By Bethany Bray, Tom Dalton and Neil H. Dempsey
---- — SALEM — The suspect in a stabbing at Salem State University yesterday morning has been arrested in New York, according to university spokesperson Karen Cady. Timothy Wells, 25, of Woburn is in custody after police arrested him on Taconic State Parkway in upstate New York late last night, she said.
“Obviously, the authorities in New York state will be working with local authorities to discuss extradition,” Cady said.
No more information on Wells’ arrest was available before press time last night.
The entire city was on high alert yesterday after a man, later identified by police as Wells, reportedly stabbed two people on a Salem State University shuttle bus, fled the scene and remained at-large until he was arrested about 12 hours later.
The SSU campus, including Horace Mann Laboratory School, was under a “shelter in place” lockdown order for more than two hours yesterday.
Police swarmed the SSU area yesterday afternoon and were stationed at each of the city’s public schools during afternoon dismissal.
The incident happened around 11 a.m., when police say Wells approached a female student on the shuttle while the bus was in SSU’s Central Campus parking lot.
“He went toward her and inflicted a superficial slash on the top of her hand,” said Karen Cady, SSU spokesperson. “The bus driver got up to intervene, and the assailant went after him and inflicted a superficial laceration on his upper chest.”
The female student did not know her assailant, Cady said.
The suspect got off the bus, fled on foot across Loring Avenue, got into a car and took off into the city, Cady said. Police pursued him down Jefferson Avenue but stopped the chase for safety reasons, according to Salem State police Chief Gene Labonte.
The license plate on the car led officers to the suspect’s family, police said.
Wells had been arrested in Salem three weeks ago for trespassing at Bertram Field late at night and violating the city’s knife ordinance.
Wells is a SSU student, a senior, who took a leave of absence in the beginning of September, Cady said.
Salem police issued a “be on the lookout” bulletin for Wells’ brown 1999 Toyota Camry just after 11 a.m. Salem State officials sent out a campus-wide bulletin alerting the university of the incident at 11:46 a.m.
The city also sent out a reverse-911 message yesterday afternoon with a description of the suspect and vehicle.
Both victims are expected to be OK, Cady said. The bus driver was taken to the hospital with minor, non-life-threatening injuries and was released yesterday. The female victim declined to be taken to the hospital.
Salem State President Patricia Meservey praised the bus driver who “bravely intervened when he saw that one of our students was being assaulted.”
Police continued to search for Wells yesterday evening and had a warrant for his arrest. The warrant is for two counts of assault with intent to murder and two counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, Cady said.
Classes are set to resume as usual at Salem State today.
Passengers do not have to show any type of student identification to ride the shuttle buses, which run a loop between Salem State’s north, south and central campuses.
“He could have just boarded one of the buses (without being a student),” Cady said.
SSU undergraduate Vova Harlov said he saw numerous police vehicles, the bus where the stabbing occurred and helicopters circling overhead as he arrived to Central Campus around 11:30 a.m.
Harlov had been in class for about five minutes when the campus was put in lockdown; he and his classmates remained there for more than two hours.
“We turned the lights off and huddled next to the wall furthest from the windows,” Harlov said. “... People were on their phones. It was really quiet in the room; no one was really talking.”
Students took the lockdown seriously, Harlov said, but were a little impatient by the end.
Students used their laptops and cellphones to keep informed; Harlov said he received three voice mails from campus security in the span of an hour during the lockdown.
SSU sophomore Jess Baumann said she was in Marsh Hall when the building’s alarm went off and she received a phone alert about the lockdown.
“I just woke up from a nap, and all of the sudden, there was beeping and people running around crazy,” Baumann said.
Instead of making her 1:30 p.m. science lab, Baumann spent the early part of the afternoon with her friend SSU sophomore Shannon O’Connor, watching news coverage of the event and looking out at the area where it had just happened.
“We just kind of sat at the window and watched for a couple hours,” O’Connor said, adding that the lockdown was lifted in time for her English class, but that it had already been cancelled.
Aside from watching news and trying to get a glimpse of the action, students said they found a variety of distractions to stem off the boredom — surfing the Internet and watching television foremost among them.
“We just sat and watched a movie,” said Lindsay Lapan, an SSU sophomore who was trapped inside Bowditch Hall during the lockdown. She and her friends watched “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.”
Visiting scholar Jonathan Li, from southeastern China, said dealing with the lockdown was more about finding a way to kill the time, as opposed to actually being afraid.
He said his native country has seen its share of school-related stabbing sprees, but that the incident at the university — where he’d just begun a yearlong program this month — seemed comparatively minor, as the bus driver had been able to get himself out of the bus of his own accord.
At least one student expressed frustration at the presence of news media following the lifting of the lockdown.
The bus driver is an employee of Cavalier Coach and is not employed directly by SSU, Cady said.
Joan Libby, Cavalier Coach CEO, released a statement yesterday afternoon saying they were cooperating with law enforcement following the incident on their bus.
“We greatly appreciate the immediate action our driver took to protect the passenger from further harm, and we wish him and the passenger a quick recovery,” Libby said.
Salem State police were assisted by Salem and Marblehead police.
Timeline of events