City police investigating man’s homicide

The 100 block of Walnut Avenue, just over the hill from UPMC Altoona, is populated by families, working people and lots of kids.

The quiet of that neighborhood was shattered early Saturday morning when several gunshots rang out from one of the homes.

A neighbor called police reporting a home invasion robbery in progress, and when police arrived at 124 Walnut Ave., they found a 37-year-old native of Washington, D.C., dead.

Blair County Coroner Patricia Ross transported the body of the black male victim to the Mount Nittany Medical Center on Saturday night where Dr. Harry Kamerow, a forensic pathologist, performed an autopsy.

Ross identified the victim as Steven Hackney. She said that the autopsy showed he had multiple wounds but died from a gunshot to the chest.

Hackney was in the news in the Altoona area in March 2006, when he was charged with a shooting incident at Fifth Street and Fourth Avenue.

According to the charges Hackney, on Oct. 11, 2005, had pulled his vehicle alongside another car and fired seven shots.

A bullet hit the hand of one of the passengers in the car, but other shots went into a nearby home.

Because of the incident, the Washington-Jefferson Elementary School was placed in lockdown status.

While police charged Hackney in March 2006 with attempted homicide, aggravated assault and other offenses, Hackney went on the run and wasn’t arrested until 2009 when the U.S. Marshals Task Force found him in Erie.

The next step was a challenge by his attorney, who contended charges against him should have been dismissed because of the lengthy period of time between the filing or charges and his incarceration.

That was denied, and on March 15, 2010, Hackney was sentenced by Blair County Judge Jolene G. Kopriva to a term of 11 months and 29 days to 23 months and 28 days in the Blair County Prison on charges of aggravated assault and criminal mischief. All the other charges were dropped.

According to neighbors on Walnut Avenue, Hackney was a recent resident of the home where he was shot to death. He lived there with a young woman and a child.

When the shooting occurred early Saturday, Altoona police, assisted by the state police from Hollidaysburg, blocked off Walnut Avenue and worked all night and into the daylight hours processing the crime scene and talking to the neighbors.

By late Saturday evening, no suspects have been arrested, but as Blair County District Attorney Richard A. Consiglio said, “We issued some search warrants.”

Police, he said, were trying to determine why the shooting occurred and who is involved.

Neighbors were hesitant to talk, pointing out that victim, his girlfriend and a child, kept to themselves.

But, the incident clearly upset the neighbors.

Lloyd Walter, who lives two houses from the scene, said, “It makes me feel sick.”

Walter didn’t know Hackney, but he said there were a lot of people in and out of the house, including many from out-of-state – New York, Delaware, and New Jersey – listing the license plates of the cars parked outside the house.

He said the victim lived with a woman and a child, but said they were not home when the shooting occurred.

Another neighbor, Debbie Quinn, said she knew Hackney, but she was at work when the incident took place.

Quinn saw the victim coming up the street as she was leaving for work. He was dressed in a T-shirt and shorts, but, she said, what caused her worry was that his staggering and glaring at her. She locked the doors to her car and left for work.

Nobody was with Hackney, Quinn said.

She suspected drug activity, which she said was an “ongoing problem,” but Quinn added, “We thought we got rid of the drug dealers seven years ago.”

That was because there was a shooting in the neighborhood and arrests were made.

A young father who for the past decade has lived next to the house where the shooting occurred didn’t want his name used, but he kept repeating how quiet a neighborhood that area of Walnut Avenue really is.

He said he was at the hospital when he got a call about the shooting. He said a member of his household heard three shots and at first thought the noise came from firecrackers. He said he was in shock when he heard what had happened.

The investigation was under the supervision of two city detectives, Sgt. Matthew DePaolis and Cpl. Matthew S. Starr.

Starr said that four detectives were investigating the case, as well as patrol officers.

State police, Starr said, assisted with the processing of the crime scene.

He said he couldn’t discuss details because it was still “so early” in the investigation.

During the investigation, police did take one man in custody, a 21-year-old who lived across the street, but it was unrelated to the killing. Police discovered there was a warrant for his arrest.

Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468.