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Witness: Police may have saved lives in attack on Amtrak train from Chicago

Michael Darnell Williams / photo from Niles, Mich., police
Michael Darnell Williams / photo from Niles, Mich., police

NILES, Michigan — Police officers struggling to get through a chaotic scene in Michigan aboard an Amtrak train from Chicago were credited Saturday with preventing even more bloodshed after a man stabbed a conductor and three passengers.

“It was pretty incredible that they may have saved some lives,” passenger Tyler Vandermolen said.

Michael Williams, 44, of Saginaw, Michigan, was charged Saturday with attempted murder.

He’s accused of stabbing four people while the train was stopped around 6 p.m. Chicago time Friday at a depot in Niles, in southwestern Michigan, about 10 miles north of South Bend, Indiana.

The victims’ conditions were reported to have stabilized.

Officers rushed to the scene after Amtrak called police about a passenger acting suspiciously on the Chicago-to-Port Huron train, Train No. 364 on the Blue Water service, Niles Police Chief Jim Millin said.

“They saw commotion in the train car,” Millin said of his officers. “They had to forcefully work their way through the crowd. As soon as the first officer turned in to the car, Mr. Williams was less than 10 feet away, and he had the knife in his hand. The officer used his Taser and was able to subdue” him.

“Certainly, there’s a possibility he could have kept on assaulting passengers, and things could have been a lot worse,” the chief said.

A motive wasn’t known.

“It doesn’t appear he was screaming or in anger against any of these people. He just started cutting and stabbing,” Millin said.

Williams was being held on $1 million bail at the Berrien County Jail.

Niles Mayor Michael McCauslin said the wounded included an Amtrak conductor, a female passenger and two male passengers.

The train, which had 172 passengers, remained in Niles for hours after the attack as investigators gathered evidence and spoke with witnesses. It finally resumed its journey at 1:20 a.m. Saturday.

Passenger Caitlin Cipri told the South Bend Tribune she was packing her things to get off the train when she heard screaming. She initially thought the suspect was punching a passenger — until she saw the butt of a knife. She said she saw the man stab two other people.

“It was terrifying, and you don’t think something like that is going to happen to you,” Cipri said. “It’s terrifying that things like this happen.”

Online records show Williams had a drug conviction in Saginaw County in 1997.

He apparently boarded the train in Chicago with a destination of Flint, Mich., police said.