Home » San Francisco Tow Truck Appears To Try To Snatch A Car That Someone Is Actively Driving, And It’s Bizarre

San Francisco Tow Truck Appears To Try To Snatch A Car That Someone Is Actively Driving, And It’s Bizarre

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I get that this story is a few days old, and while I’m not sure I have any special insight to bring to it, I think it’s worth showing and discussing, because what in the clam-frosted hell is this? Here’s what happened, as far as I can tell: A couple was driving in their 2017 Toyota Corolla, slowly creeping through San Francisco traffic, when a yellow tow truck wearing SPECIALTY TOWING livery began to do something unexpected: it apparently tried to tow they couple’s car, as they were driving it. That’s, um, that would be kidnapping, wouldn’t it? Whatever it is, it looks very wrong, and it’s very disturbing that it would be attempted at all.

The couple, who‚ per ABC 7 Los Angeles, doesn’t want to use their last name publicly, was driving around, doing normal errands on April 9. While stopped at a traffic light, the two were behind the Specialty Towing truck, which they thought may have been in the area to deal with a stopped Waymo robotaxi on the side of the road. But, the tow truck seemed to be more interested in human cars, a proclivity known as The Most Dangerous Game. The truck deployed its low-mounted wheel lift yokes and backed into the Corolla, attempting to snag the car to tow it. From the news outlet:

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“He came from the side. I thought he was turning right. He started in reverse, and all the lights came on. That’s when we were like, ‘hey, something’s really wrong. His lever was coming down,'” she said.

In video taken by a witness, the tow truck can be seen making several attempts to hook onto their 2017 Toyota Corolla.

The Corolla driver backed out of the way, but found their way blocked by a car behind them; as shown in the video, the tow truck continued to attempt to grab the Corolla, and finally the car behind the Toyota was able to move out of the way, allowing the Corolla enough room to back up and escape.

A witness captured the whole thing on video, luckily, and it almost feels like a scene in a nature show where you’re rooting for the little rodent to get away from the big lizard, or something:

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This is all very alarming, because just what is that tow truck driver planning to do here? Watching the video, it’s clear the tow truck driver is attempting to capture the car. Joanne, the woman in the Toyota seen in the video, notes that her car’s payments and registration are all up to date, but even if they weren’t, there’s no law that I know of in this country that would make it okay to take someone and trap them in their car as their vehicle is being towed away.

The truck gives pursuit after the Corolla speeds off, which makes this even stranger. Why is he so focused on that car? And, what would have been the plan had he managed to get it hooked onto the tow bar? The Corolla is front-wheel drive, so in theory, he could have towed it away, to go where? Back to the tow yard? To effectively ransom the car back to its owners, who have been unwillingly transported along with the car? These all sound like crimes.

Was this a case of mistake car-identity? I tried reaching out to Specialty Towing, both directly and through their dispatch service, and while they didn’t answer on their direct line, the dispatcher told me they’d pass my message onto them, but I don’t think I’ll be holding my breath.

It’s likely worth noting that Specialty Towing’s owners were charged with benefits fraud by the City Attorney of San Francisco, per the City Attorney’s website, and the company is currently suspended from bidding on any city contracts.

I know there are many stories of shady tow companies doing some pretty shitty and underhanded things, but this has to be the first time I’ve heard of a tow truck attempting to apparently steal a currently-driven car right off the streets, with people inside.

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If you’re ever in this situation, I wonder what the best thing to do is? If there’s room, backing away certainly seems to be the first, best, most instinctive thing, but what if you can’t back up? Can cranking your front wheels all the way to one side or the other impede those yokes from being able to connect? If your parking brake is on, will the yokes pull away? Honestly I’m not sure, but if this sort of thing keeps happening, maybe we should find an expert and do some tests.

Anyway, this is awful, and I think we should all be aware of it.

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EricTheViking
EricTheViking
1 month ago

That’s why we have the Second Amendment…

Tree L
Tree L
1 month ago
Reply to  EricTheViking

If you’re going to be a kidnappy tow truck driver, San Fran is the place to do it, I suppose.

Black Peter
Black Peter
1 month ago
Reply to  EricTheViking

This and Boston Dynamic robots…

Phuzz
Phuzz
1 month ago
Reply to  EricTheViking

To make sure tow trucks are well regulated?

Ted Fort
Ted Fort
25 days ago
Reply to  EricTheViking

I’m so glad that I don’t view murder as the first solution to most problems.

