Woman stabbed on AC Transit bus: ‘What did I do that made you want to murder me?’

A woman was stabbed Monday night on an AC Transit bus like this one. Photo: Paul Sullivan

A woman was stabbed Monday night on an AC Transit bus like this one. Photo: Paul Sullivan

This article has been updated to include comments by the father of the alleged assailant.

Update: 8/16 If you want to help Mariah, you can made a donation at a You Fund Me site that has been set up for her. It’s like a personal kickstarter: http://www.gofundme.com/d5bars

Original Story: The woman who was repeatedly stabbed by a man when she was riding an AC Transit bus on San Pablo Avenue on Aug. 11 said she had not even noticed her alleged assailant before he pushed a knife into her eye. But she did spot the man who came to her rescue.

Mariah Elizabeth, 21, of Oakland (Berkeleyside is not using her last name) had gotten on the northbound 72M bus at 40th and San Pablo around 10:00 p.m. or so Monday. She was on her way to the San Pablo Lytton Casino. As she bounded up the steps of the bus, Mariah spotted a young man in his 20s skateboarding across the street. He, too, got on the bus.

Mariah sat down facing the back of the bus. She was listening to music and looking at her phone when she saw a man in her peripheral vision. The man said, “Watch this,” and showed Mariah a white tube with foil wrapped around it, she said. Mariah thought it was some kind of drug paraphernalia and ignored the man.

The next thing she knew the man had pulled a knife out of the tube and lunged at her face, said Mariah.

“The first place he hit me was in the eye,” said Mariah. “He sliced my eyeball. Blood was everywhere,” she said.

Mariah said she started to kick her alleged assailant and he fell to the ground. The assailant got back up again and stabbed her again — a total of seven times. Mariah kept on kicking. Within seconds, the young man who had gotten on the bus with her started hitting the assailant on the head with a skateboard. Police have not released his name, but credit him with helping save Mariah’s life.

“I kicked him and he fell back because the bus was moving,” said Mariah, of her assailant. “He got back up. It was then the guy with the skateboard started hitting him in the back of his head.”

“If I hadn’t fought for my life, if I hadn’t gone into a defensive mode, he would have killed me,” she said.

The bus pulled over on San Pablo Avenue near Chaucer Street and the alleged assailant ran out of the bus. Witnesses flagged down police, who quickly arrested Eric Scott Palmer, 24. He is scheduled to appear in court Friday, Aug. 15, on charges of attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon. He is being held without bail, according to county records.

Mariah was taken to a local hospital and was treated for her injuries, which police called non-life-threatening. She said two stab wounds were the most serious — one in her leg, which was about 1.5 inches deep, and one in her eye. The doctor said her eye would heal, although right now she has limited peripheral vision.

The doctors wanted Mariah to stay longer in the hospital to recover, but she checked herself out Tuesday evening because she had to rush to the hotel she is living in. If she didn’t pay rent by Tuesday, hotel management would have taken her things and kicked her out, she said.

The last few days have been very difficult, said Mariah. Her car was towed so she relies on AC Transit and BART to get around. She said she is now wary of being around other people.

“I don’t want to deal with people so much,” she said. “I don’t want to get on the bus. I don’t want to get on BART.”

Mariah said she would like to talk to the skateboarder who helped her to thank him.

A man named John Lawrence left a comment for Mariah on Berkeleyside on Thursday. He said “Mariah, I’m the guy who had the skateboard. I’m so so relieved to know you are okay! Bless you a million times. To everyone, don’t let hate or anger build up inside yourself, live sweet, be kind.”

Mariah said she also has questions she would like to ask Palmer.

“What was your point?” she said she would ask. “What was the reason? What did I do or what did someone do that day that made you want to murder me?”

Update, 3:15 p.m. Berkeleyside spoke with John Palmer, the father of Eric Palmer. Palmer said that his son has serious mental health issues and that he had stopped taking his medication at the time of the attack. He was also homeless.

“Eric has a long history of mental health challenges since he was an infant,” said John Palmer. “It showed itself when he was 3 years old.”

The challenges include bi-polar disorder and schizophrenia, said Palmer.

His son has been institutionalized many times, including at the Napa State Hospital. Palmer said he has reported his son as a 5150 — meaning he was a threat to himself or others — but that has only resulted in him getting treatment for a week or a month at a time.

Palmer said he was surprised at the violence of the attack because previously his son had just heard voices or seen visions. He had never harmed anyone.

