OAKLAND, Calif. – About 200 people friends and family on Friday solemnly remembered Nia Wilson, the 18-year-old woman whose stabbing death on a subway station platform in Oakland, California, drew international attention.
The unprovoked attack against her and her sister has garnered sympathy from around the world. Mourners on Friday remembered Wilson's loving nature, her musical talents and her aspirations to become a paramedic or join the military.
Wilson's sister, Latifa, broke down in tears as she read a poem about her sister.
"Baby girl, shine bright and big sister promise we're going to get justice for you," she said. "I love you."
John Cowell, a 27-year-old parolee, has been charged with murder and attempted murder in the July 22 stabbings. Prosecutors say they are probing whether the incident was motivated by racial hate. Cowell is white, and the sisters are black.
Rep. Barbara Lee, a Democrat who represents Oakland, said Wilson was a "brilliant and beautiful young black woman."
"We stand with you today in this outpouring of love and condolences, but also we stand with you today demanding justice," she said.
Wilson's family plans to sue Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) for wrongful death for failing to provide adequate security in its stations and on its trains, where violent crime has soared, their attorney, Robert Arns, said.
California Department of Justice figures show violent crime rates have risen 69 percent in the BART system over the last decade, despite a decrease of 8 percent in California in the same time.
The agency has been beefing up its response to fare evasion and has installed 4,000 surveillance cameras, including on every train, BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost said. "We are thankful the suspect is in custody due in large part to our surveillance system," Trost said.
This item corrects the spelling of Wilson's sister's name, Latifa.
Associated Press writer Paul Elias in San Francisco also contributed to this story.