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Library stabbing victim concerned her attacker could go free

“Everywhere we go, we still see things that spike my anxiety,” Harris said.
Published: Jun. 22, 2022 at 5:52 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A woman who was a victim of a random attack in the Loussac library is worried her attacker may end up back on the streets now that charges have been dismissed against the man for a second time.

Angela Harris and her partner Aaron Brown were returning books in the library lobby in February when a man walked up behind her and stabbed her in the back.

“There was no commotion, he literally walked right up behind me and punched me with a knife in the back,” Harris said.

The wound to Harris’ spinal cord damaged nerves and has left her unable to walk. Harris is a mother of four children and an active-duty member of the U.S. Coast Guard, but now uses a wheelchair, which has put her civilian job in a chiropractor’s office on hold. Harris said the attack has also taken an emotional toll.

“Everywhere we go, we still see things that spike my anxiety,” Harris said.

Harris fears her attacker may be released, and she has reason to. The same man was accused of another random attack against two women in December. The man was arrested by Anchorage police, but found mentally incompetent to stand trial. A judge dismissed the case and he was released. The next month, Harris was attacked in the library, allegedly by the same man, and again the courts found him not competent to stand trial and the charges were dropped.

Department of Law Spokesperson Patty Sullivan responded to questions about Harris’ attacker.

“A defendant who is not competent to proceed may not be prosecuted criminally,” Sullivan wrote. “The defendant in this case was evaluated and it was determined he was not competent to proceed and also not substantially likely to be restored to competency. Based on that information, the court dismissed the criminal charges.”

The response continues to say that when the judge dismissed the case, the state was legally obligated to release the man, but it’s possible that may not happen this time. Prosecutors have filed a civil petition in an attempt to keep the man in the Alaska Psychiatric Institute. Harris said that because it’s a civil hearing and a mental health issue, she’s concerned that no one will tell her the outcome.

“Anything that they tell me now would breach his privacy rights and HIPAA,” Harris said. “He absolutely has more rights than I do.”

Victoria Shanklin, Director of the nonprofit Victims for Justice, said people like Harris deserve a voice in the proceedings.

“It’s important to protect the rights of every individual. Unfortunately, a lot of time, I think that victim’s rights end up getting pushed aside or swept under the rug,” Shanklin said.

Harris said she is hoping for changes in the system.

“If you know that you’ve let him out because he was incompetent for so many times,” Harris said. “Figure out what that loophole is and change it.”

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