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Valley News Dispatch

Man charged with attempted kidnapping in New Ken arrested in Venango County

Matthew Medsger
| Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018, 2:45 p.m.
Amanda Schafer, of New Kensington. Schafer was recently attacked by a man she had filed for protection from. Aug. 8, 2018.
Amanda Schafer, of New Kensington. Schafer was recently attacked by a man she had filed for protection from. Aug. 8, 2018.
Jeremy Chambers
Jeremy Chambers

A man wanted by the New Kensington police after allegedly assaulting and attempting to kidnap his ex-girlfriend has been arrested without incident in Venango County.

Jeremy Chambers, 36, most recently of Fawn, was wanted on charges of attempted kidnapping, aggravated assault and auto theft.

Chambers was found near Barkeyville around noon on Wednesday, state Trooper Michelle McGee said. Officers attempted to take him into custody Tuesday at a residence in Victory Township, but when police arrived the suspect allegedly jumped onto an ATV and rode away. Later that day, he was seen riding a dirt bike.

He will be transported to the Venango County Prison ahead of an arraignment on charges out of that county after his alleged flight from arrest Tuesday evening. McGee said Chambers will make his way back to New Kensington for arraignment, but he could not say when.

Now that Chambers is in custody, Amanda Schafer said she can begin to feel free to go out at night again.

Schafer, of New Kensington, told police she and Chambers have known each other for more than 16 years and were in a relationship for most of that time. The two have a son together, she said, but Chambers has been in and out of jail so much he hasn’t been around for most of his child’s life.

When Chambers most recently was released from jail, Schafer said, some vandalism at her home led her to file for a protection from abuse order against him on Friday.

“He got out of jail on July 30,” she said. “He came to my residence to get his belongings, but he didn’t want to leave, so I had to call the police for that. They advised him he had to leave. … I left and went to the fire hall that I belong to.”

Schafer said that when she returned home, she found the electric meter at the residence had been ripped from the exterior wall along with the home’s cable wires. The washer and dryer lines had been disconnected and cut.

She says she knew it had to be Chambers.

“I’ve been there for three years and never had any problem at all. All of the sudden he gets out of jail and — boom — I’m starting to have problems,” she said.

Chambers was served with the protection order Friday evening, Schafer said.

Shortly after 5 a.m. Saturday, she was out delivering newspapers. According to Schafer, with the ink on the protection order barely dry, Chambers ambushed her in an alley. She said he jumped from behind a bush, duct tape at the ready, and attempted to restrain her and push her into her car.

New Kensington police Chief Bob Deringer said the tape allegedly used in the attempted kidnapping was recovered at the scene.

Schafer resisted and tried to fight, she said, but Chambers began to choke and punch her, telling her to die.

A bystander and his dog came into the alley, yelling for Chambers to stop. Police allege Chambers then got into Schafer’s car, drove off with her phone and wallet, and was not seen again until police attempted to arrest him Tuesday.

Schafer said that during the assault she was afraid she was going to die and that she kept thinking about her children.

“If it had been 20 minutes later, my son could have been in the vehicle,” she said.

Schafer said the PFA issued by a Westmoreland County judge was nothing more than a paper shield.

“Everybody was telling me, ‘get the PFA,’ ‘get the PFA.’ I’m like, ‘for what?’” she said. “What am I going to do with this PFA? Like, ‘Hey, don’t touch me! Here’s a piece of paper, you can’t touch me!’

“Didn’t do anything for me in an alley — at all.”

PFAs work — sometimes

According to Michelle Gibb, executive director of the Alle-Kiski Area H.O.P.E. Center, a women’s and children’s shelter in Tarentum, while a PFA can be a powerful tool for preventing law abiding citizens from taking illegal actions, they have very little power over those inclined to break the law in the first place.

“It’s an invaluable tool in many instances, but certainly not all,” she said. “If someone wants to do harm, if somebody wants to engage in violence, and they don’t have any fear of the consequence, nothing is going to stop them.”

Gibb stressed that Schafer did everything right in this circumstance, that no blame should be placed on her, but that, in some cases, filing a protection order against an abuser can lead to further abuse.

“She took action, which is good. But a PFA is a civil document. It doesn’t go on a criminal record — there is no record for other people to find out they had a PFA,” she said. “It does not become criminal until the person violates the PFA. For some, that is a deterrent. For other people, it can be an escalation.”

The tools for survivors of abuse to protect themselves are in place for the most part, Gibbs said, but the root problems that lead some to abuse others need to be addressed.

“I think we need to look at society and the systems that serve our society,” she said.

Gibbs says that while a PFA may order a person not to contact another, if the court is unable or unwilling to enforce that order, the protection it is meant to provide isn’t there.

“We serve one client whose PFA was violated nine times. The courts didn’t respond in a way that acknowledged the escalating violence. That PFA had no teeth,” she said. “If there was one thing I would look to see improved, it is that violations were taken seriously, that the array of responses available were applied, not rejected. I think that rejection communicates, ‘OK, this PFA is a signed order of court, but it’s not an important order.’”

A call for change in law

Another good place to make a change would be in how perpetrators of domestic violence crimes are charged, Gibbs said. Often a person committing violence against a stranger will receive more punishment than that of a person who assaults a loved one.

”In my mind, it should be stricter,” Gibbs said. “You should have an increased level of safety in your home than you would walking down the street.”

Gibbs said the best thing a normal person can do to help those who may be in danger of intimate-partner abuse is to safely become part of the equation, something she said should be taught.

“That man with his dog may well have saved Ms. Schafer’s life,” she said. “I think giving people in the community and giving bystanders options can assist in changing what is allowable in our society. People don’t want to do nothing, but they don’t always know what to do.

“If you do nothing, you may not have done anything to increase the violence, but you did nothing to stop it — and that’s one of the most important choices we can make as a society.”

Matthew Medsger is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Matthew at 724-226-4675, mmedsger@tribweb.com or via Twitter @matthew_medsger. Staff writer Chuck Biedka contributed.

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