Spencer Stone, Sacramento’s Air Force hero, was reported up on his feet and in good spirits at UC Davis Medical Center on Friday, two days after being stabbed three times on a midtown street when a celebratory night turned suddenly violent.
Police continued their search for his attackers, saying in a press release Friday they are looking for two Asian men and a woman who fled the scene in a Toyota Camry moments after Stone was stabbed during a 12:45 a.m. fight in the intersection at 21st and K streets.
Doctors upgraded Stone’s condition from serious to fair on Friday after surgery on three stab wounds.
Stone, 23, made international headlines two months ago when he and Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler, boyhood friends from Sacramento, tackled and subdued a would-be terrorist on a Paris-bound train. The man was armed with an AK-47, a Luger pistol and a box cutter. Stone suffered cuts to the neck and a deep wound on a thumb in that incident.
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Thursday morning’s stabbing happened just minutes after Stone had been cheered and feted by a crowd of well-wishers at the Badlands nightclub, Ron Scharffer, Badlands promotions and media director, told The Sacramento Bee. The alleged assailants were not in the club that night, Scharffer said.
A promoter at the club introduced Spencer to the club DJ, who also is in the military. “They pulled him up onstage and introduced him to the crowd, and the crowd was cheering,” Scharffer said. “After he got on stage, everybody wanted to talk to him. The whole club was cheering.”
“According to staff, he had a couple of drinks with friends – nothing too much,” Scharffer added. At that point his group left the club, the doorman saw him leave. Nothing transpired within the club.”
What happened outside on the block remains uncertain. In a statement issued Friday afternoon, police said at some point “a confrontation with a second group of subjects occurred. That confrontation escalated into a physical fight and the stabbing of Airman Stone.”
Stone suffered three stab wounds in the melee, which was captured in blurry images by a video camera from a nearby liquor store. He underwent successful surgery Thursday. Medical center officials declined to disclose the nature of the surgery.
Police were quick to say the fight was not connected to Stone’s heroics in France.
“This incident is not related to terrorism in any way, and we know it’s not related to what occurred in France months ago,” Sacramento Deputy Police Chief Ken Bernard told reporters on Thursday.
Police released a video Friday that shows two men and a woman getting into a car and fleeing the area where Stone was stabbed. The car is believed to be a dark-colored 2009 to 2012 Toyota Camry. Police described the men as Asian adults wearing white shirts and blue jeans.
Police have declined to provide details of their investigation, but said in a Friday press statement that detectives are interviewing witnesses to “understand the chain of events that led to the stabbing.”
“The Sacramento Police Detective Unit, CSI and other support units are working tirelessly to identify the suspects in this case,” according to the media release. “We appreciate the immense public interest this case has generated and hope anyone with information will soon come forward.
“We thank everyone for their continued patience during the ongoing investigation. It is essential that we do not harm the integrity of the investigation and jeopardize any future prosecution.”
Police continued working along the K street nightclub strip Friday, where three police investigators were seen circulating around 3 p.m.
Two witnesses to portions of the fight described an altercation that appeared to grow over the course of minutes.
Eric Cain was the cashier on duty at A & P Liquor at 21st and K streets when the fight broke out Thursday morning. A group of about four men and three women were coming from the direction of Badlands nightclub, arguing, and pushing and shoving. It wasn’t until Cain saw blood on Stone’s shirt that he realized there was something serious going on.
“Fights happen out here all the time,” he said. “To me, it was just a normal fight. I had no idea he was hurt.”
A taxi driver who witnessed the last portion of the fight said it looked like Stone was trying to defend himself against two or three men, whom he described as Asians.
“He fight with three guys; it was crazy,” taxi driver Kennedy Hailemariam said.
Hailemariam, who was stopped at the intersection red light, said at first he thought the combatants were just punching each other, but he realized that one or two of them had knives when Stone’s shirt began to turn red.
“They had knife, when they swing, and right away the blood was coming out,” he said. “Oh my God, they got knives.”
