Six children and three adults were stabbed Saturday night in what Boise police are calling the highest casualty event in the city’s history. The attack took place during a three-year-old’s birthday party at a low-income apartment complex that mainly houses refugees.
All nine victims are refugees from overseas, all have been hospitalized, and four are being treated for life-threatening injuries. The victims include three adults, the 3-year-old birthday girl, two 4-year-olds, and children ages 6, 8, and 12.
“As you can imagine the witnesses in the apartment complex along with the rest of our community are reeling from this attack,” Boise Police Chief Bill Bones said at a press conference on Sunday. “This is an attack against those who are most vulnerable, our children. It’s untenable, unconscionable and is pure evil in my mind.”
Bones said police responded within four minutes and found the injured lying in the buildings, on the walkways, and in the street.
“The crime scene, the faces of the parents struggling, the tears coming down their faces, the faces of the children in the hospital beds, will be something that I will carry with me for the rest of my life,” Bones said. “And so will every first responder that was there last night.”
Police have identified the suspect as a 30-year-old man from Los Angeles who has an extensive criminal history involving drugs and firearms. The man had recently been kicked out of the apartment complex where the attack took place, and he returned to “exact vengeance,” according to police.
Not finding the individuals who had asked him to leave, he decided to attack “any target which was available.” A birthday party was taking place several doors down from where the man had been staying, and police say he began by “targeting the children” before adults stepped in to defend them.
He’s been charged with nine counts of aggravated battery and six counts of injury to a child, all of which are felonies. Bones said more charges may be forthcoming.
The suspect’s rap sheet includes dealing marijuana and Xanax, theft, and at least two counts of illegally possessing a firearm, according to the Idaho Statesman.
Boise residents held a rally on Sunday to support the victims of the attack.
Fidel Nshombo, Idaho representative for the Refugee Congress, a national advocacy group, helped lead the rally. He told the Statesman that Boise has been a place of “love, peace, and stability” since he emigrated as a refugee in 2006. Now an American citizen, he wanted to support those who had been attacked.
“I felt how defenseless those kids were, and how their parents felt they couldn’t protect them in those moments,” he said. “I had to come and support them and be part of this.”