Man charged with killing Walmart diaper thief has new explanation for what happened

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — The man accused of shooting and killing a teenager who was stealing diapers from a Walmart is offering a new explanation of why he did it.

Channel 9 has reported that Lonnie Leonard has been writing letters to the judge, asking for a new attorney and claiming that he has received death threats from a gang.

Leonard is accused of shooting and killing 19-year-old Arthur Adams in the parking lot of the Walmart on Clarcona Ocoee Road in February 2017 as Adams tried to steal diapers, deputies said.

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In a newly obtained letter, Leonard offers insight into why he said he shot Adams, despite the fact it doesn’t match up with what he originally told investigators.

In the new letter, Leonard claims he fired because Adams got into an SUV and backed up, so Leonard started firing into the vehicle to try and stop him.

“I shot the red Nissan Rogue SUV four times to stop it,” Leonard said in the letter. “I would not have shot the SUV if the backup lights wouldn’t come on, and I didn’t or couldn’t jump out of the way.”

Read: 911 calls show confusion during Walmart shooting

Initially, Leonard told investigators he was in fear when he saw Adams reach into his waistband and under the seat of the SUV.

Deputies said surveillance video shows Leonard was already reaching for his gun when he walked out of the store, following Adams. Investigators also said the evidence shows Leonard firing at the SUV while it was driving away.

Letters with changing stories could hurt Leonard's case, according to WFTV legal analyst Bill Sheaffer.
"It's a nightmare for a defense attorney when their client keeps making inconsistent statements," Sheaffer said. "It certainly complicates the decision of whether or not to put your client on the stand and subject him to cross examination."

Read: Man accused of shooting thief at Walmart wants new attorney, stand your ground defense

In other letters, Leonard tells the judge that he even though he admits to shooting at the SUV, he claims he didn’t shoot or kill anyone.

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Jeff Deal

Jeff Deal, WFTV.com

I joined the Eyewitness News team as a reporter in 2006.