For this article, Black Press Media received permission from the stabbing victim’s family to name her, but using her only first name: Ramita.
Stephen Fowler was waiting for the light to change.
The Nelson businessman had just left his store, Booksmyth Used Books, and was standing at the intersection of Baker and Stanley Streets at about 5:20 p.m. on Sept. 19.
There were a few people waiting on the other side of Stanley, by the Full Circle Cafe, facing him, including Ramita, a woman he did not know.
Just as the light turned and the pedestrians moved into the street, Fowler saw a woman move quickly up behind Ramita and the pedestrians on the other side of the intersection, waving her arms.
“At first I didn’t know she had a knife in her hand,” Fowler told the Nelson Star.
“She brought the knife down from behind on Ramita’s right shoulder, and Ramita turned a bit, and got stabbed again in the other shoulder from the front. Me and another guy yelled and ran at them, and Ramita kind of got away and [the woman] backed off a bit.”
Now the attacker was back on the sidewalk, and Ramita was still on the pavement.
“[The woman with the knife] had her back to me and I grabbed her from behind and she got out of that and went behind me and went at Ramita again. Ramita was down, up, down again.”
Fowler said he heard the assailant saying something about being trolled, and how they weren’t going to be able to troll her again.
Police have reported that she had been in Nelson only three days, and that she and Ramita did not know each other.
Fowler and others managed to separate Ramita and her attacker again.
“At one point there were three of us, a guy on my right and another one on my left and we all tried to pin her in, against the building where the patio of Full Circle is.
“She saw this happening and she took a lunge at the guy on my left and he backed off and she lunged at me, and in that moment I thought, she could really hurt me.
“We were face to face. She had a hunting knife. She lunged at me and I got out of the way and she got past me and went to stab Ramita again, and I grabbed her from behind. Then another guy, a guy with a motorcycle helmet on, grabbed both of us from behind. He had me and I had her, and he wrapped his arms around both of us.
“She was very strong, very tiny, wiry. I don’t know if I could have held her if the motorcycle helmet guy had not been there.
“We tried to pin her arms, she was still struggling, and that is when she stabbed me, on the side of the leg. I said to no one in particular, ‘I’ve been stabbed.’ I said it matter of factly because it didn’t hurt, but it was suddenly numb.”
During all this, Ramita was on the ground in the intersection, “surrounded by people who were talking to her, helping her, keeping her conscious.”
But Fowler says he was only vaguely conscious of that. He and the others were trying to get the knife away from the woman, and the man with the motorcycle helmet, Warren Rich of Nelson, managed to do that. He had entered the fray because he said it looked like the others needed help.
“There was a need, so I just went for it,” he said. “I grabbed her arm with the knife in it and … I grabbed the blade and I twisted it out of her hand while I held her wrist.”
As soon as the knife was gone, Fowler said she stopped fighting, although Rich said “she was snarling and growling like she was possessed by a demon. She was a wildcat.”
Rich said he grabbed her by both hands and threw her down on the ground and sat on her, with Fowler lying partially beneath them both, until the police came.
First responders arrived and the police handcuffed and arrested the woman with the knife.
Ramita is reported to be in stable condition in a Kelowna hospital. Her family has started a GoFundMe page. Fowler is now fully mobile, with three stitches in his leg. Rich was uninjured despite having grabbed the knife by the blade. The attacker, according to police, also stabbed herself during the incident.
Fowler estimates that less than 10 minutes elapsed between the first stab wound and the arrival of the police.
‘A job that needed doing’
Even though the actions of Fowler and Rich and others probably saved Ramita’s life, Fowler and Rich are modest about their roles, saying that there were many people helping.
“There was a job that needed doing and I was in a position to do it,” Fowler said, “not because I am particularly brave or any of that. I just stopped thinking, and the job was to keep her from doing any more harm, and I did that.”
He said the other people in the crosswalk did what needed to be done too, without hesitation. For some, that meant staying out of the way.
“Everybody was doing something to help, and that is a remarkable thing.”
He said he saw one of the Baker Street homeless people directing traffic.
“This is their community too. They don’t want to see stuff like this happening. He was there, saw a job that needed doing, and he did it.”
He said he’s heard some negative commentary about how this incident shows a deterioration of life here, wondering what is happening in Nelson.
But Fowler says this could have happened anywhere in the world.
“It was this town that responded in this way. So that is what is happening in Nelson.”
Fowler also says some people have criticized his actions, “saying I should have hit her, or, ‘I would have kicked the shit out of her,’ that sort of comment.”
His response: “But you weren’t there, so you don’t know what you would have done. And you are kind of telling me I did the wrong thing. But I didn’t. You don’t stop violence with violence. You just get more violence. I didn’t want to hurt her. She is already broken. Hurting her won’t do anything but hurt her more.”
A couple of days before the stabbing, the attacker had come into Fowler’s shop, looking for a book. She told him she wanted something light-weight, because she was travelling.
“She was a quirky woman,” Fowler said. “We had a chat. I kind of liked her. And then the next time I see her she’s stabbing Ramita.”
Fiona Coyle has been charged with attempted murder in this incident, and is scheduled to appear in Nelson court on Oct. 8. The allegations against her have not been proven in court.