Monroe County deputies had to intervene after the owner of a local towing company parked vehicles at both exits to prevent a driver from re-claiming a tractor trailer with a $22,000 towing and impound bill on May 15.
Here’s what happened according to the report: Buice’s Towing put a bulldozer in the way to keep Florida truck driver Luis Batista from leaving their lot due to non-payment by a Texas-based freight company. Around 3 p.m. on May 15, deputy Judy Mercer spoke with a Victoria Logistics representative who said the towing company was holding one of their drivers and a tractor-trailer hostage.
The representative said Buice’s towing had worked a wreck on March 31 and towed the truck, loaded with paper and plastic waste, to their shop on Towns Creek Road. The representative said Buice’s employees had agreed by phone and text messages that if part of the towing bill were paid, they would allow pickup of the load. They said the driver had driven from Florida in a borrowed truck to pick up the cargo and the truck was loaded, but Buice refused to let him leave.
Mercer spoke by phone with Sandra Buice who said that she and Eddie Buice told the driver he could not leave with the truck until payment was made for the service provided. She said they were not holding the driver hostage and he could leave walking. Mrs. Buice said the bill for Victoria Logistics was about $22,000 and they had done nothing but lie and Buice’s Towing was going to get paid before the loaded truck would be allowed to leave.
Mercer and Sgt. Willie Brown then went to Buice’s shop and met with Eddie Buice who told them the driver was still on the property and it had taken several of his employees half a day to load his truck. Mr. Buice said that when he towed the wrecked truck, it was a service, and loading the cargo was also a service. He said that the wrecked truck, the current truck, nor the cargo would be leaving until he received payment. He said that the driver was free to leave by walking. He began to get upset and was getting louder as he talked, and Mrs. Buice was interrupting him as he was trying to explain his version.
Mercer told Mr. Buice that he could not hold the current truck or the driver hostage. She said he needed to let the driver leave with the cargo since that is what was agreed upon via text messages and phone conversation. Mr. Buice said that they provided a service to both trucks and that he could legally hold both until he was paid. Mercer again told Mr. Buice that he could not hold the truck and that the driver was not responsible for the bill. Mr. Buice became quite agitated and got even louder, as Mrs. Buice continued inserting her opinions. Mr. Buice was told that it would be theft by taking if he did not release the truck.
Mrs. Buice then got louder and said again the driver could leave walking, just without the truck. Mr. Buice thoroughly agitated at this time, said, “Well then, arrest me if you’re pressing charges”. Mercer told him she did not want to arrest or charge anyone in reference to this incident, as it was a civil matter.
Supervisor Capt. Jeff Thompson arrived and Mr. Buice repeated to him that the driver was not leaving. The officers located the driver in his truck blocked in at both the front and back exits. Mr. Buice had parked another tractor-trailer behind the truck and a bulldozer in front with no way for Batista to leave. Mr. Batista said he was only the driver and was there to pick up the cargo and after the truck was loaded, they told him to pay the wrecker service bill from March 31 or he would not be allowed to leave.
Captain Thompson went to speak with Mr. Buice about moving the tractor-trailer out of the way and asked him calmly three or four times to move the truck. Mr. Buice refused and said he could not be made to. Thompson informed Mr. Buice that if he did not move the truck, he would have it moved by another towing service. Mr. Buice insisted he was not moving the truck because he had done a service and he knew his rights. He was getting louder and even more upset and Thompson asked dispatch to have a large lift en route from Macon or Atlanta to tow a tractor-trailer. Dispatch said Mitch’s towing out of Barnesville was on the way.
Mr. Buice told Thompson Mitch was not going to tow the truck because Mitch was a relative and continued to yell at Thompson telling him that Victoria Logistics owed him money and that he does not work for free. He said that it costs his company hundreds of thousands to operate the towing service and said somebody was going to pay. He said Monroe County was not going to pay him, although they had called him to tow the truck from the wreck. Mr. Buice continued to argue his point then walked to his office.
He sent his son, Terry Buice, out to move the tractor-trailer out of Batista’s way and the driver got into his truck to leave. Buice once again began yelling at Thompson and the other officers had to stand between them. Mr. Buice said he was not mad at the Sheriff’s Office but told Thompson he was “going to sue his a—”. Thompson told Buice, “Stop being a bully, you can’t bully me and you’re not going to bully my deputies, and that driver is leaving with the truck”.
Buice said, “Y’all just proved that you are taking the driver’s side and do not care about my business. I am calling my attorney and Sheriff Freeman”. He said the only reason his attorney was not there was that he was not answering his phone. He said he was going to call the Sheriff and was not going to tow for Monroe County anymore. Mercer told him the bill is a civil matter and if he did not want to make it worse, just walk away. A case number was provided to Victoria Logistics.