FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – A Fort Wayne father pulled out his gun and chased down a man he said was staring at his daughters. It all started with a Facebook post, warning people on the southwest side, that a suspicious man had been driving a van with Ohio license plates through the neighborhoods.
The owners of a local roofing company said the man driving the van is not a predator. He is employed with Roofing USA and has been in the neighborhoods on business.
Fort Wayne Police were called just after 6:30 p.m. Tuesday to a home along Turf Lane, near Aboite Center Road. The man called 911 and said a man with a gun in a Chevrolet Avalanche was chasing his gold minivan.
The minivan pulled into the parking lot near the baseball fields around Homestead High School, where the van’s driver found a police officer and told him about the armed man, who pulled in behind him.
Ed Jardine and Matt Brown, who own Roofing USA, said they have been in business four years. Jardine said they learned Tuesday evening that one of their employees, Ernie Daugherty, was involved in the incident.
Mathew King said he is the man who was chasing after the gold minivan, which was driven by Daugherty.
“I just kept thinking of the Facebook post that was going around a couple of days ago,” King said. “It was a creep alert.”
The post warned of a suspicious man driving a van around southwest side neighborhoods with an Ohio license plate. King told police the van was parked in front of his home and he feared the man was watching his daughters play in the front yard.
“I didn’t know he had children or daughters,” said Daugherty. “I was simply doing paperwork in my van like I always do.”
King said he approached the car and asked what he was doing there. Daugherty told King that he was in the neighborhood offering free roof inspections. King was still skeptical. That’s when things got out of control.
King said Daugherty sped off, so he grabbed his handgun and gave chase. However, Daugherty said after King confronted him, he left and came back waving a handgun.
“I basically laid down in my vehicle across the passenger’s seat in the front,” said Daugherty. “After I looked to make sure nothing was in front of me, I just floored it and drove away.”
Both men said they called 911. The chase eventually ended at baseball field near Homestead High School. After taking down their information, police released both drivers.
“I just didn’t want him to get away without the authorities talking to him,” said King.
Co-owner of Roofing USA Matt Brown said he has known Daugherty for five years.
“It’s unfortunate the situation took place,” said Brown. “I have four daughters of my own, so I can sympathize with the community and the concerns that they had for their own families and children. I’ve known Ernie for 5 years now. There is not a harmful bone in his body.”
Brown said over the last few years Daugherty has done work in those neighborhoods without any problems.
“It’s concerning, it’s frightening and I think it really could have been avoided,” Brown said.
“We have helped hundreds and hundreds of homeowners by doing what Ernie does for us,” added Jardine.
Daugherty said he has become accustomed to people questioning what he’s doing. He said people even call the police. He has never experienced anything like this.
“I’ve got no problem with people checking me out,” said Daugherty. “I respect that and I thank them. I literally thank them for doing their due diligence in their community. But this is not the case.”