Friends and strangers are rallying to help a man whom police have repeatedly mistaken for Eric Frein, the alleged cop killer and survivalist still on the loose in northeastern Pennsylvania.
James Tully, who doesn't own a car and who walks 5 miles to work every day, has been mistaken for Frein more than 20 times by heavily-armed law enforcement scouring the Pocono mountain region for Frein, according to local news reports.
On at least one occasion, Tully, 39, claims he was forced to the ground and had a rifle pointed at his head by an officer as he walked to his job along a heavily wooded road near where Frein is believed to be hiding, according to the Pocono Record.
Hundreds of law enforcement officials have descended on the area to search for Frein, who they say shot and killed Cpl. Bryon Dickson and wounded Trooper Alex Douglass in an ambush Sept. 12 outside the Blooming Grove state police barracks in Pike County, Pa. Frein, a 31-year-old survivalist and expert marksman, has managed to evade capture in the dense woods of the Poconos -- despite multiple reported sightings of him by police and local residents.
On Wednesday, Dawn DeBiase Witchy, an area resident who had heard of Tully's plight, set up an account on the crowdfunding site Go Fund Me with the intent of buying him a car and insurance, The Morning Call reported. As of Thursday morning, the funds raised reached more than $7,000 -- exceeding the $2,500 goal. Many donations on the page, "Help James Get to Work Safe," came from strangers as far away as West Virginia.
"This story broke my heart. Hope the donations help you get a car! Best of luck!" one woman, identified as Cheri Magistro, wrote on the site.
"God Bless you for walking those many miles to work. You are truly an inspiration for not sitting home and collecting from the government. Praying you get a great reliable car," wrote Bridgette Maloney.
Tully, a father of two who lives in Frein's hometown of Canadensis, was stopped by police so many times he started carrying his driver's license and work identification around his neck, the Pocono Record reported. His 5-mile walk to his job at J.A. Reinhardt, a metal fabrication plant, takes two hours each way, according to the newspaper. Tully, who has a bad knee and sometimes uses a brace, arrives home from work around 2 a.m.
After Tully left work Friday night, he told the newspaper he was stopped by a driver dressed in camouflage and a tactical vest and holding a rifle.
"The only ID I saw was the barrel of the gun," Tully told the paper. "He yelled at me to get down on the ground with my arms out wide and he demanded my name."
Tully said the man ripped the lanyard from around his neck as he drove his knee into his back.
"I will break you right here. What is your name?" Tully quoted the man as saying, according to the Pocono Record. "From the minute I saw him with that gun I thought, let me survive this."
Tully says he was not released until a state trooper showed up and told the officer that he was telling the truth. Tully limped the rest of the way home, according to the newspaper.
Shortly after the encounter, Tully had trouble and was taken to the hospital, where doctors told him his ribs are bruised as a result of the incident. He told the paper he hopes the police will pay for X-rays and time he was absent from work.
The Pennsylvania state police, meanwhile, claim they have no knowledge of the incident.
"If Mr. Tully was improperly treated by a law enforcement officer, we will initiate an investigation. However, Mr. Tully has not filed a complaint with [the Pennsylvania State Police]. PSP cannot comment on complaints it has not received," state police spokeswoman Trooper Connie Devens told The Morning Call.