“I am grateful that the lady was not killed,” said Palmer. “I am grateful that the good Samaritan was not killed. I’m glad that Eric was not killed, considering the tension that is happening with the police now. I am grateful he was not shot.”

Palmer said his son knows the difference between right and wrong and that he should be held accountable for his act. He also hopes that he can now get the psychological help he needs.

“I would like him to get help while he is being held accountable,” said Palmer.

Related:
Man uses skateboard to interrupt stabbing on bus (08.13.14)

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  • elrod

    The person who did this to her is pure evil and needs to be locked up for life. Kudos to the man who helped her fend off the attacker with his skateboard.

  • Joshua A

    It looks like you used her last name or maybe that is her middle name

  • patrick

    That’s almost 2.5 miles. Not clear how long the attacks took place, or when they started but what was the driver doing?

  • Tizzielish

    The person who did this is likely mentally ill and in some kind of psychotic, not evil, state.

  • http://berkeleyside.com Frances Dinkelspiel

    No that is not her last name. That is how she identified herself in a Berkeleyside comment.

  • http://berkeleyside.com Frances Dinkelspiel

    Yes I am sure she could use the help. Send me an email and I will connect you two. FDinkelspiel@gmail.com

  • guest

    The reason is immaterial. They are a danger to society.

    If the reason is mental illness then they ought to be locked up in an institution.

  • ebvv

    OMG! this is so scary, It doesn’t matter where you at these days, crazy things are happening. I’m so happy she is alright and thank god for the person who stepped in the help her.

  • dwss5

    Good point!
    I really hope that the family (parents?) of the perp who committed the attack, of Eric Scott Palmer that is, will be FORCED to compensate her for her financial straits arising from the attack. TOTALLY FAIR!!

  • http://berkeleyside.com Frances Dinkelspiel

    Please see our updated story. I just interviewed the father of the man accused of the crime. It turns out Eric Palmer has been mentally ill since he was three and the family has tried to help him in many ways. He was homeless and off his meds when the attack occurred. The father wants to reach out to Mariah, the woman who was stabbed, too.

  • Mr. Grumpy

    The family of the attacker might want to volunteer. They are not responsible for the actions of an adult son with mental illness.

  • Mr. Grumpy

    Thank you for this offer. Emailing you. I’m good for a month’s rent. Anyone else?

  • Warrior Two

    Don’t forget the hostility of the drivers, either! Especially if your back gets broken due to their negligence.

  • Eric Panzer

    In 2012 33,561 people were killed in auto accidents. Even when you account for the much larger proportion of trips made in cars rather than on public transit, I imagine that the odds of being seriously injured or killed in an automobile collision remain much, much higher than the chances of being seriously injured or killed by a random act of violence on public transportation.

    Because auto accidents, including fatal ones, happen day in and day out, we write them off as a fact of life and accept the risk. On the other hand, when something unusual, like a random stabbing or skirt-lighting takes place on a bus, it becomes news and sticks in our minds.

  • Realist

    I don’t care if he’s a Martian…He’s a THREAT ! … He caused serious physical harm to a person riding public transit and needs to be prevented from repeating or accelerating this behavior that could result in killing !

  • Culper Agent 355

    Another example of the conflict between personal liberty and public safety, vis a vis mental illness. Mentally ill people cannot be forced to take their medications, and all too often, they stop taking them, due to unwanted side effects, etc., or because they presume themselves to be cured. Adult children cannot be forced to medicate, and families often try to manage illnesses for their relatives, but this is difficult, especially when they choose to live apart from family. There are insufficient resources available for families to get help with these challenges. Mentally ill often self-medicate with alcohol or recreational drugs to dull the effects of their delusions or mood swings and these substances confuse their diagnoses. We have inadequate resources to manage these issues. Hospitals, especially in California, are reluctant to hospitalize adults without their own consent (because it’s not therapeutically productive), and barring a 5150 hold (due to imminent danger), will not keep adults who don’t want to stay hospitalized, so hospitals become a revolving door, releasing patients who obviously need more care, but choose not to receive it, due to their delusions. Even with a verdict of “insanity” violent perpetrators are hospitalized for a time, and often released without adequate controls on future care or medication, since they don’t fall in the “probation” category of oversight. Anything can be used as a weapon, and although guns are the obvious items to control and should be kept from anyone with a diagnosis of mental illness/hospitalization, this case illustrates how difficult it is to predict and control everyone in this condition. Imagine everyone who is mentally ill in a program similar to probation, with consistent oversight and supervision. The costs would be staggering. I feel we need to enforce violations to public endangerment and place more people on hold/in care who exhibit these delusional and irrational behaviors, especially in business areas, where people congregate in close quarters, or in our parks. I see so many mentally ill people on Shattuck and I wonder why they’re not picked up for evaluation. Having them wander around psychotic is only a ticking time bomb. They may not all be violent yet, but many, many I have seen on the street are belligerent and ranting. We see this over and over, in Berkeley, in Santa Barbara, in Seattle, everywhere. The balance between personal freedom and public safety is at a tipping point, and the laissez-faire approach of authorities is frightening.

