ALLENTOWN, Pa. – Offers of help are pouring in for James Tully, the carless Canadensis, Pa., man who says he’s been mistaken for Eric Frein more than 20 times, leading to some scary encounters with police in the Pocono woods.
Tully, 39, doesn’t own a vehicle and must walk five miles along heavily wooded Route 447 – directly through the Frein manhunt zone – on his way to and from his second-shift job at a metal fabrication plant.
On Wednesday, one day after Tully’s story appeared in the (Allentown) Morning Call and on other news sites, friends set up an online fundraiser aimed at buying him a car and insurance, getting more than half the $2,500 they sought within hours.
Tully said he’s been stopped more than 20 times by officers who thought he might be Frein, the self-styled survivalist and expert marksman suspected of shooting two state police troopers, killing one.
Most of the police officers who’ve stopped him have simply asked for identification and released him, Tully said Tuesday. But Tully claims that one man he believes to be a police officer pointed a rifle at his head and violently forced him to the ground.
Dawn DiBiase, 40, of East Stroudsburg, Pa., started the fundraiser on the crowdfunding site Go Fund Me after reading about Tully’s plight. She said she doesn’t know Tully well but is familiar with his reputation through other friends and co-workers.
“Everyone I’ve talked to says he’s just an all-around good guy,” DiBiase said. “He’s shy. He wouldn’t hurt a fly.”
DiBiase said she and others are following the Frein saga online and are touched by Tully’s story. “We said we have to do something to help this man. This seems like the easiest way,” she said.
Co-workers are now shuttling Tully to and from work, and one man has offered to give him a van. The van donor “doesn’t like the spotlight,” DiBiase said, and didn’t want his name released to news reporters.
Nearly half of the $2,500 goal was raised on the page http://www.gofundme.com/g43pg8 by Wednesday afternoon. DiBiase said she was unsure if the fund would be expanded to collect more money, or if a bank account or other collection method would be started.
DiBiase described Tully as “overwhelmed” by the outpouring of support, and said she wanted to speak to him before expanding the fundraiser.
Officials say Frein is the only suspect in the Sept. 12 ambush-style shooting of Cpl. Bryon Dickson, 38, and Trooper Alex Douglass, 31, at the Blooming Grove state police barracks. Dickson was killed instantly and Douglass is recovering.
Tully said he had trouble breathing after the encounter that sent him to the ground. Co-workers urged him to visit a hospital emergency room, where doctors told him he had bruised ribs, Tully said.
He said the man with the rifle never identified himself, but Tully believes he was a law enforcement officer because a uniformed state trooper intervened, telling him that Tully was a local resident.
State police spokeswoman Trooper Connie Devens said she had no knowledge of the incident.