People who live, and work and play in downtown Dallas say they are concerned with the perception of safety after a violent attack here Sunday afternoon.
Branden Holbert, 22, a man Dallas Police describe as homeless, faces two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon after punching one woman and then stabbing her and another woman in the elevator of a downtown loft.
The attack occurred inside the Wilson apartment homes at 1623 W. Main just after 12 p.m. Sunday.
Michael Osman lives in the Wilson building and had just stepped outside to take a walk with his dog.
He told WFAA he saw Holbert punch a woman in the face outside an Italian restaurant at the corner of Ervay and Main.
“His rage, his emotion, you could tell it was not going to stop," Osman said. "He was really targeting the one woman he thought had his phone, but obviously she didn’t have his phone. Something just set him off while he was walking in the street and he just went berserk."
Osman said he opened the door to his building to allow both women in, but the Holbert was able to force his way inside before he could close the door.
"I’m trying to get a hold of the police at that point, because I know something bad is going on in the elevator,” Osman said.
According to an arrest affidavit, Holbert stabbed and slashed both women several times.
WFAA has confirmed the first woman attacked was in town from Oklahoma visiting a friend for lunch. The second woman attacked is a resident at the Wilson.
Vanessa Stepney is friends with both women and says each are resting at home after being released from the hospital.
"My friend was taking a video of herself on Ervay and this guy just started screaming at her that she had taken his phone," Stepney told WFAA. "They were both cut up very badly."
Derek Stapleton heads up the Downtown Dallas Neighborhood Association and says while the attack is isolated in nature, it underscores concerns about the amount of homeless that populate downtown for services.
"We fully understand the overwhelming majority do not pose a threat, but there are a small portion that are unpredictable," Stapleton said.
Dallas city council member Philip Kingston has asked the city to refocus locating services for more than 3,000 homeless in Dallas to areas other than downtown.
"That discussion is positive, but I think what we’d like to see immediately is a plan for downtown that happens now," Stapleton added.
Stapleton says the DDNA has already stepped up, creating a hotline residents can access if they want an escort home from work or a night spot after the shuttle service from Downtown Dallas Inc., wraps up in the evening.
"We're also looking at hosting a self-defense class of some kind for our residents," Stapleton said.
Osman says it's a mixed bag. Many of the homeless that are around his building are familiar faces, many of them friendly and working to wash cars or sell newspapers to make some money.
He adds two homeless men, one he knows well, helped keep Holbert inside the building after the attack, trapping him there until Dallas Police arrived and arrested him without further incident.
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