A woman exercising at an Irving fitness center Tuesday morning was stabbed several times with a screwdriver by a homeless man who had a guest gym membership, police reported.
A witness, Justin Harper of Mansfield, said he was running on a treadmill at 24 Hour Fitness at 2407 W. Airport Freeway when he heard a noise through his headphones and saw the man hitting the woman with both hands as she lay on the floor.
Harper, a reserve officer with the Blue Mound Police Department, said that he ran over and tackled the man and that another gym member jumped on the man’s back to hold him down.
Harper said he wrestled the man’s hands out from under his stomach as he lay flat on the ground.
A third gym member rushed over and held the man’s legs down until police arrived, he said.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Harper said. “The screwdriver was under his body when the cops rolled him over.”
The woman, 49, was stabbed at least three times. She was taken to Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas with non-life-threatening injuries, police said.
Police arrested Phillip Roberts, 32, who remained in the Irving Jail on Tuesday night, with bail set at $100,000. He faces a charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
He has a Tennessee driver’s license but no known address, according to police.
Police were called to the fitness center at 5:30 a.m. Tuesday by a concerned woman who said a man was walking around in a black coat, carrying a suitcase and “just kind of looking at people,” Detective James McLellan said.
When officers arrived, employees told them that the man had a membership and usually carried a suitcase, McLellan said.
“They knew who he was and vouched for him,” he said.
Harper said he overheard an employee tell police that the man in the black hoodie was the guest of a gym member.
The man attacked the woman about 10 minutes later, Harper estimated, and officers returned within minutes.
Although he lives in Mansfield and also works in Blue Mound, Harper said he has exercised at the Irving gym for three years before he goes to work as a criminal justice teacher at Jack E. Singley Academy in Irving. He said he usually sees the same 20 to 30 people each morning and had seen the assailant before.
McLellan said Roberts had been acting out in jail, screaming, banging walls and kicking his toilet. He said he did not know whether Roberts was on drugs or alcohol or whether he is mentally ill.
“That’s really the big question mark here,” McLellan said. “It was an unprovoked attack. The lady was minding her own business, and it doesn’t look like he was trying to rob her.”
Roberts does not match the description of the man sought in car burglaries at fitness centers in Flower Mound, Southlake, Highland Village, Colleyville and Plano, police said.
Harper said he’s just glad he and the other gym members were able to react quickly.
“I just hope she is doing OK tonight,” he said.
Staff writer Domingo Ramirez Jr. contributed to this report.
Monica S. Nagy, 817-390-7792