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'I Knew What I Had to Do'

Visitor Relates Effort To Stop Slashings at Va. Retirement Home

By Annie Gowen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 11, 2005; Page A01

John Springer had just settled down for a cozy Sunday visit with his 95-year-old mother when the hushed halls of the Goodwin House retirement community in Alexandria were pierced by a woman's scream.

Springer leapt up and ran down the hall to a small office, where he saw a large man in a gray housekeeping uniform bent over an employee, slashing her in the face repeatedly with a steak knife. Blood reddened the walls and the carpet.

Police lead suspect Mustafa Mohamed away from Goodwin House, where the attacks occurred. (Andrea Bruce Woodall -- The Washington Post)

"I knew what I had to do," Springer said yesterday. He lunged toward the man, who remained absorbed in his silent, methodical work, and pulled him off the woman.

Then the man turned his flashing blade in Springer's direction, throwing him down on the ground and repeatedly slashing his face.

"I knew he was cutting me. I could feel it," Springer, 62, a legal administrator, recalled yesterday. Blood began gushing down his left cheek. Then he couldn't see.

By the time the assailant was subdued by two other visitors and an Alexandria police officer, four elderly residents also were seriously injured, including two who were stabbed or slashed as they lay helpless in their beds in the facility's health care center. In all, six people, not seven as originally believed, were injured in the attack, including one who suffered a broken neck and another who needed 200 stitches, police said. Two victims remained hospitalized last night.

Alexandria General District Court Judge E. Robert Giammittorio yesterday ordered a member of the housekeeping staff, Mustafa Mohamed, 30, of Alexandria, held without bond on two counts of malicious wounding.

Mohamed requested that a public defender represent him. Public defender Melinda Douglas declined to comment last night.

Commonwealth's Attorney S. Randolph Sengel said the attack might have stemmed from a disagreement between the suspect and another staff member at the facility, where Mohamed had worked since 2003.

Although there have been a number of high-profile incidents of workplace violence in recent years, the number of homicides and assaults has declined about 20 percent since the mid-1990s, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Health care and social services workers faced the highest risk of non-fatal assault.

During 2002, the latest year for which statistics were available, 18,104 non-fatal assaults, including shootings, stabbings and beatings, were reported at private-sector workplaces.

According to court documents, Mohamed also was accused of pummeling a co-worker in another dispute at a workplace, a CVS drugstore, in 2003. The case was dropped after the victim declined to testify.

Yesterday, several of the retirement community's 400 residents spoke with counselors and a chaplain brought in by the staff of Goodwin House, who sought to quell residents' fears.

"We need to make sure we provide support and . . . make sure they're well," said Colleen Ryan Mallon, corporate director for marketing at Goodwin House. "It's very scary."

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