Homeless man faces charges

Mercer accused of breaking into apartment

A homeless man is in jail after Altoona police allegedly found him prowling inside an apartment with a flashlight.

Joshua B. Mercer, 31, was taken into custody after Altoona police officers ordered him out of the basement of a first-floor apartment on the 1900 block of 13th Avenue on Wednesday night.

According to the charges, it was just before 11 p.m. when police responded to the rear apartment for a report of a burglary in progress.

Officers walked around the duplex where the apartment is located and noticed lights in the basement. The door to the home was locked, but officers could see a light shining through a crack in a set of storm doors that led to the basement. When officers, with guns drawn, entered through the basement doors, they could see the shadow of someone moving around the basement, and Mercer suddenly appeared at the bottom of a staircase.

Mercer was ordered to walk out of the basement, and he was taken into custody.

Police checked the first-floor apartment and found it looked to have been ransacked. Mercer told police he left his cellphone inside, and police noted it was found on the floor of a bedroom.

A witness told police she saw Mercer walking on the 1200 block of 20th Street beforehand and that he had been stumbling and talking to himself. The witness said he walked to the front of the home, looked in the windows and then crouched down and walked around the side of the building. He then got between some bushes in the back of the home, and not long after that, she saw someone inside the apartment with a flashlight.

Police said the apartment’s resident was not at home.

Mercer, who police said appeared to be under the influence of some sort of drug, was taken to the Altoona Police Department. When he got out of a the patrol vehicle, a cellphone with pink and purple accessories fell from somewhere on him, and he started to stomp on it as if to break it. The phone was taken into evidence, and Mercer was booked on a felony count of criminal trespass as well as a misdemeanor charge of loitering and prowling at night.

Bail was set by Mag­isterial District Judge Paula Aigner at $50,000 cash, and Mercer remains in Blair County Prison. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Wednesday at Central Court before Magisterial District Judge Ben Jones.

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