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The Journal Gazette

  • Jamie Duffy | The Journal Gazette Fort Wayne police watch as a black Chrysler 300 reported stolen Friday afternoon is towed after its two occupants crashed the car into a utility pole on Wells Street. The two men then ran west, jumped a fence and went onto zoo grounds, prompting a lockdown, police said.

Friday, June 14, 2019 9:20 pm

3 men arrested after pursuit, crash near zoo

JAMIE DUFFY | The Journal Gazette

Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo was put on lockdown Friday while police officers arrested two men in front of zoo visitors. 

The two men had crashed a black Chrysler 300, reported stolen at 1:12 p.m., into a utility pole across from the Nestle Dreyer's plant in the 3400 block of Wells Street while they were being pursued by the car’s owners, according to Sofia Rosales-Scatena, Fort Wayne police spokeswoman.  The two men ran from the crashed vehicle and jumped the zoo fence, she added.

A witness at the scene told The Journal Gazette he’d heard gunshots erupt from one or both of the cars as they started the pursuit near Lima Road and Fernhill Avenue. A release from the Gang and Violent Crimes Unit confirmed that the two cars had been chasing each other while exchanging gunfire at that intersection.

The witness followed the pursuit, but by the time he got to Wells Street, the stolen vehicle had crashed into the pole, he said. Two men got out of that car and ran west toward the zoo, he added. 

He and other witnesses watched as the pursuers, driving a Chrysler 200, emerged from their vehicle and started to search the trunk of the crashed car and remove items. 

Once police arrived on the scene, witnesses added police also searched the trunk and rummaged through the removed items. Rosales-Scatena said there were other details about the incident she could not confirm. 

Matthew Thomas Fox Jr. and Jontra Lynn Clark were arrested at the zoo and taken to police headquarters for questioning, according to the police department release. Also arrested was Travis William Ladd, although it's unclear where his arrest was made.

Karena France of Fort Wayne was at the zoo with her two children and watched the incident happen. She also said she heard gunshots and police sirens. 

A half hour after she heard the police activity, she was being herded through the back gates of the zoo to the Australia exhibit "so they could escort the guy out," she said, referring to one of two men taken into custody. She said one man was "tased" next to the sea lion and penguin area while she and her family and others were "rushed to the gated area between the penguins and the alligators."

Rosales-Scatena said while the police may have drawn their Taser stun guns, they were not used. 

The zoo was packed Friday and the zoo parking lots were close to capacity, but around 2 p.m. visitors were seen entering and exiting the zoo while police monitored the entrance and one man sat in a police vehicle. 

Rosales-Scatena said zoo officials acted quickly and no one was hurt. 

Fox, 27, of the 1200 block of Washington Boulevard, was charged with leaving the scene of a property damage accident, carrying a handgun without a license and criminal recklessness  by shooting a firearm, with misdemeanor charges for criminal trespass and disorderly conduct. He was being held without bond.

Clark, 24, of the 1100 block of Columbia Avenue, was charged with criminal trespass and criminal recklessness by shooting a firearm, with misdemeanor charges for disorderly conduct and carrying a handgun without a license. No bond or bail information was available.

Ladd, 23, of the 3700 block of East Washington Boulevard,  was charged with criminal recklessness by shooting a firearm and a misdemeanor charge for carrying a handgun without a license. He was being held without bond.

Evidence recovered during the investigation included a Ruger EC9s 9mm and a Taurus PT111, both semi-automatic guns, nearly 20 grams of crystal methamphetamine, four grams of marijuana, four hydrocodone pills, four digital scales and several ceramic smoking devices.

jduffy@jg.net