AKRON, Ohio — When Akron homicide detective Troy Looney walks near the burned shell of a house on Fultz Street, his mind races back to a tragic day in May of 2017.
It was the deadliest fire in Akron's history, killing five children and two adults, and investigators determined it was a case of arson.
"Someone has to speak for the victims," Looney said. "I'm always thinking about them. I actually keep a picture of them by my desk in an actual book."
Stanley Ford is facing murder charges for that fire and for another fire in 2016 that killed two people. His trial has been repeatedly delayed, most recently due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The trial is currently scheduled for August 16.
Looney, 50, handles about 10 to 15 crimes against persons cases at a time as an investigator on the midnight shift.
Akron detectives have felt extra pressure during a time when the city has experienced a surge in gun violence. In 2020, there were 50 murders. There have been six murders in Akron in 2021.
"The climate currently, obviously with conditions and COVID, the stress has been really high, but this has been consistent over the past several years in terms of the number of homicides," Looney said.
While solving crimes is a priority for the 28-year veteran, it's far from his only job or accomplishment.
Looney is also a professor at the University of Akron, specializing in cybersecurity and digital forensics.
He's also an author, a certified instructor with the Ohio Peace Officers Training Academy, a consultant, and is trying his hand at animation.
"I have some animation I'm currently working on. I'll be releasing that later this year," he said.
On top of all of that, Looney is the only officer on the Akron Police force who can call himself a doctor.
He earned his Doctorate of Management in Organizational Leadership from the University of Phoenix.
"I don't wear all the hats at the same time. I wear them as needed," he said. "I do appreciate having achieved this because it's a dream like no other and it has been quite a journey."
Looney is soft-spoken and modest about his Ph.D., but it's also not lost on him, especially during Black History Month.
"I've studied history and my history of who I am and where I come from — so very proud — and then as a lot of truths are revealed to us, then it adds a greater confidence and a greater measure of understanding our purpose, each of our purposes for being here, my purpose."
Akron Police Chief Kenneth Ball is retiring this week. Looney said he has no plans to pursue the top cop job.
"I'm not looking to become a chief," he said. "I think my purpose is better served where I am currently."
Whether you call him detective or doctor, Looney said he'll never stop his calling to keep learning.
"I would say you can do just about anything you want to — that you put your mind to —and you have to do the work," he said.