As Nia Wilson and her sisters Letifah and Tashiya were exiting a San Francisco train station, none of the women could have thought that within minutes, Nia would be murdered. A transient named John Lee Cowell executed a surprise attack on the three sisters, slashing Nia in the neck while also stabbing Letifah in the neck. The latter survived, but Nia bled to death on the station's platform.
Cowell fled the scene and soon, a manhunt was underway to find him. "#BART manages to catch riders who haven’t paid ticket fair, young graffiti artists, you can catch a murderer. Give her family some peace and get a murderous white supremacist off of Oakland streets," Kehlani tweeted at the time. The "#SayHerName" hashtag was birthed, and celebrities joined in to raise awareness about Nia's brutal murder. "#SayHerName: A powerful tribute to our beloved Sister Nia Wilson," rapper Common wrote. "NIA WILSON//SAY HER NAME. Our bodies and our humanity deserve safety and joy," said Tracee Ellis Ross.
The year anniversary of Nia's death will be upon us o July 22, and her family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the BART transit agency accusing them of having inadequate security measures to protect travelers. According to documents, Cowell repeatedly evaded paying ticket fares and the Wilson family believes that had the station had appropriate staffing, Cowell would have never gained access the day he murdered Nia.
“Plaintiffs contend that had BART taken adequate measures to prevent fare evaders from entering BART’s stations, platforms or trains, Nia Wilson would not have died,” the suit says. The family is seeking monetary damages and is asking a judge to demand that BART implement systemwide safety measures.
“This lawsuit is part of Nia Wilson’s family’s commitment to hold BART accountable for cleaning up its system,” family attorneys Robert Arns and Jonathan Davis said in a statement. “No one else should have to suffer because of BART’s failure to protect its riders.”