Wednesday, January 15, 2003

By Lori Shontz, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Celeen Hall was sitting in her living room with her father and her daughter Saturday evening in their Highland Park home, watching the Steelers as they went into overtime against the Tennessee Titans. Then the front living-room window shattered.

Everyone dove to the floor, assuming the window had been shot out and that more bullets might be coming. When none did, they ran from the room.

And then they saw a man in their living room.

Her father said, \"Celeen, get the gun.\"

The man turned out to be Jamal E. Tompkins, 31, of Larimer, who had burglarized two other East End homes recently, stabbing a man and his wife when they resisted, police said.

But Hall, 35, a registered nurse, didn\'t know that. She knew only that someone was threatening her family and she had to act.

\"I just love my baby,\" she said. \"I\'d fight Saddam Hussein if I had to.\"

So Hall ducked into a hallway with her 4-year-old daughter and peeked around the corner. The man said, \"Please don\'t shoot me.\"

Hall stared at him and thought, \"I\'m not going to make this easy for you.\" She decided that if the man thought she already had the gun, she needed to use that to her advantage.

\"The way the house was made, if I\'d let him get any closer, I\'d be trapped,\" Hall said. \"So I grabbed my daughter under my arm, like a football or a sack of potatoes, and then came around the corner and charged. I ran over him, through him, I don\'t know what.\"

Once upstairs, Hall reached high into a closet for the gun her father had given her several years ago, after an elderly woman who lived across the street was murdered. She grabbed a cordless telephone, too, and called 911 as she went back downstairs with the gun.

When Tompkins saw her, he fled back out the broken window.

Police responding to the scene spotted a suspect running through some yards in the neighborhood and arrested Tompkins, a native of Queens, N.Y., whose criminal record dates to 1992, with 12 cases, including robbery, simple assault, reckless endangerment and drug charges.

Tompkins told officers he was covered with cuts on his hands and face because he had dived headfirst through Hall\'s window. When they arrested him, police found a 7-inch black-handled knife and a 4-inch metal crack pipe.

Tompkins, who is being held in the Allegheny County Jail on $250,000 straight bond, is also charged in two other burglaries in Shadyside, one Dec. 26, one Jan. 8.

According to police reports, in the first instance he demanded money, and when the female resident said she didn\'t have any, he kissed her on the cheek and went upstairs, where he removed $6 from her purse. In the second, police say he stabbed Dr. Xinglu Zhang and his wife, Qiang Du.

Hall gave all of the credit to the police, including two officers from the East Liberty station who responded, Kelly Buettner and Bryan Perun.

\"I didn\'t do anything to catch this man,\" Hall said. \"They deserve all the glory. The lady officer, she was great, she really helped to calm my daughter down. He jumped out of my window, and he could have jumped into somebody else\'s window right after if they weren\'t quick to respond. Those are the heroes.\"


Staff writer Jonathan Silver contributed to this report.

Lori Shontz can be reached at or 412-263-1722.