CLEVELAND — Cleveland police body camera video shows a tow truck lifting a car high into the air — with the driver still inside — then flipping it into oncoming highway traffic.
“It’s unbelievable; I’ve never seen anything like this in my life,” said the victim's attorney, Tom Merriman. “This is over the top, literally; this is so reckless.”
Merriman shared the shocking video Monday, and says it all started with a minor fender bender last April on I-90 West near the I-71 split during rush hour.
Twenty-four-year-old Cameron Jenkins was pulled off along the side of the freeway, and video shows him sitting inside his Kia with the driver's side window down and speaking with a Cleveland police officer.
The tow truck operator can be seen in the video preparing to tow the car, when all of a sudden the vehicle lifts up to a nearly vertical position and then flips over onto the hood and into the freeway lane.
Several officers then scrambled to free Jenkins from the wreckage.
“He dropped from mid-air. It wasn’t like he just rolled; he slammed and he’s really lucky, he didn’t have his seat belt on at that point because he’s talking to the officer, but he got tossed around in that car," Merriman said. "They thought his leg was broken — was actually his head where he took the blow and that’s what he’s been struggling the most since is the closed head injury and concussion.”
The tow truck operator was on safety patrol and supposed to be there to provide roadside assistance.
Merriman said he and his client were very troubled when they saw the video and the tow truck operator's reaction to what was happening.
“The car flips off into the freeway; even if it was empty, he has no reaction to it at all,” said Merriman.
According to the police report, the tow truck operator told police that he was preparing the vehicle for transport and was going to tell the driver to step out when “the boom just kept coming up."
He said he “tried to disengage the boom, but it would not disengage."
He also said, “The buttons have been sticking for awhile and the bosses used the truck and knew about it."
The towing company is owned and operated by AutoBase Inc. based in New York.
The general manager, Joe Labella Sr., provided the following statement:
“We acknowledge that it happened, but can’t comment at this time due to pending litigation. We’re the largest provider of safety service patrol operations in the nation. We have a professional group of operators covering the entire state of Ohio and throughout 8 states.”
Merriman and his client, Cameron Jenkins, say that’s not good enough, and they’d like to see a serious investigation.
“We’re lucky this wasn’t a fatality,” said Merriman. “We’re lucky this wasn’t a multi-car crash caused by this car being dropped into traffic; someone needs to look at this.”