Amtrak victim to 911: ‘There’s a guy stabbing people’

Michael Williams appears in court via video for arraignment on Dec. 8, 2014.


NILES, Mich. (WOOD) — A victim bleeding from a chest wound was among the handful of Amtrak train passengers who called 911 to report a stabbing rampage early this month.

“We are in Niles at the Amtrak station and there’s a guy on there stabbing people,” passenger Gayle VanVorst told a police dispatcher on Dec. 5. “I was stabbed already. We just jumped off the train to get away.”

It’s still not clear why Michael Darnell Williams, 44, of Saginaw, went on a stabbing rampage. He has a long history of mental illness.

Minutes before the rampage that injured four, including an assistant conductor, a train dispatcher called Niles police with a request for help about what he called a “disgruntled passenger.”

Amtrak Train 364 was still about five minutes from reaching the Niles station.

Then, the disturbance on the train quickly escalated, according to 911 calls and dispatches obtained Wednesday by 24 Hour News 8. Williams stabbed VanVorst once in the chest.

“I’m bleeding bad, and there’s other people worse,” she told a dispatcher. “I’ve got to sit down. I’m going to pass out.”

“OK, we’re going to get someone headed your way,” the dispatcher said. “You say a man on the train?”

“Hurry, hurry,” VanVorst responded. “He’s like killing people. It’s bad.”

His first victim was a train employee.

“He stabbed one of the guards, I think, to death,” VanVorst told the dispatcher. “I think he cut his throat.”

The employee she was referencing, actually assistant conductor Dontrol Bankhead, 40,  was stabbed six times in the head, chest and neck, but survived. Williams later told police he believed the man was a demon.

The stabbing led to a handful of 911 calls, including one from a woman who paused her conversation with a dispatcher to help a victim.

“You need to lay down, now, because this is bleeding out here,” the unidentified woman said.

Within minutes, Niles police charged onto the train. An officer used his Taser to take down Williams.

“They’re here right now,” VanVorst told the dispatcher. “They’re here. The cops are here.”

>>Inside woodtv.com: Amtrak stabbing witness: ‘It’s on now’

VanVorst is already back to work. The conditions of the other victims was not clear Wednesday, though they were initially listed in stable condition. An Amtrak spokeswoman refused to update the condition of the assistant conductor, who was out of the hospital and back to work.

Williams is charged with four counts of attempted murder,  but his case is on hold while he undergoes a psychiatric exam.

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