A Shady Tow Truck Tried to Haul Away a Moving Car, Then Chased After It

If people are still in the car, isn’t it more like kidnapping?

byJosé Rodríguez Jr|
A Shady Tow Truck Tried to Haul Away a Moving Car, Then Chased After It
ABC7 News Bay Area via YouTube


A towing company with an alleged history of illegal practices is getting all the wrong kind of attention after one of its drivers attempted to tow a moving vehicle with two occupants inside. Video of a Ram 5500 trying to hook a Toyota Corolla idling at a stoplight in San Francisco has gone viral, and prompted a statement from City Attorney David Chiu, who told ABC7 Bay Area that the truck driver's aggressive behavior is "unfortunately, not surprising," given Specialty Towing's history of breaking the law and generally unscrupulous behavior.

While it may not be surprising to Chiu, the video is still alarming. The Corolla's owners, Harry and Joanne Cho, told the San Francisco Standard they were running errands on Tuesday morning when the incident occurred. While the couple were sitting at a stoplight on the corner of Bush and Montgomery Street—more or less situated in downtown SF—they noticed the yellow tow truck was reversing in their direction. The truck driver deployed its yoke and attempted to hook the front axle of the sedan, but Harry Cho quickly reversed out of reach of the tow arm and went around the Ram to escape. The truck then chased after the Corolla, as footage shared by ABC7 shows:

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The whole incident was captured by SF resident and software engineer, Jeff Ferland. Ferland told SF Gate that he thought the tow truck was there to retrieve a Waymo autonomous vehicle in the adjacent lane, which was flashing its hazard lights. This would hardly be unusual considering the high rate of failure (and overall chaos) that disabled autonomous vehicles have brought to San Francisco traffic.

But when the tow truck sped after the occupied Corolla, rather than moving in front of the robotaxi, Ferland started recording. He told NBC Bay Area he had to get the incident on video because it was the most effective thing to do during the dangerous tow, adding that the attempt was just plain "wrong." Bystanders can be heard trying to get the driver's attention, and someone yells out, "What the f*** are you doing?" as the Corolla swerves around the Specialty Towing truck and escapes.

That's the tow truck taking off during a yellow, after the Corolla on the other side of the intersection. ABC7 News Bay Area via YouTube

Ferland called the San Francisco Police Department's non-emergency line to report the incident, but the SFPD claims it has no record of that conversation, per SF Gate. Harry and Joanne Cho reached out to the police immediately afterward, but the dispatcher who spoke with the couple was skeptical of their claims. Harry Cho told the SF Standard that the police "didn't really believe what we had to say." It wasn't until Thursday—after the video went viral—that the SFPD confirmed it filed an official report, and an investigation is supposedly now underway.

Joanne Cho can't explain why the tow truck driver went after their car. She says that the 2017 Toyota Corolla is fully paid-off with a valid registration. Specialty Towing has declined to speak to the media to explain the illegal attempt, and workers from an affiliate company under a separate business name, Auto Towing, have been unhelpful as well.

Auto Towing owns Specialty Towing, among other subsidiaries, and it was blocked from receiving work contracts in San Francisco earlier this year. Chiu debarred it from working with the city after the district attorney's office charged the owners with "multiple felonies stemming from an alleged welfare fraud scheme."

The towing company has a history of targeting Spanish- and Cantonese-speaking people and illegally towing their cars, then making it difficult for them to retrieve their vehicles and pressuring them for payments in cash. The SFPD is now telling residents who've been targeted by Specialty Towing to contact the department immediately.

ABC7 News Bay Area via YouTube

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