A truck meet at Glenbrook Commons on Saturday night was cleared about midnight after Fort Wayne police received permission from multiple property owners to do so.
The meet, which drew about 1,000 trucks and their owners from all over the U.S., was apparently an impromptu, non-permitted event organized on Instagram by WhistlinDiesel, whose real name was not identified.
Glenbrook Square, where trucks first started to assemble before reaching the adjacent Glenbrook Commons, and the Zacher Group, leasing agent for property owner, BAI Glenbrook Commons, said the event was not authorized.
Trucks, many of them customized with larger wheels, started appearing at both shopping centers about 6 p.m. By 8:30 p.m., the event, billed as “The World's Largest Street Diesel Meet,” was in full swing with trucks making their way through the parking lot to line up for burn-outs in front of the Ross Dress for Less store that has not yet opened for business, according to a sign on the door.
Burnouts occur when drivers are able to spin their back wheels while keeping their truck in place. Sunday, black tire treads were the thickest and most noticeable in front of Ross Dress for Less.
People became aware of the size and noise of the event Saturday evening and came to the mall to see what was going on.
Some filmed on Facebook Live. Witnesses reported open containers of alcohol and fireworks besides heavy plumes of smoke, the standard result of burnouts. Many photos and videos were shared on social media.
Business managers at two locations that normally operate after 6 p.m. said Sunday they believed they lost business. Regular customers were driven away or could not enter the Commons while people attending the truck meet entered their establishments to use the bathroom.
Bandido's manager, who only wanted to be identified as “Nana,” said he had fewer customers.
People from the truck meet told him that the event featured “lifted Cummins,” as in Cummins engines, and called the trucks “souped-up beasts.” They also told him “that it was supposed to be at the mall,” but that location was shut down.
A response from Glenbrook Square through Facebook's messaging system confirmed that.
“The mall did not authorize the gathering that took place. We requested everyone showing up on Glenbrook Square property for such an event to leave immediately. Most of the participants have actually been on an adjacent property that isn't owned by the mall. Additionally, we do not have control over neighboring properties like Glenbrook Commons,” the message read.
Nana said Bandido's shut down at 9 p.m. and he left the restaurant about a half-hour later.
“It took me 25 minutes to leave” because of the crowd, Nana said.
Raymondo Latoza, keyholder at Burlington's at the Commons, said his store normally closes at 9 p.m., but the store had fewer than normal customers while employees realized people were coming in to use their bathrooms.
“We closed down a little bit early,” Latoza said. After going through closing chores, staff waited for police to escort them to their cars because of the crowd size.
A co-worker said she saw Confederate and Trump 2020 flags amid the smoke, which was “thick” and “like fog.”
A woman who asked not to be identified said she went to pick up friends who worked at the Commons about 8:30 p.m. and got stuck in the traffic. “I tried leaving around 10:20 p.m. and didn't leave until 11:30 p.m.”
By 11:30 p.m. witnesses reported a heavy police presence and that no one was allowed on Commons property.
Close to midnight, three people living in the surrounding area or who were across Lima Road watching the events as they occurred contacted The Journal Gazette to say they got an alert on their television screens and cellphones from the Fort Wayne Police Department advising them to vacate the area or “be subject to arrest.”
Mark Bieker, public information officer for the Fort Wayne Police Department, said his department was not going to issue a statement on the meet, but did say that once police received authorization from multiple property owners at the site, the area was cleared without incident.
Bieker said police estimated about 1,000 trucks were at the meet.
“We couldn't do anything until the owners made a decision to say they wanted the people removed,” Bieker said Sunday. If participants refused to leave, they would have been charged with criminal trespassing, he added.
Efforts to reach WhistlinDiesel, who has thousands of followers on Instagram, were unsuccessful as of early Sunday evening. But his Instagram account indicated that he had breakfast Sunday at the Cracker Barrel on West Washington Center Road.