Towing tales part deux: Wreckers, guns, and money

Nicholas Rigterink may not have been seeking a fight over property rights when he went out for a mid-November dinner, but the 29-year-old Charlottesville man found one– one that ended up with him staring up the barrel of a handgun.

It all started with a plan to meet a friend at Fry's Spring Station, a gourmet pizzeria housed in a former service station where Jefferson Park Avenue bends and bridges the Norfolk Southern railroad tracks. It was Rigterink's decision to park his vehicle across the street at another former auto center, a recently-closed Exxon, that put him on the path to looking at the business end of a weapon.

"I've parked there for years with no problems," says Rigterink. "I really thought it was fine to park there."

Perhaps unbeknownst to him, the Exxon went out of business in early November, so the longtime policy of allowing parking on the expansive lot had come to a halt as the landlord posted a pair of no-parking signs on the inside of the glassed office.

The fateful encounter happened on Monday, November 12 after Rigterink, who works as the manager of the Melting Pot restaurant, had finished his shift. With the weather still warm shortly after their 6pm arrival, his group chose to enjoy their meal al fresco. The restaurant's spacious covered patio offers an expansive view of the road locals abbreviate as JPA– as well as a direct view of the old Exxon lot.

Rigterink's party hadn't yet been served any food or drinks when, suddenly, he says he saw two tow trucks pull into the lot.

Hoping to avert the towing, Rigterink raced across the street. As regular readers of the Hook know– and plenty of motorists have learned the hard way– once a tow truck is on site with a targeted vehicle, it may require a payment to allow the vehicle to leave the property.

According to the Virginia Board of Towing and Recovery Operators, a state agency that oversees the industry, if a car has already been hitched, the truck driver has a right to full payment– as much as $150. If, however, the car owner arrives before the vehicle has been hitched, the legal maximum to win release is $25.

Rigterink says a car next to his was already hitched when he arrived but says his car was not connected and claims that he actually walked between his vehicle and the wrecker– something he notes would have been impossible if it had already been attached. He says the tow truck driver from FBR Towing nonetheless demanded $75 in cash before allowing him to reclaim his car.

FBR owner Wayne Hayslett asserts otherwise.

"I was the driver that night," says Hayslett, who explains that even when a vehicle has been hitched, there's space to walk between the tow truck and the car. Rigterink may not have realized it, says Hayslett, but "his car was hitched."

Frustrated by the charge but relieved he wouldn't have to make the two-mile-trek to FBR's impound facility on Harris Street, Rigterink says he paid the cash.

"It wasn't the end of the world," says Rigterink, who returned to his friends, hoping to enjoy the rest of his evening. It wasn't to be.

The manager of Fry's Spring Station came over to his table to apologize for the inconvenience and then pointed out something that Rigterink hadn't noticed: a black SUV parked nearby at the 7 Day Jr. convenience store.

The manager told Rigterink the owners of the Exxon property were inside the black SUV overseeing the towing operation– and allegedly asserted that the couple were personally calling the tow trucks.

"He said that cars were being towed from the lot day and night," says Rigterink.

If the property owners were at hand, Rigterink wondered, why wouldn't they just tell people not to park there– or at least post bigger signs to prevent unwitting trespassers from a ruined evening?

"Why would they want to do that to people?" asks Rigterink. "These are the patrons of neighboring businesses."

Incensed by his own experience and hoping to help other would-be parkers avoid the expense with which he'd just been saddled, Rigterink says he kept his eye on the Exxon lot. He says he left his patio table– three times– to cross the street and warn others who were about to park there.

But the more he thought about the alleged enterprise, the more his frustration mounted. And when he left the restaurant shortly before 8pm, Rigterink says, he saw the SUV still parked at the convenience store, and, believing they were calling the tow company every time someone pulled into their lot, decided to tell them he found their approach frustrating.

He drove over to the 7 Day Jr. lot and stopped his car, a 2002 Pontiac Grand-Am, perpendicular to the SUV. Next, he says he got out. But before he said anything, he says, a woman exited the passenger side of the SUV and approached him.

"I was in the process of asking her why she was doing what she was doing," says Rigterink. He claims he didn't get a sentence out before the situation escalated.

"I heard shouting from the driver of the SUV," says Rigterink, who says he stopped talking as he looked in the direction of the noise.

