• Brad Parker

How Do You Stop This? Stabbed to Death Out of Nowhere by Mentally Ill Teen


Photo of memorial to Nathanial Rivers in New York
Nathaniel Rivers, 35, (pictured in memorial) was stabbed while sitting in a parked car with his wife..

You're sitting in your car on a busy street in the Bronx at 1:30 in the afternoon with your wife.


A man walks up to your car, starts talking to you and then suddenly leans through your window and stabs you. It's the last time your family will ever see you alive.


According to authorities, a 19-year-old attacked a man in New York City and fatally stabbed him in front of his wife.


The Bronx neighborhood of Norwood is where the attack took place on Thursday at 1:15 p.m. at East 205 Street and Decatur Avenue. Franklin Mesa, 19, is said to have approached Nathaniel Rivers, 35, and his wife as they were sitting in a parked automobile.


Mesa and Rivers spoke for a moment before Mesa suddenly lunged into the car and reportedly stabbed Rivers in the torso.


Rivers was taken in an ambulance and taken to St. Barnabas Hospital, but he did not make it. The attacker, Mesa, has been arrested.


Now, a couple of things here:


  • The victim, Rivers, is a popular member of the neighborhood. “He loved my mom, he loved all of us,” Rivers’ stepdaughter, Aaisha Shah, told WABC. “He loved my niece. He loved her so much. He got taken away from them. He got taken away from his family.” “He was loved by the public and the community,” a neighbor told the Post. “He took care of all the kids in the neighborhood. He set this basketball hoop so they have a safe haven to play. He was here watching them, all day long.”

  • The attacker, Mesa, is on meds for schizophrenia. AND he has a record with police of multiple attacks. He's called a "neighborhood menace".


Lessons to Learn from this Knife Attack



When we look at the situation for the lessons we can draw, it presents a very, very difficult picture.


  • We don't know for sure, but it's possible that the two people involved in this at least knew of each other. They might not have been acquainted, but there is a chance that Rivers knew of Mesa's reputation. In that regards, did Rivers have reason to suspect that Mesa could be violent? Or would we treat this scenario as a random stranger-on-stranger attack?

  • We've noted before in this blog that we cannot surmise to know someone else's motive. Even though we hear about that all the time in criminal cases, the reality is how can any of us see inside someone else's mind?

  • The very real presence of mental illness here makes it very difficult for us as defenders to try and apply any kind of rational filter to the attack. As a village, we have to look at the failure of the "system" that cannot care for our mentally ill so as to protect the rest of us.

  • The sudden and unpredictable nature of this attack means we have very little pre-indicators of violence available to us. The only help here might be if we know that the attacker is mentally ill beforehand so we can be wary.

  • It's easy to say we should not stay somewhere inside of our vehicle. It's also easy to say that we should roll up our windows if we are our are stopped. But considering this happened during the summer it would be entirely natural that someone would park with the windows down.

  • Learning how to defend against knife attacks is difficult to begin with. Defending against a straight thrust from a knife is incredibly difficult. Add onto the fact that we are seated and immobile inside of a car and we have just made our defense exponentially more difficult. As difficult as it may be, we have to train to defend ourselves against edged weapon attacks. This means instruction. This means ritualistic practice. This means having a system which can be reliably recalled and used.

  • It's difficult to see how we could draw our concealed firearm in time to successfully defend against this sudden knife attack. Remember, we are hindered in our draw stroke by being seated in the car -- especially if we carry in the traditional 3 or 4 o'clock position. Plus we are talking about New York City here with the draconian controls on citizens being able to defend themselves.

The Bottom Line about Self-Defense


When interpersonal violence strikes, there are a number of things we cannot control:


  • The time of the attack

  • The place of the attack

  • The number of our attackers

  • The skill level of our attackers

  • And, especially, the motives of our attackers.


However, there are many things we can control which have a direct effect on our self-defense:


  • Our levels of awareness

  • Our knowledge of the moral and legal implications surrounding the use of force

  • Our fighting skills and abilities

  • Our level of physical fitness

  • Our equipment and defensive tools


Always be improving the elements we can control for our self-defense.


And train like your life depends on it.




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