  • Guest2

    Thank good ol’ Ronald Reagan who, when governor of CA decimated the mental health system here and ushered the first serious waves of the homeless mentally ill, soon to be joined by those stripped of decent wage jobs by Reagan’s attacks on unions & any group organizing community self-sufficiency.

  • guest

    My heart breaks for everyone involved in this story. There is so much suffering in this life.

  • EBGuy

    Even Ess Eff passed Laura’s Law. We’re beyond the tipping point.

  • guest

    If people want to go off their meds they need to be in a secured geographical area where they are free to suffer their mental illness without medication and without endangering the public. Otherwise, they need to take their meds. We can’t continue operating our city as an open air mental ward.

  • Karolyn Harrington

    Why couldn’t the driver slam on the brakes. Why did take so long for someone to help her?

  • B Lee

    Give it a rest. Reagan left office in 1975 nearly 40 years ago. There have been 6 governors since then (Jerry twice) and often with Dems in the governorship and the majority in both houses at the same time. What’s stopping them from funding mental health facilities to their liberal hearts’ content? Nothing.

  • Culper Agent 355

    We spend incredible amounts of resources to mitigate the risks of vehicle accidents. Automobile and vehicle safety standards, etc. are used to put the statistics as low as can be achieved. We spend, comparably, next to nothing to assure that mentally ill psychotic patients are detained and compelled to treatment, and the public can have some assurance steps are being taken to mitigate those risks to public safety.

  • Iceland_1622

    This pepper foam is very effective in such confined places in such an attack. Buy some and keep in at the ready at all times. http://www.foxlabs.com/products/pepper-spray/Foam-Units_AE6.html
    I have broken up attacks on women and men in Berkeley with just a whistle and a mag-lite. Be sure to keep this whistle with you at all times also [ think key-chain ]. It makes a private encounter a public one and sounds an wide neighborhood alarm for help and can even shut down many dog attacks. This company has an incredible variety: American Whistle:

    http://www.americanwhistle.com/index2.html

  • TN

    As much as I disliked Reagan, the destruction of California’s mental health system can’t be understood without acknowledging the role of more liberal state representatives in the history.

    Read up on the “Lanterman-Petris-Short” legislation which was one of the pieces at the heart of it. Nick Petris for a very long time represented Berkeley as a state senator.

    The same political dynamic that existed then continues to exist now even though we all can see how dysfunctional the situation is.

  • AC

    Wow. That’s uncalled for. We go out of our way, every minute of every day, to look after your safety. That’s our job.

  • Amy Zucker Morgenstern

    The lesson to take from this is buses are dangerous? I’m confused.

    It reminds me of a tragedy in CT that happened when I was growing up there. Two little girls and their parents were at a street fair in Middletown. A man in the grip of paranoid hallucinations turned on one and stabbed her to death. Street fairs are not to blame.

    People with mental illness need help, and people need to be protected from the few who are dangerous. How about care and hospitalization, rather than a focus on helping us each hide in our cars?

  • guest

    You should do some research on your own instead of just repeating catch phrases. Reagan didn’t champion the shutdown of the mental health wards he just signed the bills that had been in the works for a long time, which were the results of a liberal push towards deinstitutionalisation in mental health care.

    http://www.nytimes.com/1984/10/30/science/how-release-of-mental-patients-began.html

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deinstitutionalisation

  • 72 North Rider

    Thank you for clearly stating why I also ****avoid**** taking transit at night in particular. The packs of wandering hallucinators, the belligerent screamers, the clearly psychotic — ought not to be a part of your family excursions. As a fellow tax payer and (former) payer of a mortgage and the hefty city assessments along with that, I feel denied of my freedom to travel freely sometimes also. At least not without my arsenal of two pepper sprays, a small shiv, naillfile, maglite, and 911 on speed dial. It’s like I have no recourse but to be rude back since I never know if these haunted eyed ranters are going to SNAP and cause a routine bus ride to turn ugly and combative. Oh but watch the feedback frame me as unfeeling for the disabled. There is a time and place to be psychotic and ill and that is a supervised treatment area NOT a public sidewalk, train, or bus. When will we learn. Just how bad does it have to get when a person can be randomly stabbed or set on fire???

