Woman killed, another hurt in Downtown Pittsburgh stabbing; McKeesport man arrested
A McKeesport man stabbed two women, killing one, in front of a Pittsburgh police officer during what investigators described as a random act of violence Thursday at a Downtown bus stop, officials said.
Janice Purdue-Dance, 61, of Erie, died just after noon Thursday at UPMC Mercy hospital, according to the Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s Office.
The other woman also was taken to the hospital and is in stable condition, Joseph said. She suffered a cut to her mouth, court documents indicate. Authorities did not identify her.
“It seems by all accounts a random act of violence,” Joseph said.
Police arrested James Wyatt, 23, and charged him with homicide and aggravated assault. He was taken to the Allegheny County Jail in Pittsburgh.
“We will conduct a complete and thorough investigation of this tragic incident to include motive,” Joseph said. “At this time we do not have any evidence to suggest this was a hate crime.”
The stabbing happened around 11:40 a.m. Thursday near Sixth Avenue and Smithfield Street just as Downtown was filling with people on their lunch breaks.
“At this time, there is no evidence to suggest that this attack was racially or religiously motivated,” police spokesman Chris Togneri said. “The woman at the bus stop was not wearing religious garb, but the second victim may have been wearing a hijab. Police are investigating and will explore all possible motives.”
Joseph said a uniformed police officer in a patrol car saw what he thought was a woman sleeping or in some sort of medical distress at a bus stop. The officer stopped to check on the woman. As the officer was checking on the woman, a man later identified as Wyatt came around his back and struck and stabbed the woman, Joseph said.
The man then turned and stabbed another woman, Joseph said.
The woman stabbed first died. According to court documents, she was struck twice in the neck; the officer stuck a finger in the resulting wound until medics arrived, but she continued bleeding heavily.
It does not appear the women knew one another, Joseph said.
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“The officer took immediate action and got the person down on the ground, got him in custody and then immediately started first aid,” Police Chief Scott Schubert said in an interview at the scene.
The officer was not hurt.
Wyatt dropped a knife and police retrieved it, according to court documents.
Pittsburgh police detectives are handling the case. Officers escorted Wyatt out of police headquarters around 2:30 p.m. He was wearing all white. Wyatt did not respond to questions from reporters as he was walked to a police cruiser.
“We pray for the females that were stabbed, and we also want to thank the officer for being there, not just getting the person getting him in custody but helping to save a life,” Schubert said.
Port Authority of Allegheny County had detoured buses in the area and shut down bus stops at the corners of Sixth Avenue and Smithfield Street and Sixth Avenue and Wood Street.
“Port Authority extends its deepest sympathies to the families of the deceased and surviving victim of the senseless attack at our bus stop earlier today,” spokesman Adam Brandolph said in a statement. “Although the investigation by Pittsburgh police remains ongoing, we understand that this was an isolated incident.”
Earlier this year, Wyatt was charged with disorderly conduct for an incident on Feb. 25, court records show.
In October 2015, he was charged for an accident involving death or personal injury, carrying a firearm without a license and possessing a controlled substance, all stemming from an incident on July 1, 2015, records show.
Prosecutors withdrew an additional charge of receiving stolen property when Wyatt pleaded guilty to the remaining 2015 charges in Allegheny County Court.
He was sentenced to three years of probation, including 100 hours of community service, and was ordered to pay close to $2,800 in costs and fees.