Ok_Im_here
Ok_Im_here
1 month ago

My quite red Midwest state you try this with the wrong person and it would escalate pretty badly pretty fast.

EPGCivic
EPGCivic
1 month ago
Reply to  Ok_Im_here

As it should.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
1 month ago

The “stingers” on auto loader tow trucks are fascinating pieces of machinery worthy of an Autopian article of their own.

(You think your car is safe from them because you’re parallel parked? Nope, they pivot ninety degrees.
Back up to a vehicle at a right angle, flip a few switches, tow and go)

This looks like simple road rage to me. An isolated incident? One terrible company?
One dudes really bad day?

Before we collectively jump down the throat of the tow truck industry, let’s pause for a second to recognize all the good they do for us.
Clearing up traffic jams.
Pulling busted up cars off of race tracks.
Helping stranded motorists.
Assisting EMT’s and Firefighters.
Etc Etc.

Tow truck drivers bear a heavy cross (made of steel and hydraulic lines).
Let us not jump to conclusions and crucify all of them on the mound of social media between the two thieves of city politics and a poorly run businesses.

Forgive them, though he has sinned.

Last edited 1 month ago by Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Chris D
Chris D
1 month ago

Attempted auto theft and kidnapping are felonies.
The good tow truck drivers are hard-working, respectful and respected.
The clown in this video belongs in prison, and his company should be out of business. “Poorly run business” is a whitewash of what these criminals are doing.

Jeep Liberty, MY LEG!
Jeep Liberty, MY LEG!
1 month ago

“assisting EMS and FD” like how cops do, Ralph Wiggum style: “I’m helping!”

Mechjaz
Mechjaz
1 month ago

I got it, I finally got it. It’s like a wasp attacking a bee, and the bee is all like wtf no, and the wasp is like no Imma getchu, and the bee is like kindly fuck off and there’s another bee that’s like HEY GUYS WHATS UP oh flower to the right SO LONG and then finally the bee is like I’m fucking over this and the wasp is like shit fuck I gotta get out of here like yesterday

The weirdest thing about this story is that I’m not in an altered state.

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
1 month ago
Reply to  Mechjaz

That is some of the funniest shit I’ve read all week.

TheWombatQueen
TheWombatQueen
1 month ago
Reply to  Mechjaz

COTD please

Flyingstitch
Flyingstitch
1 month ago

There’s a YouTube channel of a repo driver with this type of rig who records his work. He’s so good at it, if your car is in the right position, it’s gone in 30 seconds at most But he only takes empty cars.

Negatives: Repos are often a byproduct of predatory sales and financing. Positives: Reduces the risk of a violent confrontation. At worst, he gets people running uselessly down the street as he drives away.

SLM
SLM
1 month ago
Reply to  Flyingstitch

I knew a guy, not a repo driver, but the one who had to put the last warning in your mailbox. He worked very hard trying to see the people personnally and tell them not to park their car in front of their home for some time… (and take their TVs and computers to a friends home). I’m not sure he still works for them…

Jj
Jj
1 month ago
Reply to  SLM

Was this in the US? Why would they have to hide their electronics? I’ve seen UK debt collector shows where they can seize just about anything of value to satisfy a debt, but I thought in the US lenders can only seize items for which they hold a lien.

This would usually be a homes, cars, boats, RVs and the like. Most other consumer lending is unsecured debt. I have seen a youtube guy doing shed repos, so I guess loans on those may also be secured debt.

SLM
SLM
1 month ago
Reply to  Jj

It’s in France, the lender need to go via the administration to seize. But when it’s done they can seize almost everything up to the value of the debt (except things you need to survive like the bed, the stove, your food etc… Seizing a house is really difficult).

Mercedes Streeter
Mercedes Streeter
1 month ago

I see Best Way Towing has moved to California….