Hailemariam said a woman who appeared to be with Stone was shouting and getting into the mix, apparently trying to stop the fight. One of the assailants punched her in the face.
Hailemariam said the assailants then ran away. He pulled his taxi up to where Stone was standing on K Street with some people around him. The taxi driver rolled down his window to offer to drive Stone to a hospital.
He heard Stone say, “Call 911.” Then, “he lay down and he didn’t say nothing. His friends called ambulance.”
Hailemariam said he did not know what prompted the fight, but he heard someone saying that the attackers had made insulting comments about a woman who was with Stone.
“You don’t know what to do when you see this kind of thing,” the cabbie said. “I never see this kind of thing.”
Sacramento city leaders reacted with shock and concern about the incident, and were quick to say that midtown at night is not a dangerous place.
“I can collectively express concern from my colleagues,” City Councilman Jeff Harris said. “We just celebrated his action” with a festive downtown parade. “It seems just crazy after an international act of heroism that he would come home to his hometown and get stabbed at 21st and K. The juxtaposition is hard to absorb.”
The Midtown Business Association, which includes nightclubs in the area of the stabbing, announced Friday it is raising funds to help the Sacramento Police Department “in bringing closure to the investigation into the senseless stabbing of hometown hero Spencer Stone.”
The goal, according to a press statement from the association, is to generate useful tips to the Sacramento Police Department’s Crime Stopper program. The association said it will match any contributions up to $3,500. Checks can be dropped off at 919 20th St. or at the Midtown Farmers Market information desk, which is open Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 20th and J streets. An online funding site has been set up at https://www.gofundme.com/MidtownSac.
Emily Baime Michaels of the Midtown Business Association said incidents like this “are few and far between in midtown,” but that the area’s businesses are upset.
“Midtown will not tolerate violence occurring in our community,” she said. “Please help us take a stand, fight back and celebrate safety in midtown and our community at large.”
The stabbing is one of a handful of high-profile crimes in midtown, a popular night spot, in recent years. A post-midnight shooting in the street after a Second Saturday art walk event in 2010 left a 24-year-old man dead and three others injured, and prompted concerned calls for more safety in the area.
As a result of that incident and a fatal shooting in an Old Sacramento bar in 2012, the city and police instituted an educational program for owners and managers of nightclubs and bars, instructing them on security issues and on appropriate business practices.
City Councilman Steve Hansen said he has asked the Police Department to review that program after it determines what caused the fight.
“We have to understand exactly what happened; we don’t want people to jump to conclusions,” Hansen said. “Once we have all the facts, we want a healthy review of our policies and procedures to make sure the venues, the (business associations) and the city are doing our part to ensure a safe community.”
Lonny Abugow, a former midtown resident, was sitting on the patio of the LowBrau restaurant as the three investigators stopped in Friday afternoon. He said he was surprised that such a violent incident occurred in the Lavender Heights neighborhood.
“It’s ironically sad, that a genuine hero comes to midtown and something happens to him,” Abugow said. “Nothing ever happens in midtown.”
Ben Sosenko, spokesman for Mayor Kevin Johnson, said the mayor had contacted Stone’s family, offering support if needed, and also checked in with Skarlatos and Sadler.
The news of the stabbing spread across the globe, prompting an outpouring of support for Stone.
Closer to home Friday, Ruth Winkler, 88, who lives across the street from the Stone family in Carmichael, held positive thoughts for Stone’s recovery. “It’s a shame that this happened (to Spencer),” she said. “They seem to think he’ll be OK, and that’s a good thing.”
The Air Force, meanwhile, has set up an email account for well-wishers to leave messages for Stone as he recovers following surgery at UC Davis Medical Center. Messages can be left at email@example.com.
Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James posted on Facebook that she was saddened to hear of Stone’s injury. “Please keep him and his family in your thoughts and prayers,” she wrote in the post.
Police asked anyone with information regarding the to contact Crime Alert at (916) 443-HELP (4357) or text a tip to 274637 (CRIMES). Enter SACTIP followed by the tip information. Callers can remain anonymous.