Police charge tow truck worker with impersonating law enforcement

CHARLOTTE — Melissa Vernik says she went to a brewpub in South End. When she was looking for a place to park her Jeep, she noticed towing signs in the parking lot.

Vernik says she played it safe and parked on the street, but when she returned to her parking spot, her Jeep was gone.

“I had no idea where my car was, and I assumed it was stolen,” Vernik said.

Tow companies are not allowed to tow from public streets, they can only tow from private property.

Vernik told Action 9′s Jason Stoogenke she eventually found out a company called QC Impound towed her SUV to a lot a few miles away.

“When we showed up, a guy gets out of a tow truck dressed like a police officer. He’s got a vest. He’s got a badge on. He’s got a gun, a taser, handcuffs, body camera,” she said.

Another driver who says QC Impound also towed her car said the same thing and took a photo.

Both Vernik and police told Stoogenke the man identified himself as “Agent Smith.”

Officers say they figured out his real name, Patrick Shook, and arrested him.

They charged Shook with obtaining property by false pretenses for illegally towing from a public street, impersonating law enforcement, and resisting a public officer by providing false information.

Vernik says she had to pay almost $500 to get her Jeep back. “For about a week and a half after the incident, I was having trouble sleeping. I felt … this man has all my information,” she said. “So I really did feel threatened by his behavior.”

Shook is currently out on bond. Action 9 tried to get in touch with him on Monday but did not hear back in time for this report.

Action 9 suggests that drivers know what the current towing rules say.

If you’re inside Charlotte city limits, here are some of the main ones:

- There must be signs posted on the property warning you about towing.

- The signs must be easy to read.

- The tow company must accept cash and two major credit cards.

- The towing company has to have someone on-call who can release your vehicle within 45 minutes.

- You are entitled to retrieve your personal property from the vehicle.

- Tow companies can’t tow your car from public streets, only private’ property. That said, police can have your car towed, but only if you’re blocking a fire hydrant, for example.

Click here to read the full Charlotte towing ordinance.

(VIDEO: Drivers say tow company chained their car to the car next to it)