NORFOLK, VA. — A sailor suspected of repeatedly stabbing another in a barracks near a naval hospital was able to leave the base before its gates were closed in response to the attack, the Navy said Thursday.
The Navy says Petty Officer 2nd Class Justin Powell was stabbed by Petty Officer 3rd Class Wilbur Harwell near Naval Medical Center Portsmouth last Friday. The installation was locked down within two minutes after authorities were made aware of the stabbing at 8:33 a.m. that day.
A wide manhunt of Naval Support Activity Hampton Roads, Portsmouth Annex was conducted throughout the day for Harwell, who lived at the barracks. Harwell was found Friday afternoon at an oceanfront hotel in nearby Virginia Beach.
The Navy said investigators are questioning another service member who aided in Harwell’s escape and drove him to the beach. No further details of how he escaped or when have been released.
Authorities have said Powell and Harwell knew each other before the fight at the barracks, but haven’t said what they were fighting about.
Powell, 25, of Sarver, Pennsylvania, was stabbed in the neck and the abdomen multiple times, according to an affidavit filed in federal court. Harwell was originally charged in federal court with assault with intent to murder and assault with a dangerous weapon. On Thursday, Harwell was transferred into Navy custody. Harwell can either be prosecuted in military court or federal court, but not both.
An initial review hearing for Harwell is scheduled Friday in military court to determine whether to continue his confinement at a Navy brig in Chesapeake. If Harwell is ordered to remain in confinement, the military generally requires he be arraigned within 120 days. No military charges have been filed against Harwell.
Powell was in critical condition immediately after the stabbing and required surgery. Since then, he has been upgraded to good condition.