February 15, 2016

Tipster: Why did Fetterman pull gun on unarmed jogger if he supports BLM?

The U.S. Senate candidate from Braddock responded to a 'whisper campaign' that he's heard about from donors

Politics Senate Race
John Fetterman Keith Srakocic/AP Photo

John Fetterman, the mayor of Braddock, Pa., holds his 18-month-old son, August, as he talks to reporters and supporters after his announcement that he is running for the U.S. Senate on Monday, Sept. 14, 2015, in Braddock, Pa.

In this week’s episode of “Anonymous Tips Related to Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate Primary,” we turn to racial tensions.

Specifically, it centers on a one-and-a-half page outline questioning western Pennsylvania Mayor John Fetterman’s claims that “the Black Lives Matter movement just put a name or a hashtag to what he has always done in Braddock.”

The tipster laid out a case focused upon several angles including:

• That Fetterman knew that an unarmed black woman had been pepper sprayed a month before a TV station got video.

• That arrests of black Braddock citizens “increased 77 percent between 2013 and 2014” while police-department demographics are the polar opposite of the community’s.

These run counter to Fetterman's reported support of the BLM movement, per the anonymous tipster.

Within moments of an inquiry sent to his campaign Monday afternoon, the candidate dialed up my mobile phone to discuss the portion of the tip that held “Fetterman pulled a shotgun on an unarmed black jogger and later said he had no regrets.”

“I know people have been shopping this around to the press, but this had nothing to do with race." – John Fetterman, U.S. Senate primary candidate

It stemmed from a January 2013 incident, according to Fetterman, who said he “heard about a dozen gunshots that sounded like they came from an assault rifle … saw a man take off on foot, wearing a face mask and goggles [and] thought the person might be associated with the gunfire, so he called 911 and got into his truck and pursued.”

Fetterman would eventually get into how this is emblematic of the “smears” he expects to see more of as the April primary approaches. He also explained his side of things, like he did to Pittsburgh-area media three years ago.

Here’s what he told PhillyVoice on Monday:

“In Braddock, you'd hear gunshots quite frequently. It was [several] weeks after Sandy Hook when I heard a dozen high-powered rifle rounds. I was outside with my son [Karl], who was 4 at time, and I saw someone in commando-gear running away from the scene.

“It was a split-second decision. I got my son inside to safety and, thinking about Sandy Hook and Aurora, I took off after [the jogger]. I pursued him, got behind him and yelled ‘Stop.’ Two verbal commands like that and then I produced the gun I had.

“I know people have been shopping this around to the press, but this had nothing to do with race. The runner could have been my mother for all I knew, thanks to what the jogger was wearing.

“It’s an odd situation. We never fully figured out what happened. All I knew is he claimed he was jogging.  It was a split-second decision to protect the community. If my brother had been running from the scene of 13 assault rounds, I’d have done the same thing. It was an emergency situation, an incredibly scary situation, thought it might be the last time I’d see my son.

“This was all vetted; it’s well known. If you live in a million-dollar-home neighborhood, you don’t think about gunshots, but I was on edge like everybody else after Sandy Hook. 

"If anybody thinks that bias was involved, it was a situation where someone was dressed entirely in commando gear, and I won re-election later that year.”

Fetterman noted that he’s heard similar stories from donors who say they’ve recounted “whisper campaigns that try to [knock him down], but it all gets back to me. Donors get back to you saying, ‘You should hear the stuff they’re saying.’”

Without knowing where the tip came from, Fetterman merely said that the situation he faced isn’t something worried about “by Joe [Sestak] in Virginia or by Katie [McGinty] in her million-dollar home enclave.”

With that, we close out another chapter in "Anonymous Tips Related To The U.S. Senate Primary" in Pennsylvania. I'm sure we'll be back with another one in no time at all.