On Christmas Eve, when the young man went through a breakup, he found he had nowhere to go.
Ernie Jasper had raised 21-year-old Dustin Gray as a foster child for nine years. Although Gray hadn’t talked to him in about six months, he called to ask if he could come back to Franklin.
“In a moment, he was coming to pick me up,” Gray said.
Ernie Jasper, the Franklin resident who was killed this week when he tried to help a neighbor in need, had been a foster child himself.
As an adult, he and his wife had taken in about 50 foster children. Some didn’t stay for long, but five of them are as much a part of the family as his three biological children, Jasper’s son, Dustin Jasper, said.
Ernie Jasper had plans to adopt both Gray and 18-year-old Danny Scott Jr., both of whom came with him across the street the night he was shot by Andrew Parish.
Scott had been living with Jasper for about two years, but Ernie Jasper always treated him like he’d raised him since birth.
At football games at Whiteland Community High School, Scott could expect to see Ernie Jasper in the stands, even though his dad wasn’t much of a sports guy. Having him as a friend and father was an honor, Scott said.
“If I’m going to be any type of man in the world, that’s the man I want to be,” Scott said.
If you wanted a deck on your house, Ernie Jasper would figure out how to build one.
If you were having problems with your spouse, he’d help the two of you talk it through.
If you were short on cash, he’d slip you $40 worth of “hush money,” which meant don’t tell his wife.
And if his children went too long without bringing his grandkids over to visit, they could expect a call asking when they were stopping by his home.
Jasper’s garage is wallpapered with his grandchildren’s artwork. While he was a hardworking man who wasn’t afraid to tell you what you needed to hear, he had a huge soft spot for children.
When Jasper was shot and killed Monday at a neighbor’s house, he was trying to protect his friend’s daughter from her ex-boyfriend, Andrew Parish. The 21-year-old shot and killed him.
Jasper is a hero to his family. By getting involved and trying to stop Parish, they think he saved three other lives. If he hadn’t intervened, Parish might have shot everyone in the house and driven away without anyone knowing, they said.
“Even if he knew the boy had a gun, it wouldn’t have stopped him. He knew that family was in danger, and he was going to stop that family from getting hurt. He saved that family’s life,” Dustin Jasper said.
The Jasper family lost their patriarch in the shooting, the man who held together his large family, including his eight siblings, three children and five foster children who remain close to the family.
He never hesitated to help any of them in need, they said.
Ernie Jasper was always working to support his family and worked for the past 13 years at Prairie Materials concrete.
Money wasn’t a priority for him, and what he made he would put toward helping his family, such as buying a car for Scott, building a deck for his sister, Betty Jasper, or giving his kids $40 to make sure the gas tank was full.
If he didn’t have the cash, he’d take on projects such as fixing something up, selling it and splitting the money.
But even when he said he would split the money, Dustin Jasper and his sister, Shelby Jasper, knew he was giving them all of it.
He gave his children tough love sometimes, but they know it was because he wanted them to become stronger.
When Dustin Jasper went through a low point during a divorce, his dad’s advice was to toughen up, get past it and keep going because he had to do it for his kids.
Dustin Jasper said his 7-year-old son would have traded his dad for “Pa Paw” any day. He was sleeping over at grandpa’s house the night of the shooting and got to tell Ernie Jasper he loved him before falling asleep curled up in bed with Ernie Jasper.
On Thursday morning, he wouldn’t let anyone cut his waffles for him because it was too complicated for anyone except Pa Paw.
Now the family is trying to figure out how to explain the death to small children and what to do without the man Parish took away from them.
“We don’t know where to start because he was the rock. He was the glue. He was the strength in the family and, as his son, I’ll have to fill his shoes. But they’re big old work boots, and they’ll never quite fit,” Dustin Jasper said.
Parish’s brothers called to offer their condolences to both Dustin and Shelby Jasper. The family had no grudges to hold against the Parishes, since they too lost a family member in the shooting.
But there will be no mourning for Andrew Parish, who took away their husband, father and brother, they said.
“He knew this was a kid that was having trouble, and if he would have just stopped and just listened to my dad instead of letting his emotions take over his body, my dad would have sat down and talked to them. But he was too enraged; he had too much building up,” Dustin Jasper said.
Ernie Jasper gave Parish multiple opportunities to calm down, talk it out and leave the house without hurting anyone because that’s what he would have done for anyone, family members said.
But Parish had written a suicide note before he left and was intent on harming at least himself.
“This was a suicide mission he put together, and he had no intention of killing my dad until my dad pulled into that house. And he knew my dad was the roadblock to him doing what he needed to do,” Dustin Jasper said.