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Foster sons: Dad died a hero

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The neighbor and his two sons had just stepped into the bedroom when the man they’d come to calm down started shooting.

Ernie Jasper was shot in the face and later died. His two foster sons turned to run down the stairs and to safety, and one of them was shot, too.

Jasper, 46, and his grown foster sons had been waiting in the hallway for more than 10 minutes. Jasper wanted to give 21-year-old Andrew Parish a chance to talk out the issues he was having with his ex-girlfriend Maria Davis.

Parish had come to the home in Franklin’s Heritage subdivision on Monday night to see Davis. When the discussion got heated, her 12-year-old brother ran across Bridlewood Drive to get Jasper, a family friend. His parents weren’t home, and he knew he could trust Jasper to help.

What Jasper and his sons saw were two young adults who had gone through a breakup. The situation didn’t look any different from the relationships he had helped his own children and foster children go through.

He backed off and gave Parish time, leaving him alone in the bedroom where he was talking to Davis and her friend, Sara Davidson, who also lived at the home.

When time was up, Jasper asked Parish to leave. He told him he should cool off and maybe come back the next day. Parish refused. Jasper stepped into the room to escort him out.

Parish pulled a handgun and started firing.

On Thursday, Jasper’s foster sons, Dustin Gray, 21, and Danny Scott, 18, told the story of what happened and how their dad died a hero.

Gray, who spent two days in the hospital, has a wound on his cheek and another on the back of his neck where a bullet passed through. His cheek is a little swollen, but the wound now looks like a small scrape. If the bullet had hit him

2 centimeters to one side, he probably would have died too, doctors told him. Scott stands nearby, physically unharmed.

They both consider how lucky they are to have survived. They said they would rather have died if it meant their dad could live.

“I’d give my dad those 2 centimeters just to have him back,” Gray said.

When Davis’ brother came over about 10 p.m. Monday, Gray and Scott answered the door. The boy said his sister was having an argument and he wanted Jasper to come help. They went to get Jasper, whose 7-year-old grandson had curled up in bed and fallen asleep with him.

Jasper and his neighbor across the street, David Smith, were good friends. Since Smith was usually gone for work during the week, he had asked Jasper to look after his family and, if there was ever a problem, gave him permission to go in the house where his wife, Lianne Smith, and children, Maria Davis, her friend and her younger brother, live.

Jasper owns a .45 caliber gun and a shotgun, but he didn’t take either. They didn’t know Parish had a handgun with him, and Jasper had no reason to take a gun to break up a small argument.

They walked across the street. The 12-year-old stayed downstairs; and Jasper, Gray and Scott went upstairs. When they came to the bedroom, they saw Parish sitting on the bed with Davis and her friend Sara Davidson, who also lived there. Parish and Davis had dated, and he obviously was trying to reconcile with her.

Jasper told them the argument was getting a little heated and asked Parish to leave. Parish just wanted to talk with her. Jasper, who raised three children and has been a foster parent to about 50 others, saw the situation as the fallout from a breakup between young people. He agreed to give Parish a few more minutes to wrap it up and then he would have to leave. Jasper closed the door to give them privacy, and he stood in the narrow hallway with Gray and Scott.

“It was just a normal sit (down), just calm them down and go back to bed,” Scott said.

While they were waiting, Davis’ mother, Lianne Smith, arrived home and came upstairs. Jasper told her that Davis was inside talking with her ex-boyfriend and that he was going to help get the man to leave when they were done.

After about 10 minutes, Jasper opened the door and told Parish his time was up. Parish said that Davis told him it was OK to stay. But the three men in the hallway could see her discreetly shaking her head “No,” Scott said.

Jasper told Parish that it was late and he should go home, cool off and take some time to think. If they had more to discuss, he could come back another day.

Parish still refused to leave, so Jasper gave him two options. He could take the easy way and leave on his own, or Jasper was going to escort him out of the house.

“The kid said, ‘I’ll take the hard way,’” Scott said.

The three neighbors started to go into the bedroom but didn’t get far. The bed where Parish and the girls were was about 5 feet from the doorway. Parish had pulled a handgun and started shooting before they could make it to him.

Gray had his hand on his dad’s back as they went in and saw him get shot in the face. After seeing his dad get hit, he froze. Parish fired a second shot, and Gray turned and started pushing Scott toward the stairs. Their ears were ringing from the gunshots happening so close, and they didn’t hear how many more shots were fired. They barreled down the stairs to the front door.

“I saw Danny running, and I thank God he was running,” he said.

Gray touched his face and saw blood on his fingers and realized that he, too, had been shot. Scott later found a bullet hole in his shirt near his hip, where a shot had just missed his body.

“(The gunshot) froze me up. I was in shock. My adrenaline was running. I didn’t realize I had even been shot,” Gray said.

The door was locked, and Scott fumbled to open it. They think Davis’ brother ran out of the house after hearing the first gunshot to go to a nearby house where a police officer lived.

Scott got the door unlocked, and they ran back across the street to tell Jasper’s wife, Penny, what had happened. She ran out of the house into the street and saw Parish walking out of the house. They locked eyes as he left the house, her son Dustin Jasper said she told him.

“He was walking out so casual. He walked out like nothing happened,” Dustin Jasper said.

Parish dropped his gun in the snow; but when Penny Jasper turned to run into the house to call police, he grabbed the handgun, got in his car and sped away, Dustin Jasper said.

Parish drove about 4 miles to a farm and shot himself in the head with a rifle as police arrived.

Gray and Scott don’t know when Parish shot and killed Davidson or when he shot Lianne Smith since they had already run downstairs. She was treated at Johnson Memorial Hospital that night and released.

When paramedics got to the house, Ernie Jasper had lost a lot of blood because the bullet had passed through his cheek and hit arteries in his neck, Dustin Jasper said. The ambulance was trying to rush him to Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis but had to divert to Franciscan St. Francis Health-Indianapolis to revive him. They got him to Methodist about an hour later, and doctors tried to save him but couldn’t, Dustin Jasper said.

Gray spent two days in Eskenazi Hospital in Indianapolis before being released to come home.

None of them had any idea that Parish had a gun, and Ernie Jasper was just trying to end the dispute and keep Davis and her family safe, his family said. He hadn’t called police before he left because it sounded like a spat between young people. Ernie Jasper wouldn’t have wanted to get a 21-year-old kid in trouble with police over a breakup if everyone could just talk it out, come to terms and go their separate ways, Dustin Jasper said.

Even if Ernie Jasper knew Parish had the gun, his sons know that he still would have gone across the street to help.

“Some people cower and say, ‘I don’t want to get involved with this because I don’t want to get hurt.’ But my dad was the type of guy that Maria was his kid. To him that’s a baby in that house, that child was his responsibility. He was the protector,” Dustin Jasper said.

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