By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
A BAHAMIAN man has said he is thankful to be alive after he was slashed in his face during a knife attack at a restaurant in Pembroke Pines, Florida, on Saturday.
Harold Williams, a Bahamasair manager, went into the Pines Market restaurant at 9610 Pines Boulevard on Saturday to use the restroom and was attacked as he walked to the rear of the business. He has described it as an unprovoked attack which left him with a large slash on the side of his face and one of his eyes swollen shut.
Mr Williams was not in the US on official airline business, Bahamasair chairman Tommy Turnquest said yesterday.
A Pembroke Pines Police Department official confirmed to The Tribune yesterday that the alleged attacker is Fawaz Hassan, a 24-year-old employee of Pines Market. He was taken into custody following the incident.
Mr Williams told 7News Miami he was in Florida to pick up medication and was running errands on Saturday when he stopped at the sandwich shop to use the restroom. He said a man behind the counter said he could use the restroom there. As he was walking to the restroom, the assailant attacked him, he said.
“I just don’t understand why they attacked me,” he said, telling 7News he is grateful to be alive.
“As I approached him, I felt this knock on the side of my face. I thought he punched me,” he said. “It wasn’t until I looked down, and I saw him holding a kitchen knife, eight or 10 inches long, and then the blood started gushing everywhere, and I realised I was stabbed.”
According to 7 News, Mr Williams said the man who stabbed him didn’t say a word.
“I tried to get out of there, because he looked like he was coming to stab me again,” he said, “and the other guy who was with him, he just opened the door and said to me, ‘Never come back here again.’”
Mr Williams told the news station that a US doctor said he may need surgery to repair the muscle in his jaw.
Pembroke Pines police took Mr Hassan into custody and charged him with aggravated battery.
“The victim entered into Pines Market - 9610 Pines Boulevard - to use the restroom,” a police official said. “As the victim walked towards the rear of the business, the suspect struck him in the cheek with a knife.
“The suspect, 24-year-old Fawaz Hassan is an employee of the business, and stated that he was defending himself.
“Our investigation did not reveal that the victim was armed, or presented any threat to the suspect. The suspect was subsequently taken into custody.
“I have no information regarding this incident being related to a hate crime, but I am aware of an assault which occurred in our city on Saturday,” the official also said.
Some speculated on social media that the incident was a hate crime, however another US police official told this newspaper for the case to be considered as such the perpetrator would have had to have shouted racial slurs in the presence of a witness.
Still, the attack triggered calls for the government to issue a statement stating its position on incidents of this kind.
However, when Foreign Affairs Minister Darren Henfield was asked about the situation at an event yesterday, he said he did not know about it and declined comment.
The incident follows a harsh “Level Two: Exercise Increased Caution” alert by the US warning its citizens about crime levels in the Bahamas.
It warned US citizens that violent crime such as burglaries, armed robberies, and sexual assault were common in tourist areas in New Providence. The alert noted the vast majority of crimes occurred in the capital and Grand Bahama, but added the Family Islands were not crime-free.
As in previous crime warnings, the alert also prohibited US government personnel from visiting the Sand Trap area in Nassau due to crime and criticised activities involving commercial recreational watercraft, including water tours, stating that they were not consistently regulated.
Former Foreign Affairs and Immigration Minister Fred Mitchell issued a statement and seemed to suggest there needed to be a crime warning issued from the Bahamas to Bahamians in the US.
He said: “The PLP is deeply concerned about reports of an unprovoked stabbing and serious wounds to Harold Williams, a manager of Bahamasair, on Saturday, 16 March 2019. It appears that this may be a hate crime. The matter is being investigated.
“The government of the Bahamas must say what the position is on this matter and if indeed it is so classified as a hate crime. This issue bears some greater importance given the constant attacks on public safety matters by US officials about the Bahamas.”
For his part, Mr Turnquest said the incident was “most unfortunate,” adding he spoke to Mr Williams on Sunday, following the attack.
This newspaper could not reach Mr Williams yesterday, but a relative told The Tribune the family wanted privacy at this time.