  • guest

    Have you tried bicycling? Just about all of Berkeley is an easy bike ride from downtown. If you live in the hills, you can get an ebike and use the electric motor when you are going back uphill. Biking is more pleasant, more convenient, and much cheaper than riding the bus – and healthier for you and your children. Of course, buses are needed for the minority who cannot bike, but for the great majority, bikes are the best way to go.

  • 72 North Rider

    To sickandtired: I agree. I am sorry your family of four cannot enjoy dinner and ice cream shop like you would have a perfect right to do on a nice warm summer evening. I have the same issue myself. I’d love to have the occasional dinner out and ice cream stop myself but because I am without a car this past two years. I am reluctant to ride back North on the 72 line to Richmond after dark. In the morning we bus users at Del Norte or El Cerrito have to step around vomit, pee stains and smells and assorted castoff clothing and food garbage. Hello and Good Morning it is not…..The route is full of drunks and psychos who are frequently bugging me for change or who reek of weed, alcohol, urine, or other funk. Let’s not even go to the inadvisability of fabric seats on transit trains or buses. Since moving to the north of Oakland area (Richmond) due to being priced out of my Lake Merrit residence I see the same characters that were grifting and scamming in all the south of Berkeley stops all along the north end of El Cerrito now. It’s like there is a daily exodus using San Pablo Ave as the Hobo Hiway. I suppose it makes sense due to the displaced Bulb campers (who seem to be be moving north also given the new faces showing up grifting and scamming at the El Cerrito transit stops, just past couple months. Oh and yes, many appear to be skeletal or/and twitchy which suggests some sort of either mental or physical problem there going on…..Look here’s the thing – .Until we voters admit the ***experiment*** with outpatient “care” by our now non-existent mental health care laws – just be sure to ***stay alert and carry your pepper spray****. And good luck!

  • Woolsey

    Care and hospitalization are not in the cards due to costs and the competing interests of personal liberty as Culper Agent discusses above. We are particularly tolerant of antisocial behaviour in Berkeley and tend to attract lunatics and criminals. Therefore some of the bus lines are dangerous – especially at certain times of the day. This is also true of SF.

  • TLDR

    Ultimately, the problem is that there are far too many people who are poor, addicted to drugs, mentally ill, or (often some combination of all of the above). In my opinion, the reason that there are so many of those people on the street is because of a toxic combination of contemptuous neglect on the part of conservatives and a delusional respect for the rights of those people to live, in public, in their own filth, by the activist Left. Back in the 70s, everyone agreed that institutionalization was cruel, expensive and inhumane. The advent of anti-pscychotics provided a pretext for closing mental institutions down and dumping mentally ill people on the street. Conservatives like Reagan were happy because now they didn’t have to pay to house those people, and Liberals could celebrate their “liberation”. No surprisingly, many of those people don’t take their meds, and aren’t mentally capable enough to take advantage of social programs that might keep them off the street. We’ve also underfunded drug treatment programs because 1) they often don’t work and 2) they can be expensive if combined with the necessary half-way housing and professional counseling. Instead, we have arrived and the absolutely stupidest “solution”, which is to wait until they break the law and house them in prison. Which is incredibly bad for the rest of us and for the mentally ill. If it were me, I would spend the same money we are wasting locking these poor people up in prison and commit them (involuntarily if necessary) to humane and effective mental facilities and drug treatment programs that work. I know, TLDR, but I would think we could do something other than the worst of all possible things. One thing I doubt will work at all is to await the mythical socialist revolution, which seems to be a common trope here in Berkeley, or to assume that shoving urine stained unfortunates in our faces is going to generate sympathy and funding for them on the part of middle class folks. All that does is inspire anger at the degradation of our public spaces, and, eventually, even in Berkeley, a backlash that will do nothing to help the poor.