(All of the love if you get this reference)

Austin Vail
Austin Vail
1 month ago

That poor (IIRC) Audi…

Cameron Palm
Cameron Palm
1 month ago

See latest update. Police report filed. https://x.com/DionLimTV/status/1778510779156992435

Mike TowpathTraveler
Mike TowpathTraveler
1 month ago

Good to know that Channel 7 there still awaits reply back from Specialty Towing but did not bother to get a quote from the SFPD about this particular video and situation……

Twobox Designgineer
Twobox Designgineer
1 month ago

Specialty Towing job interview
(Setting: in a dark office behind a garage in the bad part of town, an older man with prominent nasal and eyebrow hair sits across a filthy desk from a younger man in a backwards baseball cap and a Slipknot t-shirt with holes in it)

Boss: What’s your name?
Candidate: Rober—
B: No, stop, nevermind.
B: (mutters to self): damn, must maintain plausible deniability.
B (to candidate): Is your license a CDL?
C: : uhh…maybe? Does this look like…
B: Stop!
B: Are you wanted for murder?
C: …uhhh…
B: IN THIS STATE?
C: …uhh… …no?
B: Fine, you’re hired, we pay cash, no benefits.
(Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap begins to play in the background)

Last edited 1 month ago by Twobox Designgineer
Nic Periton
Nic Periton
1 month ago

I wonder, as one does, did the driver of the tow truck have any past history with either of the cars occupants?

(the world is a very odd place when I can ask rational questions, I got paid today for writing about blue-footed boobies)

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
1 month ago
Reply to  Nic Periton

This.
Or history with someone else with a white late-model Corolla.
Because mistaken identity is a thing.

I’m partial to Brown Boobies -particularly those in the Caribbean
(still talking about birds here!)

Nic Periton
Nic Periton
1 month ago
Reply to  Urban Runabout

I am easily pleased, for all the extraordinary things about Boobies my inner three year old still cannot but giggle when they crash land. Also, without judgment, they are literally awesome when over the ocean. But their mating dances are something else. After going through that no Boobie is going want a Toyota.

A warning here, If you are not Urban Runabout or me, be careful how you check the veracity of this using a computing device.

Mechjaz
Mechjaz
1 month ago
Reply to  Nic Periton

I love their blue feets! So prominent, so proudly blue. I’d love to see one in real life.

I’m not a bird watcher per se, but I love their comings and goings and drama. I love when the starlings (I think) migrate in swarms by the thousands, filling the yard with their frenetic cheeps and chats and then falling so quiet before a dark cloud murmuration wends and weaves out from trees like ten thousand particles pulled at once. Or when black vultures eat things in the yard, fighting for the prime possum cuts,, or jays pick fights they don’t win, or the lil wrens that scoop up crumbs and niblets at all the outdoor restaurants.

Nic Periton
Nic Periton
1 month ago
Reply to  Mechjaz

Birdtopian, today there were big fights, the pheasants are just warming up. The Curlews have not arrived yet, neither have the lapwings. quite wise as it is snowing, the finches ant tits seem fine and there seems to be a pair of nuthatches (upside down little brown birds).
Of course you are not a bird watcher, just a very good writer.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
1 month ago
Reply to  Mechjaz

Birds sing the same cryptic speech the breeze speaks and the sea repeats.

Last edited 1 month ago by Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
1 month ago
Reply to  Nic Periton

On our Virgin cruise last month, there was a particular Brown Boobie who circled our ship the entire way from Puerto Rico to Aruba.
He would alight on a radio mast for a while – and I’m assuming at night – then during the day he would go back to circling the ship –
He was a wondrous bird.

Phil Layshio
Phil Layshio
1 month ago
Reply to  Urban Runabout

I like all Boobies. Birds too.

BloggyMcBlogBlog
BloggyMcBlogBlog
1 month ago
Reply to  Urban Runabout

How many white late model Corollas could there be?

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
1 month ago

At least two.

Jj
Jj
1 month ago

Seems shady AF, but is it possible they have a valid repo on this car? I’m only asking because it seems very strange that the truck followed them.

Arrest-me Red
Arrest-me Red
1 month ago
Reply to  Jj

In general you cannot repo a vehicle with people in it. All sorts of charges. You can call the police to get the driver out but what he was doing was attempted kidnapping and car jacking.

Jj
Jj
1 month ago
Reply to  Arrest-me Red

I know you can’t tow it with people in it, but can you hook it up and immobilize it while occupied?

I’m really no fan of repo operations, or the lenders writing loans with little to no chance of repayment. My experience with this is limited to watching repo videos on youtube. It seems like repo men either have a lot of latitude or get away with taking a lot of liberties when retrieving vehicles.

I’ve definitely seen them hook up and lift an occupied vehicle, then try to talk the occupants out or call the police to get them out.

Arrest-me Red
Arrest-me Red
1 month ago
Reply to  Jj

Interesting question. I have seen that went the vehicle is unoccupied at time of hook up then someone gets in it. In that case ownership is to the tow company.

