Pittsburgh police used surveillance footage, a fateful voicemail recording and witness accounts to find and charge a man late Thursday suspected of shooting and killing 56-year-old Reginald Shelton in July 2016.
Authorities charged Ernest Hardman, 26, of East Liberty, with homicide. He is in the Allegheny County Jail, held without bond.
Hardman’s arrest highlights an example of a break in a homicide investigation that spanned more than year (16 months), an amount of time that often means detectives must contend with dwindling leads and faded witness memories.
Shelton died July 3, 2016, after driving himself to Allegheny General Hospital on Pittsburgh’s North Side and telling emergency room staff only, “He shot me,” according to the criminal complaint filed against Hardman.
Police found Shelton’s white Buick in the emergency room parking lot, where he’d crashed into several retaining walls – all of which was captured on security footage, police wrote.
His cell phone remained in the car.
A missed call from Shelton that went to a friend’s voicemail system just after 4 a.m. recorded audio of the shooting, police said. Based on that, police were able to determine that it took about five minutes between the shooting and when Shelton arrived at the hospital, indicating the crime scene was not far.
Officers used security footage to determine the shooting happened at the Allegheny Dwellings housing complex in the city’s Fineview section. The complex is about one mile away from the hospital — a five-minute drive.
Security footage from the housing complex showed Shelton pulled up, walked inside, and walked back out minutes later while clutching his chest, according to the complaint.
A witness from Allegheny Dwellings told police a man known as “E” was seen walking through the lot near the complex carrying a handgun just before and after the shooting, according to the complaint. After the shooting, the witness reported seeing people running, while someone shouted, “E just shot some guy in the chest.”
Another witness told police that Hardman shot Shelton in the chest after an argument over money just inside the main door of the housing complex, according to the complaint.
Both witnesses picked Hardman from a photo array, according to police.
Court papers did not list an attorney for Hardman. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for Nov. 15.
Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8519, Media or via Twitter @meganguzaTrib.
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