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Woman accused in Target knife attack suffers from mental illness, family says

May 4, 2010 |  6:47 am

Attack at West Hollywood Target

The family of a woman accused of stabbing four people at a Target in West Hollywood said she suffered from mental illness.

Layla Rosetta Trawick, 34, of Antioch, Calif., entered the store at La Brea Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard after noon and picked up two knives, apparently merchandise from the store.

Detectives from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department are still trying to determine a reason for the attack, which left one customer in critical condition and three others was lesser injuries.

An off-duty deputy shopping at the store appeared to have stopped the attack, authorities said.

Family members of the suspect told KABC-TV that she suffered from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia and that they had been trying to get her help.

"I've been trying to get her institutionalized for years, and the mental hospitals just keep releasing her. She's been in and out of them since she was 16," said a woman who identified herself as Trawick's mother.

Entertainment journalist Allison McNamara was shopping at the store when she encountered a screaming woman in the aisle that separated the skin-care and kitchen sections.

"She was yelling 'I'm bipolar. There's no witness protection program.' "

McNamara said she watched helplessly as the woman plunged a knife into the upper back and shoulder of a male shopper. He had crouched down and covered up to fend off the blows, she said.

"You could see where the knife was going into his back. The knife had ridges and a tag on it. She was going as fast and strong as she could. Four to 6 inches were covered in blood. She looked like she was going to stab everyone there," McNamara said.

Moments later, the woman looked straight at McNamara, who immediately bolted out of the store with other shoppers and employees. McNamara immediately sent out a Twitter message telling people what she had seen.

Authorities credited Deputy Clay Grant Jr., who was off duty, with preventing additional casualties. Grant was at the Target shopping for paper towels on his day off when he heard screams.

Customers began racing past him toward the exit. "Somebody has a knife," he heard someone in the crowd say.

Out of the cosmetics aisle he saw a young woman wearing a halter top and flowery pants with a steak knife in one hand and a butcher knife in the other.

Grant, 26, drew his Beretta service weapon and identified himself to the woman as a sheriff's deputy. He demanded she drop the knives. The woman, he said, ran down the aisle, turned and dashed past four other aisles.

"Drop your knife," he ordered again.

She turned, her expression blank and confused, clutching the knives. He said, relying on his training, he decided that from a distance of about 20 feet she was no danger to him and chose not to pull the trigger.

The woman saw his gun and dropped both knives on the floor.

Grant and Target security officials restrained the woman, then handcuffed her.

Hours later, after recounting the incident to his worried mother, Grant said he didn't feel like a hero.

"I just come here to do my duties," the soft-spoken deputy said.

-- Andrew Blankstein and Robert Faturechi

RELATED:

Witness watched helplessly as woman stabbed shopper at Target in West Hollywood

Woman who allegedly stabbed 4 at Target was armed with butcher knife, kitchen knife

Photo: KTLA News

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