Police were working late Thursday night to sort through the murky details of a street robbery in which a Washington & Jefferson College football player was bludgeoned to death near the Washington, Pa., campus.
With only one witness, no suspects and no weapon, investigators said they are piecing together what happened in the hour-and-a-half that elapsed between the time Tim McNerney, 21, and his friend were robbed while walking home from a bar and when friends spotted him lying unconscious in an area that had already been searched.
Zach DeCicco, a 22-year-old Washington & Jefferson student from Jefferson Hills, told police he and Mr. McNerney were walking home from the Brew House bar on Main Street about 2:30 a.m. when a group of men he did not recognize tried to rob him and Mr. McNerney. They tried to take Mr. DeCicco’s phone and some of them began beating on him. He grabbed his phone and “fled as fast as he could,” Washington Lt. Dan Stanek said.
Through no fault of his own, investigators said, Mr. DeCicco lost track of his friend while he retreated to his dormitory, where he and his friends decided to call the campus security workers, who contacted Washington city police at 2:54 a.m.
Friends returned later to search and spotted Mr. McNerney lying unconscious in front of the auto repair shop shortly before 4 a.m.
Medics performed CPR and took Mr. McNerney to the Washington Hospital emergency room, where he was pronounced dead at 4:42 a.m., sending friends and family members into mourning.
Hundreds of people gathered on the lawn of the Burnett Center on the Washington & Jefferson campus Thursday night for a somber candlelight vigil remembering the popular running back and rapper.
Mr. McNerney’s violent death rattled some students who said that while they most often feel safe within the confines of the school, things change once they leave campus.
Sophomore Gadwin Stewart, a 19-year-old business major from Florida, said many students avoid leaving campus altogether or only go off campus when someone can drive them. He described some neighbors as “hostile” to students, and said that residents occasionally drive through to taunt students.
Older students venture off to go to the bars on Main Street, often on foot. Some make an effort to travel in groups, but Dan Tannenholtz, a 21-year-old senior, said students often get complacent and take shortcuts through unlit alleyways and parking lots. He said while the school has made efforts to address on-campus security concerns, they’ve done little to help keep students feel safe off-campus.
Washington police insist that the area near campus is largely safe and that they do not have any evidence that criminals are targeting students.