WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Police hope the release of surveillance video and an identifiable piece of clothing will lead to the arrest of a man suspected of stabbing a woman in West Palm Beach Sunday morning.
She was riding a bike along Flagler Drive and Okeechobee Boulevard, under the bridge, at about 11 a.m. when a man pushed her off the bicycle and stabbed her in an apparent robbery attempt.
Police say their investigation reveals the man hid in in the basement parking garage of 777 S. Flagler Drive after jumping over an eight-foot barbwire gate.
His camouflage sweatshirt/jacket was recovered nearby.
They describe the suspect as a black male, either in his 20s or 30s. He's 5-9 to 5-10, with a thin build, facial hair and small twists in his hair.
His eyes are yellowish in color and may indicate he suffers from jaundice.
Police say he was last seen in dark-colored pants and a white T-shirt walking south from Okeechobee Blvd., and South Dixie Highway around 8:47 p.m. Sunday.
The victim was last listed in stable condition.
The violent incident is helping downtown's image if you ask business owners like Russ Griffin who owns Finer Optics on Clematis.
“I am sick and tired of being sick and tired of seeing innocent victims being taken advantage of by derelicts that don’t even belong downtown,” said Griffin.
He’s been in business downtown for more than 25 years. He says the downtown businesses will continue to get hurt if people don’t feel safe coming, pointing to Sunday’s stabbing and the one from last month as prime examples.
“It just invites trouble when you allow that type of activity to flourish, so you’ve got to clamp it. You’ve got to stop it before somebody gets stabbed in the neck. Why does it have to get to that point.”
Griffin says he believes the police have their hands tied.
"They have a finger on the pulse. They know who the bad guys are and they know how to get rid of them. We just have to let them do their job.”
On the other hand, West Palm Beach Commissioner Paula Ryan thinks the solution may be elsewhere.
She said she walked under the same bridge about 30 minutes before the stabbing Sunday, and believes she saw the suspect.
“I was stunned and I said that that’s probably the guy. It was probably the same guy that I had seen."
Ryan, who has a background in affordable housing, brought up the Sunday incident at Monday night’s commission saying she would like to see her board commit city dollars to a solution.
“The mayor says this all the time we cannot police our way out of this. It is not illegal to be homeless, but there are things that we can do if we commit our resources our general revenue."
“We have to be able to engage with this population before violence occurs and you need professional outreach to do that.”
Ryan suggested a team of mental health professionals who patrol the downtown area in vehicles stocked with resources like food and water to help begin a dialogue with those in need.
“You’re not going to solve that person’s problem by pulling up in a van and having a conversation with them, but you begin that conversation,” said Ryan.
Anyone who recognizes the suspect or who has any information is urged to call the West Palm Beach Police Department or Detectives Leon @ 561-822-1823 or O’Dea @ 561-822-1782 or Palm Beach County Crime Stoppers @ 1-800-458-8477.