Cops arrest suspect in Port Huron-bound Amtrak train stabbing

By Bill Laitner, Detroit Free Press10:26 a.m. EST December 6, 2014

An Amtrak train finally got rolling again at 1:20 a.m. early Saturday in western Michigan -- nearly 7 hours after being parked for a police investigation when a man stabbed three passengers and the conductor, according to authorities.

A text from passenger Jason Evans, 33, of East Lansing said he was glad to be rolling home after the long delay, but he added: "I'll exhale once I see the Capitol Building -- lol," referring to the landmark structure in downtown Lansing.

Evans and scores of Amtrak passengers had been stuck in the Niles train station in southwest Michigan since about 7 p.m. Friday while police combed their parked train for evidence, following the stabbing that sent the four victims to area hospitals, authorities said.

The Chicago-to-Port Huron Amtrak passenger train was the scene of the multiple stabbings that occurred just as the train had pulled into the small town west of Battle Creek, and the 18-officer Niles Police Department took one man into custody, police said.

The victims were taken to area hospitals -- Lakeland-Niles Hospital and to the larger Memorial Hospital in South Bend, Ind., about 10 minutes away, police said. Their conditions were unknown but thought to be from serious to critical.

The victims included the train's conductor, a female passenger and two male passengers, said Niles Mayor Michael McCauslin. None of their injuries was initially fatal, but "it's my understanding that two of the victims are currently in surgery," McCauslin said at 10:30 p.m. Friday.

Passengers in the car where the stabbings occurred were evacuated and questioned, while those in the rest of the train stayed put and waited in their seats for hours, Evans said, in a telephone interview from his seat on the parked train.

This is a picture of the suspect in handcuffs after multiple people have been stabbed on an Amtrak train in
— WNDU (@WNDU) December 6, 2014This is a picture of the suspect in handcuffs after multiple people have been stabbed on an Amtrak train in Niles.

Here is another photo from the scene of the stabbing on an#Amtrak train in #Niles. Stay with us for
— ABC57News (@ABC57News) December 6, 2014

"When we stopped in Niles, I was asleep and the police came in and said we're going to be stopped for a while because there were stabbings in another car," Evans said. He said an Amtrak supervisor told the passengers that the train would resume its trip before midnight, although it did not leave until about 1:20 a.m.

During the wait, local agencies looked after the passengers, he said.

"The Salvation Army came out with hot cocoa, and then the Niles police brought us pizza – that was a nice gesture on their part – and they brought bottled water for us too," said Evans, co-owner and manager of the Nuthouse Sport Grill in downtown Lansing, a bar two blocks from the State Capitol.

#SalvationArmy has shown up with food and water for everyone! Looks like #Amtrak can't secure any busses for us.
— Jennifer Bryson (@jenborules) December 6, 2014

An Amtrak news release said the stabbings occurred on Train No. 364, in the Blue Water Service, originally carrying 172 passengers. But about half of those got off the t rain in Niles and boarded a subsequent train that went only as far as Battle Creek, Evans said. That left 60 to 80 passengers, bound for more distant destinations including Lansing and Pt. Huron but stuck in Niles in Friday night's hours-long wait.

Passengers wait in Niles train station for ride
— Jeff Gilbert (@jefferygilbert) December 6, 2014
We're aware of an incident onboard one of our trains. Local authorities are investigating the incident w/ support from Amtrak Police Dept.

— Amtrak (@Amtrak) December 6, 2014
The incident this evening occurred in Niles, MI and we continue to support local authorities during the investigation.
— Amtrak (@Amtrak) December 6, 2014

After leaving Chicago, the Blue Water Service stops in a dozen cities, including Battle Creek, Lansing and Flint before ending its route in Port Huron. While the passengers waited for police to finish investigating and for Amtrak to resume their trip, many voiced opinions on social media, suggesting that Amtrak needed to beef up security.

But Evans, in texts sent after the train resumed its trip, said he thought it would've been virtually impossible to prevent the stabbings by a man said to have been talking to himself and "being weird." The stabbings apparently occurred just as the train came to a stop in Niles.

"From everything I've heard, he was alone" and the victims were chosen at random, Evans said.

"Nothing you can do about someone like that" until the person actually commits a crime or threatens to do so, he said, in texts from his moving train car, in which most other passengers were sound asleep, he said.

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BREAKING: Reports of a stabbing on Amtrak train going from Chicago 2 Detroit Passengers say CSI on train now in
— Alexandra Ilitch (@WLNSAlexandra) December 6, 2014
#BREAKING UPDATE: Police say multiple people stabbed on Amtrak train in Niles; 1 arrested
— WSBT (@WSBT) December 6, 2014