A man whose walk into work is interrupted daily by suspicious authorities mistaking him for a fugitive has received nearly $15,000 in donations — and an offer for a cheap car from a Pennsylvania dealership.
A GoFundMe campaign was set up earlier this week to get a car for James Tully, who walks to his workplace five miles away every day. The walk, which takes him about two hours door-to-door, became an issue after Sept. 12, when a gunman ambushed the Blooming Grove, Pennsylvania, barracks, killing a state trooper and injuring another.
A massive manhunt has been going on for the suspect, Eric Frein; Tully lives in the search area, and resembles Frein.
"The last 40 days or so, part of the routine was being stopped by the police at least once, checking to see who I am, where I'm going and where I'm coming from," Tully told NBC News. "One round-trip stretch coming to work and then coming home, I think I was stopped a total of seven times."
Last Friday, the encounters with authorities turned violent: Tully told The Pocono Record that a police officer stopped him and pinned him to the gravel at gunpoint, "screaming like a lunatic."
"From the minute I saw him with that gun I thought, let me survive this," he said.
As of Friday morning, more than 600 people had donated to Tully, who has a bad knee and limps when he walks. He does not have a working cellphone, and did not immediately return calls left with the thermal products manufacturer where he works the night shift.
"People don't even walk to the bus stop without complaining. This guy walks two hours because it's the right thing to do."
Jennifer Watkins Roth, a resident of Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley region, was one of the strangers who donated to the campaign because she was so impressed with Tully's dedication to making a living. She gave $100 on GoFundMe and has been asking local convenience stores to donate gift cards for gas money.
"Walking those roadways is like Harlem in the '70s. It's dark, it's tractor-trailers, there's car accidents on a regular basis. He could have easily said 'I'm quitting my job, I don't care,'" she said. "People don't even walk to the bus stop without complaining. This guy walks two hours because it's the right thing to do. That's somebody that I want to help."
Roth also reached out to a friend of hers who is a used-car dealer.
"We're not in a position to donate a vehicle, but I would be able to help him obtain a car at a decent price," Tracy Werley-Boreman, who owns a dealership with her husband in Allentown, Pennsylvania, said.
Werley-Boreman has been trying to reach Tully and said with the money that has already poured in, "he could probably have three" decent used cars. Tully has not gotten in touch with her yet, but she hopes he will.
The GoFundMe page was created by Pennsylvania resident Dawn DeBiase, who set out to raise $2,500 for Tully after reading his story in the Pocono Record. On Thursday night, DeBiase posted a message she had received from Tully's mom.
"I don't know if James is aware of the present total as he is at work right now. But I am blown away. I don't have the words to thank each of you for your kindness to my son. To say thank you seems so inadequate, but I don't know what else I could say. Many thanks to everyone who donated and posted encouraging messages."