Jose LaTorre Jr. Charged With Attempted Murder as Philly Towing War Explodes
From Philadelphia -- the city of alleged brotherly love and America's most barbaric sports fans -- now comes a ground war between tow truck companies. For in Philly the towing business isn't just competitive or cutthroat; it's flat-out deadly...
Forty-year-old Jose LaTorre Jr., the son of the owner of J & Sons Autobody, was charged last Friday with attempted murder, aggravated assault, making terroristic threats, weapons offenses and simple assault in the July 21 shooting of a driver from a rival towing company.
The shooting is just the latest escalation in a turf war between rival towing companies in the city, whom officials have deemed "wreck chasers."
According to authorities, LaTorre arrived at an accident scene in North Philadelphia in his Cadillac Escalade. The minor fact that he wasn't driving a tow truck didn't stop LaTorre from claiming the damaged Dodge Neon as bounty for his family's towing operation.
When a driver from Mystical Towing arrived moments later in a tow truck, LaTorre's claim on the wounded Dodge didn't fall on an understanding audience.
"Well, I don't see no tow truck there," the Mystical driver told LaTorre.
An argument ensued. Police say LaTorre then shot the Mystical driver in the thigh and fled from the scene.
LaTorre was on the lam for four days until he surrendered to authorities last Thursday night.
As LaTorre was dodging police, at a quarter past one last Wednesday morning, an arsonist used gasoline to torch 13 vehicles in J & Sons' lot.
Only fifteen minutes later, six gunshots were fired at Mystical Towing as the owner of the company, John Campbell, and his wife were working the late shift.
In recent years, tow truck operators listening to police scanners have made it a practice of racing to an accident scene the moment a crash makes the cop radio. As soon as these "wreck chasers" arrive, they often bully the disheveled accident victims into signing their smashed-up cars over to them to cart away.
"Whoever's fingerprints are on that car first normally gets the ability to claim the wreck," Councilman Frank Rizzo told reporters last week.
And in this business, when low margins meets greed is introduced to tow-trucks-turned-ambulance-chasers with a helping of junkyard dog mentality thrown in just to make things interesting, the results have been...shocker!... very bad.
Three years ago come December, the Philadelphia City Council approved an ordinance to combat the practice of wreck chasing. The law stated: "No person shall engage in towing from the scene of an accident or with respect to a disabled vehicle ... unless that person has either been selected through operation of such rotational system or has been selected or permitted to perform such tow ... by the State Police."
The law, however, has been ineffective.
Officials have often failed to implement the rotational towing system with any gusto. Moreover, tow operators have perpetually skirted the rules by monitoring police radio
As LaTorre awaits his fate in the hands of the judicial system, wreck chasing continues. As Mystical's Campbell said last week, "None of this is good for business."