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'Six words ended me up in jail' | Font color on sign led to arrest, tow truck owner claims

Gastonia Police arrested the owner of Southside Towing in Gastonia for booting cars without having proper towing signs.

GASTONIA, N.C. — A Gastonia tow truck owner claimed he was arrested by police because five words on his towing signs had the incorrect font color.

Gastonia Police charged Brandon Abernathy, the owner of Southside Towing, with misdemeanor "improper signage; trespass towing" at a parking lot across the street from the city's new CaroMont Health Park, the baseball stadium at the center of the city's FUSE District

Abernathy said on May 18, he and his business partner, Marcellus Hardin, who owns Hardin's Affordable Towing, were booting the cars of people who parked at the Save-a-Lot grocery store but didn't go into the store.

Instead, Abernathy said the people were going to the ballpark.

"They don't want anybody in their parking lot that's going to the park and not shopping with them," Abernathy said about why Save-A-Lot's corporate office hired him. "I'm being harassed on what I'm doing and the job I've been hired to do."

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He said some booted drivers called police who then arrived at the lot.

Abernathy claimed police had an issue with the six words on his sign spelling out the names of "Southside Towing" and "Hardin's Affordable Towing."

The names were in black ink, but Gastonia's towing ordinance stated the entire sign is supposed to be red and white.

Besides the company's names, the other roughly 102 words on the sign are in compliance.

He claimed his arrest was the climax to months of discussions with Gastonia Police to make sure his company's actions are legal under the city towing ordinance.

"Six words ended me up in jail," Abernathy said. "We have tried to get on with the ordinance, completely on the ordinance. So, if something was wrong, you would think, by them being the law, they would inform me and not arrest me."

The Honey Hunters, who play at the ballpark, are now informing their customers by placing signs warning them not to park at the grocery store.

Team spokeswoman Veronica Jeon said the team's committed to being good neighbors to area businesses.

"At the same time, it is our commitment and our duty to protect our fans as they come to our games," Jeon said. "We also do not condone any predatory towing."

Abernathy argued he's only doing the job Save-a-Lot hired him to do.

Gastonia Police declined WCNC Charlotte's request for an on-camera interview.

Contact Brandon Golder at bgoldner@wcnc.com and follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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