"The door was half cracked," says Rigterink, "and through it was his arm and a handgun pointed straight at me. He was shaking it, yelling, and had a real look of anger."

Allegedly shocked and frightened, Rigterink says he climbed back in his car, pulled into a spot in front of the 7 Day Jr., dialed 911 from his cellphone, and ran inside to wait for police.

If the cops could find the man brandishing the weapon, they'd surely charge him, Rigterink thought. He was wrong.

The investigating officer interviewed the gun owner. It was Lee Hoff, who along with wife, Gladys, owns multiple Charlottesville properties including both the Exxon and the 7 Day Jr.

The officer approached Rigterink and explained that Mr. Hoff had a concealed weapon permit and that as a property owner feeling sufficiently threatened he thusly had the right to wave a weapon to protect himself and his wife. The officer had another surprise for the young restaurant manager: he was banned from the property and needed to leave immediately.

"He said it would be up to the Commonwealth's Attorney to decide if there would be charges" against Mr. Hoff, says Rigterink, who says he learned in a next day phone call to the City of Charlottesville Commonwealth's Attorney that he'd need to go down to a magistrate and swear out a warrant, something he did on Tuesday, November 27.

According to Charlottesville Police Lt. Ronnie Roberts, officers followed the law in handling the situation, which he describes as a "he said/she said" with no outside witnesses.

For an arrest to occur, "the misdemeanor would have had to occur in the officer's presence," Roberts says, noting that the law provides limited exceptions including incidents of domestic violence.

"We don't have the ability to go back and look at it on replay," Roberts notes. "One says this, one says that. We advise them in which direction they can proceed."

Attorney Debbie Wyatt says she's not surprised police didn't make an arrest.

"The benefit of the doubt most likely goes to the person who says he felt threatened," says Wyatt.

While Virginia doesn't have a "stand your ground" law like Florida's, which permits the use of deadly force in a case where an individual feels an imminent life-threatening attack, Virginia law does provide some comfort to those who claim self-defense.

Had Hoff shot Rigterink rather than simply pointing his weapon, Wyatt says the decision about whether it was a "reasonable" act of self-defense would likely have been a question for a jury.

Rigterink claims he remained on the driver's side of his vehicle and that it was Mrs. Hoff who confronted him. He says he's disgusted by what he sees as predatory behavior by property owners who he considers more focused on punishing parkers than protecting their property.

The Hoffs offer a different version of the events.

"The signs mean what they say," says Gladys Hoff, reached by phone two days after the incident. "If he can't read, he doesn't need to be driving."

The Hoffs are Charlottesville natives who now split their time between Virginia and Florida, and Gladys Hoff says the risks of allowing parking at the old gas station lot are real– and should not be theirs to shoulder. She mentions the possibility that the petroleum pumps or the building could be struck by an errant driver and that her insurance would have to cover damages.

"Anything can happen, and we're the owners," says Hoff, who traces the history of parking problems to the operator of the now defunct Exxon, Steve Gibson, who allegedly allowed parking for UVA football games and the restaurant.

"We're left to clean up his mess," Hoff says of Gibson, who did not return a reporter's call.

"We have gas tanks in the ground," continues Hoff, citing a fear that football game-day parkers might tailgate with open-flame grills, something she fears could lead to a fire or explosion.

In fact, she says, the building did once catch on fire after a vehicle backed into the electrical meter. While that fire was quickly spotted and extinguished, now that the property is vacant she fears another such incident would erupt unnoticed until it was too late.

"Everyone wants to down us," she says, "because we're trying to protect what we have."

As for the gun incident, Mrs. Hoff says she and her husband felt frightened when Rigterink pulled into the 7 Day Jr. lot. And she suggests Rigterink was an aggressor against whom her husband had no choice but to defend. While Rigterink insists Mrs. Hoff approached him after leaving her SUV, Hoff's description is different.

"He pinned us in," she says in a reporter's first interview with her. In a second interview, her description of Rigterink's actions intensifies.

"He came around the side of his vehicle and came at me," says Mrs. Hoff. "No husband is going to watch someone run up in his wife's face. You never know what someone is going to do."

Denying such assertions, Rigterink asks why Mrs. Hoff would leave her car if she were so frightened?

She says her fright began only after Rigterink began moving menacingly, and she repeatedly expresses a suspicion to a reporter that he was intoxicated, a notion he flatly denies.

