The startling news of the severe stabbing of young Petty Officer Justin Powell at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, Virginia by the hands of another sailor last Friday, June 6 was widely reported. Shortly after this shocking incident, the base was locked down, as was most of the surrounding community.
Over the weekend, a Navy spokesman reported that Powell’s condition was upgraded from critical to good. This is nothing short of miraculous, as he was stabbed eight times. However, it was not widely reported that the victim, MA2 Justin Powell, is a military cop.
Many in law enforcement are veterans, so this is old news to them. A Navy Master-at-Arms is a law enforcement officer with powers of arrest over military and civilian personnel on board ships and naval installations.
MA2 Powell’s assailant (ET3 Wilbur Harwell) was arrested 20 miles away in a Virginia Beach ocean-front Holiday Inn later that evening. This, in spite of an immediate and total lock-down of the base and massive manhunt by members of the FBI, Homeland Security, NCIS, Portsmouth PD, US Navy Police, and the Virginia State Police.
The Navy is investigating how Harwell managed to escape from the base, but the grounds sit on the banks of the Elizabeth River and are a few yards from several points of land.
Beginning February 5, Harwell was assigned to the Transient Personnel Unit (TPU) awaiting discharge from the military. The Navy has not indicated why Harwell was being discharged, but it followed his transfer from the USS Elrod last November to the hospital.
The attack came on the day following a base-wide Code-White (active shooter) exercise.
According to WAVY-TV 10, MA2 Powell’s father reported that upon waking from a medically-induced coma, Justin immediately asked to see his wife and daughter. Good job, shipmate.
Bruce Bremer, MBA is LET’s technology contributor. Bruce retired from the Submarine Service after 21 years of in-depth experience with complex electronic technology. Lately, he is developing a corporate learning management system (Moodle LMS), curricula, and technical documentation for lighter-than-air tethered surveillance craft (aerostats). He has an extensive background in fleet modernization and military analysis. He teaches electronics and alternative energy at a Virginia college. Besides his MBA, Bruce earned a Bachelor of Science degree in computer networking. He has been volunteering in public safety for many years.
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