Woman Stabs Two At Montgomery Mall

By Lori Aratani and Allan Lengel
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, May 26, 2005

A knife-wielding woman stabbed a shopper at a Nordstrom in a Montgomery County mall last night, then calmly walked to an escalator and attacked a second woman, sending dozens of screaming customers running for the exits, police and witnesses said.

The violence, which police said appeared to be random, ended when an off-duty FBI agent who witnessed the second stabbing pulled out his gun, ordered the woman to drop the knife and arrested her, police said.

Both women were being treated at hospitals last night for injuries that were thought not to be life-threatening.

"At this time, we believe this was random," said Lt. Eric Burnett, a spokesman for Montgomery County police. "We have no idea what prompted this assault."

The incident began about 6:55 p.m. at Westfield Shoppingtown Montgomery -- the shopping center on Democracy Boulevard formerly known as Montgomery Mall -- when a woman attacked a 24-year-old shopper in the customer service area on the store's third floor. The shopper was stabbed in the abdomen and upper back, police said, and suffered defensive wounds on both arms.

Irina Slutsky was riding up to the third floor when a saleswoman came running toward the escalator and told riders: "Go back down! Go back down!"

Slutsky had already reached the third floor, where she saw a woman gripping what Slutsky said appeared to be a kitchen knife in her right hand, held at her side.

"It was dripping blood, not a lot, but it was dripping blood," Slutsky said. "Unless you were paying attention, you couldn't see the knife." The attacker "was walking calmly toward the down escalator," she said.

The assailant then headed down the escalator toward the second floor and started attacking a woman wearing a pink sweater and black pants, Slutsky said.

"She kind of leaned over and started stabbing this woman in the back," said Slutsky, who is visiting from San Francisco. The second victim, who authorities said was in her twenties, "started running down on the escalator, trying to get away, and the woman with the knife started running after her," Slutsky said.

Moments later, Adam Karcher, an FBI agent who had been behind the attacker on the escalator, intervened and arrested her, police said. Karcher was not available for comment last night.

Some witnesses reported hearing gunshots, but authorities said no shots were fired.

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