Suspect in East Liberty Target stabbings has criminal history

Girl, 16, recovering from collapsed lung in attack

The homeless man accused of going on a stabbing spree in the East Liberty Target store has a criminal history that stretches across the nation and includes convictions on charges that he bit a man on the head and aided in a robbery that led to a woman's death.

Leon Raymond Walls, 41, remained in the Allegheny County Jail on Tuesday while the most seriously injured victim in Monday's stabbing -- a 16-year-old girl from Tennessee -- recovered surprisingly well, delighting her friends and family members.

Pittsburgh Zone 5 Cmdr. Timothy O'Connor, whose officers are leading the investigation, said police do not yet know why Walls attacked people in and near the Target store or why he was in town.

"Why he did this would only be speculation," the commander said. "It was fortunate that no one died in this incident and that he was detained and taken into custody."

Walls was arrested shortly after 5:30 p.m. on Monday after witnesses told police that he stabbed a man in the arm near Highland News and then ran into the Target store, where he stabbed Allison Meadows, of Chattanooga.

He also slashed the lips and fingers of men who tried to subdue him until officers arrived and used pepper spray and a Taser to stop him, police said.

Walls earned himself a criminal record in California and Washington, D.C.

He served a sentence for voluntary manslaughter and robbery at Mule Creek State Prison between July 1991 and June 1999, according to Bill Sessa, spokesman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Court records show that Walls and another man were initially charged with murdering Hilda Blackburn and robbing her and a man named Louis Roldan. The murder charge was later downgraded.

While Walls was in prison, he was charged with battery, Mr. Sessa said.

When he was arrested in Pittsburgh, Walls was wanted by the U.S. Marshals Service on a probation violation stemming from an assault in Washington, D.C. Walls was charged with simple assault after he jumped on a man at a homeless shelter on Aug. 4, 2011, began to strike him with his fist and then bit him on the head, according to a police report.

It's not clear how or when Walls made it to Pittsburgh. But his presence here was impossible to ignore on Monday evening.

Michael Turner, 48, of East Liberty, said he and his cousin Roland Smith and friend Jobe Wright were standing near Highland News not far from the Target store when Walls came up behind him and stabbed Mr. Wright for no apparent reason.

"He was deranged-like," Mr. Turner said. "You could just see it in his eyes. Something wasn't right."

Tyrique Walker, 22, of Penn Hills, was feeding a parking meter when he saw the stabbing and watched Walls run toward the Target. Mr. Wright, Mr. Smith and Mr. Turner followed behind him, one of them carrying a baseball bat -- a scene that prompted someone in the area to call 911.

Mr. Walker said he alerted store security and then went into the bathroom, working on the theory that a man who had just stabbed someone would likely want to change his clothes.

Walls rushed out of the bathroom with a knife. A store security guard ran the opposite way, witnesses said, and Walls began to weave in and out of cashiers' aisles.

At some point in the mayhem, he grabbed 16-year-old Allison Meadows, placed his arm around her neck, dragged her and then stabbed her in the back, collapsing her lung, police and witnesses said.

Allison held hands with her friend Chelsey Stokes, who engaged in tug-of-war with Walls, Ms. Stokes told KDKA-TV.

A man, later identified as Hosea Davis, 36, of Wilkinsburg, jumped into the mix and helped free Allison from Walls.

"He was like Superman," Mr. Turner said. "All I've seen is this little guy flying in the air."

The men struggled to stop Walls and the frenzy continued into a nearby aisle full of medical supplies.

"None of us knew each other," Mr. Walker said. "It was just like we'd seen this happening. We had to get this guy out of the streets. Once I seen him grab this little girl, I just realized that he didn't have no remorse."

Police arrived and medics transported Allison to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, where she had planned to visit a relative and from where she was sending out messages on Twitter about her recovery Monday night. Mr. Wright, Mr. Smith and Mr. Turner were taken to local hospitals for treatment.

A spokeswoman for Target said the company wishes Allison's family well and takes security seriously.

Cmdr. O'Connor said he is considering nominating the men who helped Allison for honors.

Mr. Turner, who takes blood-thinning medication, said that despite the risk, his decision to help Allison was a simple one: "I can't afford to get cut or stabbed or shot or anything because I'll bleed to death. I just wanted to save that little girl."

mobilehome - neigh_city

Liz Navratil: Thomas Piland contributed. First Published March 27, 2013 4:00 AM


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