Dear Reader,

Earlier this week I read an article that disturbed me.  It told of a 74-year-old woman, out for a routine shopping trip who was violently attacked for no apparent reason.

The woman, Silvia Murillo was at the Safeway on Columbia Road picking up a few items for that night’s dinner.  She was about to leave the store when she was shoved from behind.  At first, she assumed the shove had been an accident, maybe another store patron who lost control of their cart.  But then her assailant started punching her in the back, pulling her hair and kicking her.

Silvia reported being scared to death.  She was sure the unknown man wanted to kill her.   Luckily a few bystanders stepped in before that could happen and the man ran away.  Sylvia was lucky to be alive. She was lucky the creep wasn’t wielding a knife or holding a gun when he chose to attack her.

By all accounts this act of violence was completely random and unprovoked.   When the police and paramedics arrived, Silvia was taken to a local hospital and treated for a torn ligament in her knee and extensive bruising all over her body.  The police interviewed those who’d come to Sylvia’s aid and other store patrons who’d witness the unknown assailant.  They said he’d been acting bizarrely inside the store, seeming unfocused and muttering to himself.

It was concluded that this was not an attempted robbery. The crazed man never went for Sylvia’s purse or groceries.  The two had not interacted inside the store either, no argument or fight over the last package of hot dog buns.  This event truly seemed random and unprovoked.

The good news, Sylvia is recovering.  Her bruises are fading, and although she must now use a cane to get around due to the injuries to her knee, she is in good spirits and happy to be alive and able to tell her story.

So, what’s the takeaway from this?

If I had to guess, I’d say the assailant was suffering from a psychotic breakdown when he attacked Sylvia that night.  Psychotic breaks like these are common for those suffering with severe and untreated mental illness.  If they do not have access to proper health care or skip a month of medication, their world can turn upside down on them and suddenly everyone seems like their enemy.   Was Sylvia’s attack the result of a failing with our county health departments to properly identify and treat this disturbed man? Maybe.

It’s possible the assailant was on hallucinogenic or psychotropic drugs.  Street drugs are dangerous.  You know this. I know this.  But what many users don’t realize or refuse to acknowledge is how these drugs damage their brains, warping their reality and causing irreversible damage to their reasoning skills, coping skills and memory.  Access to street drugs continues to be a problem nationwide and although law enforcement has agendas and initiatives to fight this, street drug use continues to be a growing problem in our community.  Was this violent attack caused because of failing policies of local government and law enforcement regarding illegal drugs? Possibly.

What about the store itself?  When a patron enters a place of business, they do so assuming they are walking into a safe place.  A 74-year-old grandmother should not have to fear an unprovoked attack while browsing the produce isle of her local grocery store.  Could Safeway have prevented this attack by recognizing the assailant’s odd behavior beforehand and involving law enforcement before the attack began?  Perhaps.

After an incident such as this, it’s hard to pinpoint what caused it or how it could have been prevented.  The best that can come from this, is that we as a community takeaway a heightened awareness of the potential causes of this assault.  Maybe have a conversation with our young people about the dangers of street drugs or check in with a loved one who may be suffering with a mental illness.

Mostly, I think the takeaway is to be always aware of your surroundings and the people around you and to look out for your neighbors when you can.  Had bystanders not come to Sylvia’s rescue, this poor woman might not have lived to tell her tale.  Our world can be a dangerous place, but if we remain vigilant and look out for each other, we’re likely to make it home safe.

What are your thoughts about this event?

Is there more we can do in our communities to keep our neighbors safe and ensure those addicted to drugs or suffering from mental illness get the treatment they need?

Chime in!

Respond to this blog and let me know what you think. I’ll discuss the results in an upcoming post.

Lastly, if you or someone you love is ever injured at a place of business, I urge you to call my office.  With over forty years’ experience handling personal injury claims, we are ready to help you in every way we can.

Until next time, please be safe, and NEVER text while driving!

Paul Samakow

Attorney Paul Samakow

703-761-4343 or 301-949-1515.

See link below for the original article.

‘I thought I was going to die’: Man attacks 74-year-old woman leaving Adams Morgan Safeway

By Mauricio Casillas


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