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Walmart stabbing victim surprised by attack

31-year-old describes being stabbed in checkout line

Jacksonville Sheriff's Office booking photo of John McFarland
Jacksonville Sheriff's Office booking photo of John McFarland

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Rogel Chan is recovering at home, grateful to be alive after being stabbed in the head and face by a stranger in a Southside Walmart early Thursday morning.

Jacksonville police said 34-year-old John McFarland, who has a history of mental illness, randomly attacked the 31-year-old with a knife while they were waiting in the checkout line.

"It just really surprised me because he's not staring at me like, you know, like evil stare or anything like that. It's not," Chan said. "He's just looking at me like just normal."

Investigators said McFarland (pictured below) could be seen in surveillance video pulling the knife hidden in clothes he was carrying and stabbing Chan several times. He's now in jail, charged with aggravated battery.

Jacksonville Sheriff's Office booking photo of John McFarland
Jacksonville Sheriff's Office booking photo of John McFarland

"When he stabbed me, I heard him shout, 'I got you man.' I heard him saying that," Chan said. "So I looked at him and I remember that I told him, 'What's your problem man?'"

Chan didn't know McFarland. He'd only seen him minutes earlier standing in front of the counter.

"He was staring at me and then he walked away, and then I didn't see him for a while," Chan said. "And then I just noticed someone standing beside me, and then I just I just felt a punch in my face."

Chan said he realized he'd been stabbed when he saw blood coming from his face and McFarland walking away with a knife. He ran to the back of the store, where someone called 911.

Chan's wife was waiting outside. She got a call and went inside to find her husband bleeding and the man accused of stabbing him standing nearby.

"He looked so normal to me, like he was, you know, sorry or angry or anything," Chan's wife said. "He looked so normal on the floor."

McFarland told police he didn't know why he did it, but that he is schizophrenic and not taking his medication.

Records show McFarland has a history of violent offenses and confinements for mental health treatment. He has been found not guilty by reason of insanity in three incidents in which he was armed with a knife, including stabbing his brother in 2005.

Denise Marzullo, president and CEO of Mental Health America of Northeast Florida, said there are no state facilities for the mentally ill who commit crimes and no way to ensure they take their medication. Marzullo said longer jail sentences are not the answer.

"Jailing somebody is just putting a Band-Aid on a problem," Marzullo said. "You're not going to jail somebody for the rest of their life and imagine what a jail and prison system would be like if everyone who ever committed a crime and was mentally ill has to spend the rest of their life in jail. That's not treatment."

Chan said knowing about McFarland's mental illness makes him a little more understanding about what happened, but he hopes this time McFarland will get the help he needs to prevent another situation like this.

Chan said he'll be more cautious from now on, but he really believes this was a random act, so it won't stop him going to work and living life as normal.