(The bystander) was suspicious of what might be going on, and when he saw the stabbing, he just drew his pistol and challenged the individual. —Salt Lake Police Lt. Brian Purvis
SALT LAKE CITY — A man accused of stabbing people at random at a downtown Smith's Marketplace Thursday has a long criminal history.
Kiet Thanh Ly, 34, was booked into the Salt Lake County Jail for investigation of attempted murder and aggravated assault. Two victims remained in very critical but stable condition Friday at a local hospital, according to Salt Lake police.
But investigators said Friday they still don't know what caused Ly — a South Vietnam national — to "snap" Thursday afternoon.
Just before 5:30 p.m., police say Ly purchased a knife at Smith's Marketplace, 455 S. 500 East. He then walked into the parking lot and stabbed a 30-year-old man several times in the abdomen, according to a police report. He then attempted to stab several other people who were able to get away.
A second victim, a 45-year-old man, was cut several times on his arm and received a stab wound to his head, said Salt Lake Police Lt. Brian Purvis.
That's when a 47-year-old man, who has a permit to carry a concealed weapon, took action.
"(The bystander) was suspicious of what might be going on, and when he saw the stabbing, he just drew his pistol and challenged the individual," Purvis said.
Ly was held on the ground until police arrived.
Utah court records show Ly has had many run-ins with police dating back to 1997, and his behavior seemed to be more erratic and violent in recent years.
On Monday, he was convicted of joyriding and possessing another person's identification. He is scheduled to be sentenced on those charges in June. He was also convicted in March of misdemeanor theft and placed on probation.
Ly was charged in March in a separate case with sexual battery and two counts of lewdness stemming from incidents that allegedly occurred while he was a patient at St. Mark's Hospital, according to court records. On April 16, Ly submitted a letter to Judge Judith Atherton without advising his own attorneys about it. In the letter, Ly questions why actions he's charged with committing were such a big deal. That case was still pending as of Friday.
In 2011, Ly was convicted on an amended charge of attempted assault on a police officer. In that incident, Ly refused to leave an acquaintance's house, claiming he was homeless, according to court records. When police arrived, Ly took a stance as if he was going to throw punches, charging documents state. He then damaged a police car while being transported to jail.
Also in 2011, Ly was convicted on an amended charge of attempted aggravated assault for threatening a Department of Workforce Services employee with a knife, according to court records.