While driving, that is way too complicated for non-lawyer to get into that nuance. Still a bad idea.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
1 month ago

I heard the couple had been asking around for someone who could hook them up.

MAX FRESH OFF
MAX FRESH OFF
1 month ago
SegaF355Fan
SegaF355Fan
1 month ago
Reply to  MAX FRESH OFF

“That’ll buff right out.”

Widgetsltd
Widgetsltd
1 month ago
Reply to  MAX FRESH OFF

Yeah, I could see that happening there.

Sid Bridge
Sid Bridge
1 month ago

San Francisco: The only city where it’s safer to drive a Reliant Robin.

Crank Shaft
Crank Shaft
1 month ago

911 Immediately. At least two felonies were committed. Tow truck driver was lucky he didn’t manage to make the lift or it would mean about 30 years in prison instead of merely 2.

This incident needs to prosecuted for attempted carjacking and kidnapping. Serious shit.

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
1 month ago

What does one do in this situation?

Well, in my state, I’m betting the news report would include the phrase “hail of gunfire”.

Lockleaf
Lockleaf
1 month ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

I am not sure this is the wrong answer.

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
1 month ago
Reply to  Lockleaf

Maybe, maybe not.

The problem with hail is the source is uncertain, and it tends to hit everyone in the area pretty indiscriminately.

Marathag
Marathag
1 month ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

Yellow tow truck is pretty big

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
1 month ago
Reply to  Marathag

True, but yellow tow truck may be shooting back.

And given that yellow tow truck seems to have initiated the whole thing with no discernible motive, yellow truck might be shooting first.

Dave mid-engine
Dave mid-engine
1 month ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

So anyway, I started blasting.

Jdoubledub
Jdoubledub
1 month ago

Tow truck drivers are state sponsored criminal cartels. They can take your property with no recourse except a “he said, she said” situation and then charge exorbitant storage fees. Bonus if they steal your car on a Friday at 5pm and you have to wait til Monday when they open again to pay all cash fees.

Trust Doesn't Rust
Trust Doesn't Rust
1 month ago
Reply to  Jdoubledub

It’s pretty outrageous. ‘Round here we’ve got the Lincoln Towing Service that’s been terrorizing the citizens of Chicago since the ’60’s. Steve Goodman even wrote a song about them called Lincoln Park Pirates. My dad likes to break out into the chorus every so often:

To me way, hay
Tow them away
We plunder the streets of your town
Be it Edsel or Chevy there’s no car to heavy
And no one can make us shut down

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dF3q7o8Yjrg

Crank Shaft
Crank Shaft
1 month ago

True story!

Beater_civic
Beater_civic
1 month ago

Is that a football wedged into the back rack of the tow truck?!!! You can see what looks like the NCAA stripe and some laces.

Maybe the guy was set off after some kids in the street threw their ball into his truck. At any rate I’m not surprised – this is an industry where companies with names like BAD DOGGGZ TOWING are totally fine and normal.

In terms of what to do, I think a good strategy if you can’t escape is to get diagonal in the lane so the clamps can’t get both front wheels at the same time. I doubt the strategy is to try to take the car somewhere – you could pull the handbrake and lay on the horn the entire time and hopefully get pulled over.

Last edited 1 month ago by Beater_civic
Mechjaz
Mechjaz
1 month ago
Reply to  Beater_civic

Three Gs, for a double triple dose of pimping towing

Last edited 1 month ago by Mechjaz
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
1 month ago
Reply to  Mechjaz

“Collins, please?”

Arrest-me Red
Arrest-me Red
1 month ago

A good case for Trunk Monkey.

Maybe that one episode of CHiPS where the extra weighted car lifted the tow van who would steal from the drivers.

Also glad they are not in a 2nd amendment friendly location. While justified as it looks like kidnapping or worse, the victims would face the charges and the criminal would get off.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
1 month ago
Reply to  Arrest-me Red

That episode was prime CHiPs. Esp. with Ponch posing undercover as a courier in what, a Datsun 510, with its own grappling hook launcher thing to snare the bad guys.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
1 month ago

That’s fricken scary! I hope you’ll follow up here once the police are involved.
I would imagine a drug test would be pretty high on the list of things that’ll happen once they find the operator.

10001010
10001010
1 month ago

I agree this looks criminal as hell, maybe direct some follow up questions at SFPD to see if they’re actively investigating this attempted kidnapping?

