Saturday, February 11, 2012


A young man with whom I'm acquainted -- J., a barista at the local coffee shop -- was recently, without provocation, stabbed sixteen times while out walking his dog. A clearly mentally-ill man knocked him to the ground and stabbed him in his face, neck and chest. The dog (a small one) barked and barked. My friend offered the assailant his wallet, but to no avail: the attacker was delusional and paranoid. J. was finally able to throw him off.

I don't know what happened next except that the police were called, the knife-wielder caught, and J. was rushed to emergency. I was at work when this happened, about a half mile from the scene, and both Melinda and I remarked on the number of emergency vehicles racing by the house, not knowing, at that time, what had happened.

The Seattle Times reported the incident briefly, and spoke of "superficial wounds."

I ran into J. this week on the light rail. He's perhaps thirty, studying to be an EMT, a tender-souled man with a quiet friendly manner. There's a genuineness, an honesty about him that is striking. (Wishing he were, oh, twenty-or-so-years-older....)

Sitting on the train, he pulled up his shirt to show one of the (healing) wounds on his chest, and another on his shoulder which came precariously close to nicking his lung. I pointed out that the gouge on his cheek will only make him more handsome, and he laughed. He seemed relaxed, at peace, but I can only imagine what the long-term effects of an act of violence such as this will have on his psyche. The knife-wounds will heal, the scars will fade with time, but my fear for J. is of the lingering effects of this incident.

J. was present at the man's arraignment, and said that he is clearly a disconnected person, undoubtedly mentally ill.

That this happened just blocks from my house increases the volume of the alarm I feel, on many levels. This attacker did not belong on the streets, but given the state of public health in this country, I know that he is one of many. But how many? Will this man be released back into the world at large? I feel tremendous compassion for J., but also for his assailant, who, with appropriate medical care and supervision, would probably not be posing a risk to the general population, and could very possibly be living a productive life.

There exists sadness and tragedy in every aspect of this.

And what to do?
Love those we love more fiercely.
Be mindful.
Rejoice in the ordinary day.


  1. 'Mental Homes' were done away with in the UK, and replaced with (what is comically known as) Care in the Community. So those who would previously have been well looked after in a secure environment, now wander the streets frightening (or much worse) the public.

    Even here in deepest France I know of two such people; both of whom seem to live in the supermarket that I frequent. One just sits and watches, and looks harmless. The other wanders around looking at the ground, and looks as if he could pounce at any moment.

    Someone should be looking after such folk. They deserve more.

  2. a terrible assault, T. How does one even begin to feel safe after something like this? My dad was mugged and beaten many years ago, right outside his office. Quite a trauma...he really hasn't gotten over it entirely.


  3. My daughter, who works in an eating disorder clinic, was attacked by one of the patients last week. She wasn't severly hurt, thank goodness, but the tentativeness now that she carries every day as she goes to work, will be the lasting effect. She will forever look at this group of broken birds, that she so loves, with a slight tinge of suspicion now.

  4. Tara, how absolutely horrifying. I'm at a loss for words....

  5. Jacqueline, that you wrote "she will forever look at this group of broken birds, that she so loves --" speaks so highly of your daughter.

    Bless her.

  6. How sad -- and scary. We've had quite a bit of random crime in our neighborhood of late -- the helicopters of LA have done quite a bit of circling. It's ominous, sometimes --

  7. Decades of dissolution of all our public institutions.

    Interesting that these same effects including more mentally disabled people no longer cared for and committing random acts of violence also took place for decades after Henry VIII's dissolution of the Catholic Church's monasteries, etc. Granted that many of them were bloated with land, objects and gold after centuries of receiving them from those who had them in hopes of saving their souls from hell after a lifetime of making life on earth hell for so many. And that these places were places of secular decadence and so on. OTOH, there were many more that were anchors of their regions and communities, providing all sorts of succor to those who couldn't help themselves.

    Love, C.