Homeless man charged in East Liberty Target stabbing spree; 16-year-old victim has collapsed lung

| Tuesday, March 26, 2013, 10:30 a.m.

Their first instinct was to follow the stranger they saw stab a man on an East Liberty sidewalk.

Then they heard the screams of a teenager who was shopping with family inside the nearby Target when police say a knife-wielding Leon Raymond Walls grabbed her as he tried to elude his pursuers.

“It was instinct,” said Tyrique Walker, 22, of Penn Hills, who was among several men who charged at Walls near the checkout lines on Monday evening. “When he had that little girl, it was like, ‘We have to get him.'”

“Before I knew it, he was stabbing her,” said Michael E. Turner, 48, of East Liberty, who chased Walls into the store. “That's when we all jumped on him. I was just trying to save that little girl. I wasn't thinking about myself.”

Walls, 41, who is homeless, twice stabbed Allison Meadows, 16, in the back and injured four men before he was disarmed, police and witnesses said.

Meadows, a sophomore at Silverdale Baptist Academy in Chattanooga, Tenn., who was visiting family in Pittsburgh, was recovering Tuesday from a collapsed lung at Children's Hospital in Lawrenceville.

Her father, Glen Meadows, said she will make a full recovery.

“It was a very, very traumatic situation for us,” Glen Meadows said. “You just feel totally violated. Our daughter is a really tough individual.”

Allison Meadows began tweeting from the hospital Monday, saying “Hey y'all. This is actually Allison...thank you all so much for your prayers! I will try to get back with you all as soon as I can.” And later, “God is so incredibly good.”

Walls was in the Allegheny County Jail on charges of attempted homicide, resisting arrest, aggravated assault and other crimes. U.S. marshals were seeking Walls for a probation violation warrant issued in October from an assault charge in Washington, Supervisory Deputy Jon Gallagher said.

Police charged Walls with simple assault and other crimes in a fight in which he bit another man at the Federal City Shelter in Washington on Aug. 4, 2011.

“It seemed like something was really wrong with that guy,” said Turner, who was released from UPMC Shadyside, where doctors treated him for chest pains. “He was screaming, ‘They're robbing me, they're robbing me,' but in the process, he's stabbing people.”

Police said they don't know why Walls first attacked a man named Jobe Wright on Highland Avenue about 5:30 p.m. Monday.

“It could've been an unprovoked attack,” said Cmdr. Timothy O'Connor. “We're still trying to piece it together.”

Turner and Roland Smith, 44, were standing with Wright, 44, of Braddock when Walls walked up, stabbed Wright in the arm and ran, police said. They and Walker called 911 and followed Walls into Target.

Inside, Walls threw a shopping cart at Turner and sent him tumbling down the escalator, Turner said. Walls brandished a kitchen knife and grabbed Meadows to use her as a shield as store employees and bystanders pleaded with him to let her go.

“It was unreal,” Walker said. “It was like he had a hostage, but he was already stabbing her.”

The men attacked Walls, who swung his knife around, stabbing Smith in the hand and Wright in the face. Hosea Davis, 36, of Wilkinsburg broke two fingers.

Wright needed surgery at UPMC Presbyterian. Smith and Davis also were treated at Presby.

“I'm not sure if it's trauma, but every second, I'm thinking about it,” Walker said. “It's replaying in my head, how he grabbed that little girl.”

Police officers who arrived during the melee used a Taser and pepper spray to subdue Walls. One officer had to be treated for exposure to the spray, police said.

Police are reviewing the actions of the bystanders who helped Meadows for possible commendations.

“On a preliminary basis, it looks like they acted quickly and decisively,” O'Connor said.

Margaret Harding is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8519 or mharding@tribweb.com.

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