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Pastoring or ‘hustling?’ Controversy grows over preacher’s properties

Published: Aug. 18, 2020 at 7:24 PM EDT
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David Fortney is the pastor at Kingdom Come Church.
David Fortney is the pastor at Kingdom Come Church.(WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - It appeared to be one of the hottest drug-dealing homes in Louisville, with as many as 15 people per hour coming and going from 3240 Herman Street and counting something in their hands when they emerged.

WAVE 3 News watched after a neighbor wrote in, saying “nurses and all types of people are buying heroin on the first floor, and crack is delivered by a black car.”

WAVE 3 News noticed that black car constantly swooping by, meeting someone from the home, and exchanging handfuls of something for cash. The license plate was traced to a man who was indicted twice for cocaine trafficking and served prison time. The owner of that house, as well as about 40 other properties, was Kingdom Come Church Pastor David Fortney.

”I don’t have a drug house,” Fortney said. “I don’t have a mad house.”

“You sound like you’ve heard this complaint before?” WAVE 3 News replied.

“Well I always hear it,” Fortney said. “I’m an ex-drug addict myself, 28 years clean.”

After WAVE 3 News’ report in February, the city inspected Herman Street and found pages of violations. Most notably, it’s a prime example of a problem proliferating in Louisville: an illegal boarding house. Ten bedrooms. Filled with tenants. But only zoned to be a single-family home.

On July 27, four months after being cited, with Fortney telling the city multiple times that all the violations had been corrected and he had turned the property into a single-family home, inspectors returned to make sure. But it was still a boarding house.

”They told you in March that this could not be a boarding house,” said 5th District legislative assistant Denise Bentley, who provided WAVE 3 News with the audio of the inspection. “They told you it could not be a boarding house. They told you. I stood right there and listened to them, and now you want to tell us you got more tenants and some tenants moved out.”

“Someone else moved in,” Fortney said.

“It’s illegal,” Bentley said. “It’s illegal.”

“I have seven people here now,” Fortney said.

”This is not your first rodeo with this,” Bentley said. “She could be somewhere else investigating another house we have a problem with, but we have to keep coming back here and you want to act like it’s all new.

“I don’t want anyone else to come by,” Fortney said. “I’m trying to do the right thing.”

“If you were doing the right thing, you would’ve taken care of it when we were here in March,” Bentley said. “They gave you all your options in March.”

It’s not just Herman Street. Former tenants of other properties contacted WAVE 3 News.

”You put your best foot forward and do the next right thing,” former tenant Theresa Duncan said. “David Fortney does not do that. He knows what goes on in his housing.”

A neighbor who didn’t want to be identified told WAVE 3 News about Fortney’s property at 3400 River Park Drive, a boarding house above a day care center, saying, “This property’s activities mirror those at Herman Street,” and “police have been made aware of this drug dealing more than once.”

So WAVE 3 News secretly watched and observed hand-to-hand transactions, in-person and through vehicle windows, night and day, while children came and went from the day care, as well as parties spilling out on the street where people could be seen passed out. So I went back to Pastor Fortney with a lot of questions.

”A neighbor wrote (in) and said this one right over there, day care right there,” WAVE 3 News asked.

“That’s not true, man,” Fortney said. “That’s a day care. There’s no drug activity there, man.”

“I’ve been watching it and it sure looks like it,” WAVE 3 News said.

“Well, looks can be deceiving,” Fortney said. As for Fortney’s Herman Street property, Bentley believes he’s purposely stalling the system, taking advantage of tenants, and blighting the neighborhood.

”I call it shelter,” Fortney said.

“OK, you call it what you want to call it,” Bentley said. “I call it hustling; that’s what I call it.”

”This is a help for the community,” Fortney said of his properties. “It’s not something where we got illegal drugs running out of the house. People just using it for all types of things that’s all legal. This is just a boarding house.”

LMPD’s crime tracker database shows charges filed on people at the Herman Street house in June for terroristic threatening, menacing, and assault of a police or probation officer.

”How can I turn my back on a drug addict and I used to be one,” Fortney said. “All I am is a property owner trying to do the right thing. People, they talked about Jesus, so I’m in the club. I don’t know why they trying to paint this picture of pastor David Fortney as trying to do anything but help people.”

When WAVE 3 News was finished questioning Fortney, he had one more thing to add.

“Whenever you do right, wrong’s always present,” he said.

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