"I didn't even have time to finish one beer because of the towing issue," says Rigterink, noting that he'd been prepared for the couple to make allegations after he summoned police.

"I half expected them to demand the police breathalyze me," says Rigterink. "I would have welcomed it."

Rigterink's dining companion that evening, Turner Pittkin, downplays any likelihood that Rigterink presented a threatening appearance and supports Rigterink's one-beer assertion.

"It wasn't a wild night," says Pittkin. "We were just getting dinner."

Pittkin– who notes that the group also included his girlfriend and his girlfriend's three-year-old child– recalls how the "shaken" Rigterink summoned him after the incident. And Pittkin, emphasizing that his friend is not the type to start a physical altercation, says that he too felt shocked over the Charlottesville Police Department's unwillingness to make an arrest.

"Really?" asks Pittkin. "If you just feel threatened, you can pull a gun and point it in someone's face?"

However, Mrs. Hoff also expresses outrage. It starts, she says, with the management of Fry's Spring Station, who, she claims, failed to make adequate parking plans for a restaurant that can seat 180 people but has just six designated parking spots.

"I asked them when they opened," Hoff relates, 'What are you going to do about parking?' I told them I didn't want people parking on my property."

Robert Sawry, co-owner of Fry's Spring Station, says there's plenty of street parking.

"This is an urban restaurant," says Sawry, who is also the managing partner of The Downtown Grille restaurant on the Downtown Mall. He compares these urban eateries to Richmond's fan district, where restaurants thrive despite any dedicated parking. Finding parking in the Fry's Spring neighborhood, Sawry insists, simply means a diner may have to walk a few blocks.

Sawry acknowledges that the Hoffs are within their rights to tow, even as his own approach to parkers who occasionally snag his private parking spot downtown is a bit softer.

"I leave a note," he says.

Were the Hoffs calling in their tows? A manager with Fry's Spring Station concedes that he has no proof, and Mrs. Hoff says she just happened to be watching the tow patrols on the fateful evening.

"The tow company patrols the lot," she says.

And she reacts with indignation to any notion of fee-splitting. That's the legal-but-controversial practice that has incited criticism of developer Keith Woodward who has earned $25 per tow from his downtown lot. Both Mrs. Hoff and the owner of FBR Towing deny any such fee-splitting arrangement.

Still, frustration remains for Fry's Spring Station managers over the Hoffs' handling of what may appear to a tempting parking place. There is no rope around the perimeter, and Mrs. Hoff confirms that she rebuffed the restaurant's entreaty to purchase and post more prominent signage. Currently, the two signs taped to the inside of the old Exxon office are set back from the street, unlighted, and can be difficult to see after dark.

"It's not up to me to have their signs all over my property," says Mrs. Hoff. "I think they ought to post it on their own place."

In fact, Sawry points out, the restaurant has posted placards to warn diners, and he expresses gratitude that the owners of nearby Anna's Pizza #5 have taken a different tack when his patrons have strayed.

"They give us a courtesy call," says Sawry, "so we can have the customer move the vehicle."

For Rigterink, the issue doesn't revolve around the Hoffs right to deny parking at the shuttered station.

"It's their property, so they can use it how they want," concedes Rigterink.

What he wonders aloud is why they aren't willing to install a clearer warning, and he says he's speaking out so nobody else who approaches the Hoffs goes through the experience of looking down the barrel of a gun.

"They knew what they were doing was going to piss off a lot of people, and they were sitting there ready to deal with some violent, mad person if need be," he says. "I approached them like an adult and had a gun in my face within 15 seconds."

Hoff, however, says Rigterink has unfairly and inaccurately portrayed her and her husband.

"My husband and I aren't Bonnie and Clyde," she says. "We own property, we've lived here all our life, and I pay high-dollar taxes. The signs are up. You don't just park on other people's property."

Note: Due to an editing error, the railroad line was misidentified in this story. It is the Norfolk Southern line and not the CSX line as originally stated. The error has been corrected above.

Read more on: fry's spring station

85 comments

Please. This is predatory towing and profit-sharing at its finest.

Makes you wonder what the point of owning an abandoned gas station is in the first place. If you owned an abandoned gas station, would you sit in a car outside of it in the evenings just to look at and behold the glory of an abandoned gas station? No.

How come nobody asked the Hoffs what they plan to do with their piece of Urban Blight?

