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

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The sailor who has been accused of stabbing another sailor near Naval Medical Center Portsmouth at Naval Support Activity Hampton Roads' Portsmouth Annex is now in custody.

There was a massive manhunt for Wilbur Harwell on Friday.

Police say he was captured in Virginia Beach without incident near the area of 26th Street and Pacific.

The victim, Petty Officer 2nd Class Justin Powell, had surgery but remains in critical condition Navy Officials said during a press conference Friday Evening. His parents drove in from Pennsylvania, where he is from originally.  He joined the Navy in July of 2007 officials say. 

Officials say the stabbing occurred around 8:30 a.m. in front of the installation's Navy Exchange between the two active duty sailors.

A "Code White" alert was issued for the installation, which typically refers to an active shooter in the building. However, in this case, the code did refer to a stabbing, not a shooting.

The alert went out just after 9:06 a.m.

They say the victim suffered multiple stab wounds to his chest and neck area.

The installation was then closed to all incoming traffic. Outbound traffic that was on the roads within the gates when the gates were closed was searched as it exited the base.

Staff at the hospital were told to shelter in place. Officials were directing those with appointments or business at the installation to stay away at the time.

Witnesses tell NewsChannel 3 they believe they saw Harwell arrested in Virginia Beach.

Shana White worked across the street from the Oceanfront Holiday on 26th and Atlantic this afternoon.

“There was a whole bunch of K-9 units and cop cars, and then you saw the SWAT team run in there,” she says.

Holiday Inn guest Mike Richards believes the suspect may have been on his floor.

“They were up on the roof, all around the building, hanging out, down in the lobby,” says Richards.

NewsChannel 3 asked hotel staff to confirm Harrell was arrested there, but an employee said she couldn't comment.

That massive manhunt lasted nearly 9 hours and those who worked inside that hospital weren't allowed to move.

Slowly police started letting patients leave Naval Medical Center Portsmouth around 3 o’clock, but employees had to stay put and in lockdown mode until around 5 p.m. which is around the same time police arrested the suspect.

Jennifer Corack was in the hospital and says the medical center just did a drill yesterday, and they're thankful they knew what to do in what she calls a nerve-racking situation.

The Portsmouth Police Department, Chesapeake Police Department, Norfolk Police Department, Naval Criminal Investigative Service and FBI all responded and assisted with the investigation and search.

Because of the proximity of the search area and as a precaution, Parkview Elementary and Norcom High School in Portsmouth were placed on a partial lockdown. School officials say the partial lockdown means no one could come in or out of the school but classes were still switching as scheduled. They dismissed on time.








  • Edward

    So, you mean a day after the reported active shooter drill, there’s an active shooter. Funny how that keeps happening.

  • Nowl Jones

    Reports from people in the area say that its not an active shooter; however, someone did get stabbed.

  • Chris Jobe

    Active Shooter does not mean a person with a gun. All it means is a person causing harm in a confined or highly populated area. Just trying to clear that up.

  • SD3

    “Active Shooter does not mean a person with a gun.”

    OK. I guess that makes about as much sense as trading 5 Taliban for a deserter no one wanted in the first place. Go America.

  • Paul Nazarovitch

    Just briefly looking at the available posts of his public Facebook page, he seems to mold into that chilling profile of a person who doesn’t care about the value of a human life. I can only wonder if there were any warning signs of his radical behavior, and if so what type of fear held back 5 he reporting of it. I of course worked at that very same command not long ago, and I recall speculation of a fellow corpsman in the hospital depicting disturbing thoughts, drawings, and notes about homicidal thoughts. That, situation became covered and at least to my knowledge never resulted in any legal or military ramifications. Wouldn’t be surprising.

  • bookchick59

    Active Shooter is the official name of the code that was called (Code White). There is no Active Stabber code. Read the article, SD3. It makes perfect sense.

  • ME

    So…a “Code White” could mean that there’s a radical muslim extremist terrorist loose on base shooting everything in sight, or someone from the Navy just got into a knife-fight and they can’t find them. That’s quite a system.

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  • KL

    I was watching this story unfold on Friday and I was shocked and kinda sickened that WTKR would publicly post the gunman’s FB profile like that and point out so many details. I can understand showing a picture or two so the public can identify and report him to authorities while his location was still unknown, but to blatantly broadcast his profile? It showed no discretion, no tact. Sure, there’s the argument that whatever wasn’t set to “private” is fair game, but how many people do you know would ever believe their profile would be displayed like that? It’s one thing for an individual to search for a person on their own, but another for a profile to be broadcast to a wide audience on television. I’m not advocating what he did, but he has rights too. FB stalking is shameful enough to admit to, but WTKR wasn’t holding back one bit.

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