrak station after receiving a call that a passenger was “acting odd and becoming agitated.”

Niles Police were en route to the train station when they were told Williams had stood up and assaulted the four victims.

“When officers arrived at the Amtrak depot they observed a commotion on one of the train cars with numerous passengers exiting that car quickly,” Millin said in a written statement. “Officers pushed their way onto the train past the passengers exiting and were immediately confronted by a male subject armed with a knife. Officers quickly subdued the subject with the use of a Taser and he was taken into custody without further incident.”

“They saw commotion in the train car,” Millin said of his officers. “They had to forcefully work their way through the crowd. As soon as the first officer turned into the car, Mr. Williams was less than 10 feet away and he had the knife in his hand. The officer used his Taser and was able to subdue him.

“Certainly there’s a possibility he could have kept on assaulting passengers and things could have been a lot worse,” the chief told The Associated Press.

“It doesn’t appear he was screaming or in anger against any of these people. He just started cutting and stabbing,” Millin said.

Millin said the victims included a female and three males. Williams was ticketed to travel from Chicago to Flint.

Amtrak said 172 passengers were on board the train at the time of the incident.

The Salvation Army also responded to the scene and provided food, coffee, and hot chocolate for the passengers. They were stranded for more than four hours while police conducted an investigation.

The train finally resumed its journey at 1:20 a.m. Saturday.

“It was pretty incredible that they may have saved some lives,” passenger Tyler Vandermolen said of the police response.

Passenger Caitlin Cipri of Chicago told the South Bend Tribune that she was packing her things to get off the train when she heard screaming. She initially thought the suspect was punching a passenger until she saw the butt of a knife. She said she saw the man stab two other people.

“It was terrifying and you don’t think something like that is going to happen to you,” Cipri said. “It’s terrifying that things like this happen.”

“I was in a mob of four people, and at one point people were falling down and people are getting back up,” Cipri said. “It was such a blur just trying to get to an exit.”

Tyler Vandermolen, who was sitting 10 rows from where the stabbing occurred, said, “You see the police getting a lot for bad press with the stuff going on around the country these days, but you got to give it up for these guys they were there in under… within seconds of this happening it was pretty incredible that they may have saved some lives today.”

4 Injured in Stabbing Aboard Amtrak Train

December 6, 2014

Four people were injured Friday night when a passenger aboard an Amtrak train stabbed them as the train neared its station stop in Niles, Mich.

The victims, whose identities were not immediately known, were taken to area hospitals. Their conditions were unknown but thought to be from serious to critical.

Police said a 44-year-old man from Saginaw, Mich., was arrested in connection with the assault.

The incident occurred aboard Train No. 354, the Blue Water, which was encourage from Chicago to Port Huron, Mich.

Police received a call from Amtrak at 6:59 p.m. about a disturbance aboard the train.

The victims included a conductor, and a woman and two men, Niles Mayor Michael McCauslin said.

They were taken to Lakeland Healthcare Hospital in Niles and Memorial Hospital of South Bend, Ind., but he didn’t have information on their conditions.

The train was stopped about 9:45 p.m. as police investigated. Michigan State

Police and Berrien County Sheriff’s deputies assisted, McCauslin said.

Wendy Weststrate, a passenger on a Wolverine Service train from Chicago said her train was had stopped near New Buffalo, Mich., and that passengers were told there had been a medical emergency on a train in front of them.

After the Wolverine proceeded into Niles, “it looked like they had called out the National Guard,” Weststrate said of the scene, as police cars blocked the tracks. “It was chaotic.”

Some passengers on the Blue Water were put on the Wolverine, including two women who took seats in directly in front of her, said Weststrate, who was bound for Kalamazoo, Mich.

“They got on and they were shaking,” she said. Weststrate said the women told her they saw a man in the car in front of theirs stab a conductor then proceed down the aisle stabbing others with a knife before getting to their car, where some passengers subdued the assailant.

Niles, a town of about 12,000, is about 10 miles north of South Bend.

Amtrak said 172 passengers were aboard the Blue Water at the time of the stabbings, but gave no details of the incident.

A Twitter user uploaded a photograph of a man in a gray jacket lying in handcuffs on the floor of the train.

“Crazy world we live in. Some man just stabbed 4 people one car away from me on the train,” said the user, @Chris_Maynard.

Another user posted a picture of what appeared to be a blood-spattered corridor. He wrote: “one victim was a conductor. Sad sad stuff.”

One man tweeted: “Friend on Amtrak currently stuck in Niles, MI. Stabbing attack, suspect in custody. 4 people seen on stretchers, 1 worse than others.”

Another wrote: “I am on Amtrak. Guy in car ahead of us stabbed passengers. Police got him. Injuries not fatal. We are near Niles MI We will be transferred.”

Passengers Dave Mackenzie did not arrive at the East Lansing’s Amtrak station until 3:30 a.m. Saturday.

Mackenzie was sitting in business class when the attack occurred in an adjacent car.

“I couldn’t hear anything, didn’t really know what had happened,” said Mackenzie, a DeWitt resident. “When we got to Niles the police cars came, the fire department was there. There were two or three ambulances there. We were just there for a long time and waited for them to finish investigating.”

Jason Evans was asleep when the stabbing occurred about five train cars away from his seat.

“They woke us up and told us we were going o be there for a while because they just had arrested someone on the train. We were kind of wondering if we heard the guy right that there had been someone who had been stabbed,” Evans said as the train left Niles around 1:15 a.m. “We all just kind of stayed in our seats.”