Salt Lake City police on Saturday arrested a 32-year-old man they say stabbed two people experiencing homelessness in apparently “random” attacks this month.
The first attack was reported on Sept. 11 at about 8:15 p.m., in which a 38-year-old woman was stabbed near 550 West and 300 South, police said. She was taken to a hospital with survivable injuries, and police said on Monday that she had since been released.
The second attack happened in the same area just after 5 p.m. Saturday. Witnesses told police that the victim was sitting on a park bench when an assailant approached the 39-year-old man from behind and stabbed him in the neck “for no reason,” according to a probable cause statement.
When the man fought back, the witnesses said he was stabbed again. The victim was taken to a hospital with life-threatening injuries. Police said on Monday that his condition had stabilized.
The suspect was arrested after the Saturday attack.
“Right now, it appears these attacks are random, targeting members of our homeless community,” Chief Mike Brown said in a written statement Monday, noting that detectives were working to establish a motive. “The suspect himself is homeless. We know the people who are experiencing homelessness can be victimized at disproportional rates to others.”
As officers took the suspect into custody Saturday, “he spontaneously stated that he could not be arrested because police had not recovered the knife and that officers would never find the knife,” police wrote in the probable cause statement. The suspect was booked into jail just before 2 a.m. Sunday.
During the arrest, investigators noted that the suspect matched the description of the attacker from the Sept. 11 stabbing. Witnesses at the time described the attacker to police, but investigators were unable to locate him.
After the suspect’s Saturday arrest, the victim in the first attack identified him in a photo line-up, according to the probable cause statement.
The document indicates that witnesses were hesitant to speak with officers because they feared that the man would retaliate. Officers asked for him to be held without bail, and court records show 3rd District Judge Dianna Gibson agreed.
The suspect is being held on suspicion of two counts of aggravated assault resulting in serious bodily injury, both felonies, and a probation violation for a months-old felony theft conviction. The Salt Lake Tribune generally does not name defendants unless they have been charged with a crime.