The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, June 30, 2020 1:00 am

Police use text alert to clear trucks

Say tactic gets 1st deployment at Glenbrook Commons rally

DAVE GONG | The Journal Gazette

A text alert used to warn people to clear the Glenbrook Commons area in Fort Wayne on Saturday night had never been used before, the Fort Wayne Police Department said Monday. 

“A text message from the police department went out in a geo-fenced area along with audible messages by police vehicles,” spokeswoman Sofia Rosales-Scatena said in a news release. “The text message read: 'By order of the Fort Wayne Police Department, if you are receiving this message, you need to vacate the Glenbrook Mall area immediately or you will be arrested.'”

No one was arrested Saturday, and police say there were no reports of violence or injuries during the event.

About 1,000 trucks and “several thousand” people gathered in the Glenbrook Commons parking lot for an apparently impromptu event, called “The World's Largest Street Diesel Meet,” organized by an Instagram account called WhistlinDiesel, whose real name was not identified. Trucks began gathering in the area at about 6 p.m.

Organizers had not received a permit, and the property owner had not given permission for the gathering.

By 8:30 p.m., trucks and their drivers had formed a line for burnouts – during which drivers spin their back wheels while keeping their vehicle in place – in front of the Ross Dress for Less store. On Sunday, skid marks from the activity were visible in the parking lot outside the clothing retailer's building.

Witnesses in the area, some of whom broadcast scenes from the event over Facebook Live, reported seeing open alcohol containers and fireworks, in addition to plumes of smoke caused by burnouts. 

Police say many employees and shoppers experienced difficulty entering or exiting the area, “as there were several trucks that were blocking the road due to being in stopped traffic on Lima Road” as they attempted to access the gathering. One woman told The Journal Gazette she entered the area about 8:30 p.m. to pick up friends who worked nearby. She said she wasn't able to leave for three hours. 

Police were notified that there were shoppers and employees who were afraid to leave surrounding buildings, the news release states. Officers assisted in getting those people out of the area, and specialty units were called in to assist with clearing the area and prepare for possible arrests. 

The property owner for Glenbrook Commons told police the event did not have permission and that officers were allowed to clear the parking lot.

The text alert, which appeared on TVs and cellphones located within a specific geographic area, was dispatched about midnight.

After the alert was issued, some participants began to “slowly pack up and leave,” the news release states, and “many remarked they didn't know permission was not given and they apologized as they left the area.”

Police said a few trucks tried to occupy nearby parking lots, but property managers “quickly gave FWPD permission to clear their lots as well.”

Most of the area was vacated within an hour after the alert, police said.

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