  • WayTLDR

    I know a guy who has lost everything, due to both poor choices on his part and mental and physical disease. He periodically loses all touch with reality and needs to go to the hospital, and when he does they do everything they can think of to turf him out. Last time, a nurse with no training tried to boot him in the middle of a psychotic episode in the middle of the night, with no clothes, no where to go, and no money, because she determined that he was ok, without bothering to consult a psychologist. She finally agreed to a 5150, but made it voluntary, since she knew that he, like most mentally ill people, he would quickly decide that he just wanted to go home, despite the fact that he doesn’t have one, and couldn’t get there if he did. It guess I could have taken him in, but he’s not related to me, and, frankly, I wasn’t ready to take responsibility for him, because then I would have to do it indefinitely, and I can’t afford it and don’t want to live with a crazy person. I guess I’m just not that good a person. Nor are most of us, even the best of us, since I doubt most Homeless advocates in Berkeley actually house the mentally ill in their homes. And that of course is the real problem. Most people don’t want to deal with other people whose lives are out of control. It’s expensive, depressing, and often futile. Just ask any parent of a meth-addicted teen, or the family of a schizophrenic who won’t take his meds. Over the years, I’ve (OK, we) spent billions on bonds for everything from parks to high speed rail and a massive increase in Prisons. I spend (as I understand it) a hundred thousand dollars per meter maid here in Berkeley, and hundreds of billions for fat, cushy retirement plans for public employees. And that’s not even mentioning the couple of trillion I wasted on stupid wars and nukes we’ll never use. How about we step up and pay for compassionate care for these people? That means bucking conservatives who’s attitude seems to be that it’s all their fault anyway, and Liberals who confuse respect for autonomy with benign neglect of people who can’t or won’t take care of themselves.

  • racoon

    update: there was some talk of wanting to contribute financially. if anyone wants to help Mariah out, there is a GoFundMe for her here http://www.gofundme.com/d5bars and i’m sure whatever small amounts you could share, she would really appreciate!

  • Rhea

    I’m happy to contribute to help with her bills, but am curious why she was on her way to the casino if having financial hard times? Does she work there or was she going there to gamble? I wish her a quick and speedy recovery. What a scary situation!

  • Culper Agent 355

    No one can be 5150’d without the written order of an M.D. Some states it takes two M.D.s. The shift nurse probably did not want to wake up the resident psych on call.

  • http://berkeleyside.com Frances Dinkelspiel

    I didn’t ask her why. I later found out that she is homeless and is living in a hotel.

  • Charles_Siegel

    I happen to know a homeless person who lives in a hotel but can only afford to stay there every other night. The remaining nights, she sits up all night, either at a restaurant or at a casino.

    Considering that she was heading to the casino at 10 PM, this seems like a plausible reason.

  • guest

    Depends on the area, doesn’t it?

    Most cities in America aren’t open mental wards crawling with homeless psychotics like Berkeley.

  • teacher

    Sadly, that’s not true. Most cities in California, at least, have mentally ill people who can’t get proper treatment in public places.

  • sport

    Also, casinos often have cheap food.

  • WayTLDR

    Sounds about right, Culper. She must have broken down and woken up the M.D., who authorized his admittance. Not sure I’m happy with a system that would boot a psychotic onto the street in the middle of the night based on the assessment of a person without the proper qualifications.

  • guest

    Actually, it is true. Berkeley’s per capita homeless population is far higher than the National average.

  • guest

    Unfortunately things like this happen – and if you pay attention you will know it doesn’t happen frequently, an anomaly really. There are far more life endangering car accidents every single day of the year than there are attacks by crazy people on busses. Your point about the Downtown, however, is just wrong. First, there are many, many places to park – you just have to pull your big metal beast into a garage, pay a couple of dollars and then go have dinner and ice cream with your family of four. No, you might not get a spot right in front of the restaurant, but that is the peril of living in a city. I know, scandalous. Second – the Downtown under the new Downtown Area Plan is thriving with all sorts of transit, bicycle and pedestrian options. Fortunately for all of us, and our children in particular, we are not setting rules anymore that are based on your 1962 Cadillac that’s 21 feet long and 12 feet wide. Thanks for your patronage – or not.

  • bgal4

    http://www.c-span.org/video/?321025-6/washington-journal-representative-tim-murphy-rpa-mental-health

    current medicaid rules create MORE barriers to treatment than Reagan signing the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act.

    Support the overhaul of our nation’s broken mental health system HR 3717