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Thursday, December 11, 2008

OR's Retriever Towing Gives Back Fee In Domestic Assault Investigation

Judging from the comments associated with this particular story, some people are pretty ticked in general with Retriever Towing. But, I say, "Kudos!" to owner Gary Coe for addressing the issue and going further with a donation to a shelter for battered women and children.

Here's the story from The Oregonian:

Tow company officials reversed course Wednesday, promising to refund a "drop fee" charged to a domestic assault victim who couldn't move her double-parked car until police completed their investigation and returned her keys.

Gary Coe, owner of Retriever Towing, said the company would give the Wilsonville woman a check for $165 -- the amount she paid in cash Monday night to have the driver release her car at the Berkshire Court Apartments.

Coe also pledged to make a $500 donation to Rafael House of Portland, a shelter for battered women and children.

He said Retriever has received more than 600 complaints on its company Web site and "dozens of calls from people upset with us" since the incident came to light. Retriever has more than 2,000 contract accounts, patrolling parking lots to make sure fire lanes and emergency access routes remain open.

Coe said the tow truck driver's account of the event differs from that of the Clackamas County sheriff's deputy who responded to the initial domestic-assault call.

"I'm not sure the driver made a bad call here -- he may have," Coe said. "But we are refunding the money because the management company at the apartment complex asked us to."

Mark Harris, portfolio manager for Guardian Management, which manages the apartment complex, said he generally has been pleased with Retriever's service.

"But I told them that once an officer identified himself and explained that the vehicle was involved in a criminal investigation, the driver should have backed away," Harris said. "Sometimes common sense has to take over."

Harris also said he was evaluating whether to cancel Retriever's contract.

Meanwhile, Travis Talbot, vice president of operations for Windermere Cronin & Caplan Realty Group, said he was canceling the company's contract with Retriever, saying the "lack of compassion for the victim in extenuating circumstances is reprehensible."

According to sheriff's office reports, a 25-year-old woman called police at 8:54 p.m. Monday, reporting that her live-in boyfriend had hit her. The woman was calling from her grandmother's apartment in the same complex, where she drove after she bolted from her own apartment. Seeing no empty parking spaces, she left her car double-parked in a fire lane with the four-way flashers going.

Deputies arrived minutes later to investigate and arrested Patrick James Apodaca, 25, on an accusation of fourth-degree assault.

When deputies returned to the grandmother's apartment, the woman's car was hooked up to a tow truck and the woman was frantic.

Deputy Wes Hall said he explained to the driver that the woman was a domestic-assault victim and that she couldn't move the car because she had given him the keys. He said that after making a phone call the driver declined to release the car unless she paid the fee.

-- Rick Bella:

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