Washington police say it is likely that the Washington & Jefferson College student who was killed two weeks ago in an apparent robbery attempt as he and a roommate walked back to campus from a South Main Street tavern was confronted by a smaller group of people than original reported.
Twenty-one-year-old Tim McNerney also was not brutally beaten or bludgeoned to death, said city police Lt. Dan Stanek, but suffered a blow to his head after either being shoved or tackled to the ground in the early morning hours of Oct. 4. McNerney and his roommate, 22-year-old Zach DeCicco, were attacked on South College Street as they walked home from the Main Street Brew House. Stanek said it appears the incident began as a robbery.
“They may not have realized how severe his injuries were and didn’t realize that it killed him,” Stanek said of McNerney’s attacker. “They might be bragging with some bravado about their action, telling people, and didn’t realize what they had done.”
There was no sign on McNerney’s body that he had been involved in a struggle.
“The fatal injury came from a shove or tackle,” Stanek said, “not from an object or pipe.”
DeCicco suffered a broken nose, as well as some cuts and bruises. He was able to break free from his attackers but could not tell what happened to his friend, the lieutenant added. McNerney was found about two hours later in the parking lot of an auto repair shop at South College and East Maiden. His cellphone was missing.
Stanek said police also have been able to narrow down the time of the attack to between 2:20 and 2:30 a.m. Surveillance video shows McNerney and DeCicco walking in front of a building in the 10 block of East Maiden Street.
“We know there was foot traffic and vehicle traffic around the time of the incident,” Stanek said. “If anyone saw anything, even if you don’t think it is significant, we are asking you to come forward.
“Originally we thought they were confronted by a group of five or six people,” he added. “But now we feel it was a smaller group. People traveling in the area might not have even realized what they saw.”
Stanek declined to further clarify how many people were in the group that confronted the two friends. He also said there is no surveillance camera in the area where the assault took place.
“We are investigating a multitude of people,” Stanek said Wednesday. “We’ve eliminated some people, and some are still on our radar.”
Stanek said police do not believe the two were targeted because they were W&J students. “The investigation doesn’t show that,” the lieutenant said. “It seems that the two happened to cross paths.”
“We are not aware of any beefs in the bar,” he added. “All the bars in the area would have been emptying out. Maybe someone saw the group.”
Stanek said he has talked with a number of parents, assuring them that the campus is a safe one. He also told them that there is a safe environment in most city neighborhoods.
Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call Stanek at 724-223-1386 or the detective unit at 724-223-4225.