Baron Usurper
Baron Usurper
1 month ago
Reply to  10001010

“Yeah we took a report but it’s a civil matter at this point.”

Gubbin
Gubbin
1 month ago
Reply to  Baron Usurper

“It was mutual combat.”
“They were probably in a relationship and we don’t handle domestic situations.”
“Parking enforcement issue, talk to them.”
“It was near a freeway, talk to the State Patrol.”
“You ask a lot of questions. What did you say your full name was? Your home address is 123 Sleepy Lane, correct? You have a wife and kids yeah?”

MarcK1973
MarcK1973
1 month ago
Reply to  10001010

I’m sorry but I’m confused by your question? I think reading “SFPD” and “investigating” in the same sentence is throwing me off. Do you mean maybe the SFPD investigating filing charges against the innocent victims in the Corolla for being mean to the criminal in the tow truck? That kinda sounds like the SFPD these days…

Last edited 1 month ago by MarcK1973
Baron Usurper
Baron Usurper
1 month ago

Twist: turns out they were shooting the latest Fast and Furious spin off.

spoiler
(this is a joke)

Karl Jacobs
Karl Jacobs
1 month ago

Yet another reason to never visit Frisco again.

(I’ve gotten tickets from Frisco for cars that have never been there.. and now this..)

MarcK1973
MarcK1973
1 month ago
Reply to  Karl Jacobs

The only thing that could have made this story more San Francisco is if one of the many smash-and-grab gangs there also busted out their car window and stole their stuff out of the back seat while they were busy trying to back away from that tow truck!

Last edited 1 month ago by MarcK1973
Karl Jacobs
Karl Jacobs
1 month ago
Reply to  MarcK1973

Yep. Surprised the Waymo actually got out of the way. Tow truck driver should have put a traffic cone on it’s hood.

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
1 month ago
Reply to  Karl Jacobs

Isn’t Frisco in Texas?
I wouldn’t visit there either.

Chris D
Chris D
1 month ago
Reply to  Urban Runabout

Correct. There is no Frisco in California.

Strangek
Strangek
1 month ago
Reply to  Urban Runabout

The Frisco in Colorado is the one to visit.

Defenestrator
Defenestrator
23 days ago
Reply to  Urban Runabout

There’s one in Colorado as well. It’s much nicer than the Texas one.

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
1 month ago
Reply to  Karl Jacobs

For the last time, it’s not Frisco, it’s San Francisco. Frisco is in Texas.

Karl Jacobs
Karl Jacobs
1 month ago

However, if you live in SoCal, SF is Frisco.. 😀

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
1 month ago
Reply to  Karl Jacobs

I lived in socal for years. Nobody calls SF “Frisco.”

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
1 month ago
Reply to  Karl Jacobs

Nope.

It’s “San Francisco”
…or “EssEff”
…or sometimes “San Fran” (*cringe*)

But never “Frisco” – unless you’re a tourist from somewhere east of the Sierras standing in front of the Hollywood-Highland Mall posing for selfies with “Spiderman” and “Darth Vader”

Swing_Axle
Swing_Axle
1 month ago

The first thing that came to mind was that he was going to hitch it, lift the wheels, then immediately demand money to release it. If that were the case, this is probably not the first time he’s tried this, but likely the first time in public.

Following after the failed attempt is really weird, though. Did he just get pissed off that he was foiled? Or is something else up.

Comedy solution to this: Always drive rear-wheel drive cars. :V

Last edited 1 month ago by Swing_Axle
Alexk98
Alexk98
1 month ago
Reply to  Swing_Axle

And that would be a weirdly niche, but perfect time to have a Dash Cam. I have one on my daily, and while I haven’t needed it yet, the $150ish I spent on it is a third of my deductible, and if I ever need evidence in court, you best believe I’m ready. Nothing would fill me with more joy than watching a tow truck driver get absolutely skewered in court with the first person view of this going down.

Balloondoggle
Balloondoggle
1 month ago
Reply to  Alexk98

I got a dash cam after my insurance company and the cited driver’s insurance company decided that we’d each cover our own damages. Next accident I shut down the other person’s insurance jerk with a simple 30 second clip showing the other car crossing the double yellow to take the inside of a left turn and nailing me head on at a full stop waiting to turn right. No more arguing. Best car accessory I’ve ever picked up.

Bendanzig
Bendanzig
1 month ago

Just noooo!

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