UPDATE: Prosecutors drop charges against accused NMCP attacker, clear way for court martial

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UPDATE: Federal prosecutors drop charges against accused NMCP attacker Wilbur Harwell, clearing way for a Navy court martial. Click here for details

The knife attack Friday that left a sailor critically wounded and another sailor on the run happened during a fight inside the barracks at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, according to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

A crime summary filed in federal court this morning reveals several witnesses in a barracks saw Wilbur Harwell fighting with another sailor, Justin Powell. The witnesses tried to pull the sailors apart when they noticed Powell was bleeding badly. Another witness saw Harwell holding a knife, according to the document. Eventually, witnesses were able to separate the sailors. Powell got up and “began clinching his throat and started walking down the corridor out of the barracks attempting to ask for help,” according to the summary. He collapsed outside the barracks. Surgeons worked hours to save him Friday. Agents say Powell was stabbed several times in the neck and stomach. He survived.

Several witnesses identified Harwell as the attacker and said he ran away. The summary does not say how he was able to escape the base. The base was locked down, trapping hundreds of military members and civilians on the property for most of the day Friday. Harwell was found at an Oceanfront hotel and arrested. When police reached the wounded sailor outside the barracks, they also asked him if it was Harwell who attacked him. Powell nodded, according to agents.

While Harwell was on the run, he sent text messages to a friend, the summary says. He told the friend he had stabbed Powell several times and thought that Powell might die.

Harwell appeared in federal court on Monday afternoon.  Wearing a tight white tank top and black shorts, he stood at at attention as he answered the judge's questions. His head was shaved.

When asked his name, he responded, "Harwell, Wilbur Garrett, social security number ..." before the judge cut him off.

The prosecutor said it is not clear yet whether he will be tried in federal court or military court.

He will stay in custody at least until the next hearing, on Thursday.

Court document: Harwell's Criminal Complaint

Court document: Harwell's Probable Cause Affidavit


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Man accused of stabbing near Naval Medical Center Portsmouth now in custody; victim remains critical

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    • John Pokrzywa

      They were most likely in the barracks because some of them live there. No idea what the fight was about, I could speculate, but the fact they’ve not mentioned that might mean it’s related to the case.

  • C L

    This headline is that he spoke in court. Besides his name, did he say anything else? Did the friend he texted have any insight on what happened? This is pathetic.

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