Stabbing victim recovering in Anchorage
Boonmee Maolichart says two young men stabbed him more than 20 times the morning of Dec. 29 after he drove them in his taxi to Iḷisaġvik College on the outskirts of Utqiaġvik, formerly known as Barrow.
During the attack, he grabbed a knife from one of the men. He fought for his life but said he could not use the seized blade against his assailants.
"I would never stab them back. I couldn't do that," said Maolichart, a practicing Buddhist, during an interview at a friend's.
The 41-year-old called Utqiaġvik home for more than three years. He liked living in the town of about 5,000 residents on the Arctic coast and said he made many friends there.
Now, he has no plans to return. The incident nearly ended his life, and he is worried he may be targeted again, he said.
The North Slope Borough Police Department has released few details on the case. It sent a summary that gives basic details, including that the initial emergency call came in at about 7:10 a.m. Dec. 29.
"Officers responded to a report of a stolen taxi (at the college) outside of Barrow. Upon arriving in the area officers found the taxi and a male victim who is a taxi driver had been stabbed multiple times. The victim was medevaced to Anchorage due to his injuries. Detectives are following up on all leads and the investigation is ongoing," the summary says.
Maolichart received three calls for taxi service the night of the attack, all from one of the suspects, he said. The first call was around 3 a.m. When Maolichart drove to a local public works building to pick up the caller, he wasn't there.
It wasn't until about 6:20 a.m. that two passengers Maolichart described as young men showed up and hopped in the back seat of his taxi and asked for a ride to the college, about a five-minute drive.
When they arrived, Maolichart asked where the passengers wanted to be dropped off. They were silent, and he asked again, but they remained tight-lipped, he said.
Then, Maolichart heard the word "money." He couldn't hear well because he was wearing a thick hat to stay warm. He realized the men were demanding cash, and he was immediately cut on the back of the head, he said.
Maolichart turned around and spotted knives; he grabbed one of them, he said. But he was grabbed around the neck by one of the men and was stabbed repeatedly, he said.
"I heard one of them say, 'Kill him before the police come,' " Maolichart said.
He honked on the horn in an effort to catch the attention of any passersby. He reached for his radio and the man started clawing at his eyes, and then he grabbed inside Maolichart's mouth.
The taxi driver bit down on the man's fingers and heard a breaking sound at least twice. He tried to escape but the man jumped out of the car, blocked the door and continued to stab him, Maolichart said.
"My goodness I got tired. I lost so much blood," Maolichart said.
He said he asked the men if they wanted money, which they did. He grabbed $80 from the dashboard of the taxi, kept there as change for customers, and handed it over.
The men left.
Maolichart found his way inside the college, which was closed for the holidays. He locked himself inside a room and was able to call a friend after three tries — blood kept smearing on the phone screen and it wouldn't work, he said.
Maolichart said he called the friend because he felt so exhausted that it was easier to speak Thai than to try and explain what happened to police in English.
Barrow's hospital could not perform the necessary surgery, so Maolichart was flown directly to Anchorage. He said he stayed awake during the nearly two-hour flight, and he vaguely remembers physicians in the emergency room of Alaska Regional Hospital.
After spending two days in the intensive-care unit, Maolichart was moved to a regular room. But he stayed unlisted in the hospital for the next several days because he was worried he'd be attacked again.
The hospital released Maolichart on Wednesday. Most of his body is bandaged or shows signs of the attack.
For now, he is staying with a friend. Doctors told him his recovery may take three months. He can't use his left hand, sliced so deep that surgery was needed to reconnect the tendons. And his mouth required reconstructive surgery because he broke his teeth biting the attacker's fingers.
Richard Hilke, who often helps members of the Thai community in Anchorage with things like filling out paperwork and communicating with officials, helped get out the word about the attack.
Hilke spoke with a Utqiagvik police detective and others about the incident. He said he feels the police department is dragging its feet but that spreading the story might help with capture of the suspects.
"What are they doing up there? Look for the guy with bite marks and two broken fingers," he said.
This story first appeared in Alaska Dispatch News and is reprinted here with permission.
UPDATE FROM THE ARCTIC SOUNDER: According to a release from the North Slope Borough, two people were taken into custody for the attack.