Several families who had fled danger and violence overseas were enjoying a three-year-old’s birthday party in Boise, Idaho, when the unthinkable happened: A man ran up and began chasing and stabbing the children, turning his knife on the adults who tried to intervene.
The attack came on Saturday night at a low-income apartment complex that is also home to refugee families from around the world. Nine people were injured, including the birthday girl and five other children ranging in age from four to 12.
The most gravely injured were clinging to life on Sunday evening, Boise Police Chief William Bones said.
“The victims are some of the newest members of our community,” Bones said. “This was an attack against those who are most vulnerable.”
The chaos began shortly before 8:46pm on Saturday, when police received a report of a man with a knife. They arrived less than four minutes later to find victims lying in the street, in the parking lot and inside the complex.
Thirty-year-old Timmy Kinner was found and arrested a short distance away; investigators later found a knife believed to be used in the attack in a nearby canal.
Members of refugee families from Syria, Iraq and Ethiopia were among the injured.
Kinner, who is not a refugee, had been asked to leave the apartment complex on Friday after staying there for a short time with a resident, Bones said.
Kinner faces several felony charges, including aggravated battery and injury to a child.
“We have no specific evidence at this time to believe it was a hate crime,” Bones told reporters at a news conference on Sunday, saying the victims might have simply been targeted because of where they were located on the property.
The motive remains under investigation, he said.
Esrom Habte, 12, and Fathi Mahamoud, 11, were playing in the grass behind their apartment when the attack began. They ran for safety when they saw the suspect chasing people.
“We saw a killer and didn’t want to get stabbed,” Esrom said. “We saw him saying, like, bad words and stabbing a kid and a grown-up really hard and a lot of times.”
The two ran into an apartment and hid in a closet with Esrom’s two sisters and another child, and stayed inside until police told them it was safe to come out.
“I saw the police cleaning stuff, and then I came outside,” Fathi said, adding that the victims are his friends.
The victims include members of three refugee families from Iraq, Ethiopia and Syria.
The attack resulted in the most victims in a single incident in Boise Police Department history, Bones said.
“The crime scene, the faces of the parents struggling, the tears coming down their faces, the faces of the children in their hospital beds will be something that I carry with me for the rest of my life, as will every first responder that night,” he said.
Police believe Kinner had only been in Boise for a short time when he met a resident of the complex, who offered him a temporary place to stay. She asked him to leave on Friday because of his behavior.
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