Do these folks seriously expect us to believe that they have nothing better to do than sit in their parking lot and "protect" it from illegal parkers? C'mon. There's only one reason why they'd do that. $$$. Personally, I used to frequent the 7 Day Jr., but no more. I'll take my business over to Wayside instead. I've never had to worry about getting towed over there.

1- Rigterink had no business whatsoever approaching the Hoffs. Rigterink knew who they were prior to his approaching them. And the Hoffs had every right to assume that Rigterink was upset with them over the money he had to pay FBR Towing.

2- The Hoffs need to more clearly mark the property. Especially sice it is getting dark at 5:00 p.m. now.

3- The police acted appropriately. They are not there to babysit citizens or cater to one side or the other. A complainant in a criminal matter has to swear to the facts before a magistrate who will issue a warrant. wearing to the facts before a cop simply is not good enough.

4- Brandishing a firearm, I have mixed feelings on this. I am not sure I would have gone that far. But I have had 40 years of practice in drawing my weapon quickly if and when I need it. Perhaps Mr Hoff was not that confident in his skills.

5- And a little bit of trivia -- fastest draw in Charlottesvile and Albemarle County is a now retired Charlottesville police detective named Leon. He and I were playing around in the city car wash on 4th Street one day. Overspray got him wet while I was rinsing my car off, he pulled his weapon and shot me (play acting). This was a man no criminal wanted to engage in a quick draw gun battle out o the street.

Does it not enrage anyone that the city council jumps through hoops and spends hours to protect the predatory bums on the mall but van't spend 15 minutes drawing up a signage ordinance like almost every jusrisdiction in the country?

Pass a law that says that they must have minmum signage requirements visible from all entrances even at night with the two rates and tow lots information right on the sign.

I guess the Council only wants to deal with clocks and brick pavers and has no interst in solving a perpetual problem.

I wonder if anyone driving by can notice any building code violations from the street and report them to the city for investigation. Even an abandoned lot must be up to code.

If you see a tow truck with bad tires or leaks or even lights out or broken write down the DOT number and reoirt them to the state police. They obviously have the money to keep the trucks in good shape.. amke them do it.

And.. If you see a tow driver on a cell phone while driving film it and report them.. it is a 10, 000 dolar fine. Let them get a taste of thier own medicine.

Turnabout IS fair play.

Also... If people would boycott tow companies that do impounds and support those that do not it would at least reward the tow companies that want to make an honest living instead of gouging people with predatory practices.

Whether or not the Hoffs had a legal right to brandish a firearm in Rigterink's face, they sound like really nasty people who need to be avoided. What other businesses belong to them besides this Exxon and the 7DayJr?

So much for being good neighbors. Nicholas, I'm sorry for the incident, but I do appreciate your follow thru. You have saved many others a towing incident. We will miss Steve Gibson, he was a great guy and good neighbor.

I have a marvel idea, if it is such an issue place some concrete blocks in the entrance of the lot and that would keep people from parking there.

"There is no rope around the perimeter, and Mrs. Hoff confirms that she rebuffed the restaurant's entreaty to purchase and post more prominent signage."

Does this sentence mean that the restaurant offered to provide more no-parking signs for the Hoffs to put up on their lot? And the Hoffs refused? If so, that's pretty damning. The Hoffs sound like complete a-holes either way.

@Gassy: Re#5... Basic firearm safety dictates that you NEVER point a gun at anything that you do not intend to shoot. You know that. And your buddy, Leon, should have known that too. You should have been pissed.

If the Hoffs play this game, someone should take them up on their fears about insurance, and sue them. Trip over a stone and sue them for a lot of money. They are obligated to put up signs of towings and no parking in a visible manner, especially given that the previous owners had a sharing relationship with the Fry's Springs Place. I supported the concealed weapon law but this is an abuse of it.

Hoff is SO worried about people hitting the pumps at the old station, but doesn't secure the property to keep people away?

Liar. I echo the calls to post the couple's other businesses so we can avoid parking (and shopping) at those properties, too.

According to Charlottesville GIS data, Hoff Motor Company owns 2201-2203 Fontaine Ave (Exxon and 7 Day Jr), 118 E. Main St., and 602-616 W. Main St. (University Tire and Auto).

For some reason, there's a lot of people unhappy that they weren't born in the Wild West and look for the experience of defending themselves. It would be foolish for the Hoffs not to protect their property, but it does sound like they are co-dependently looking for a (semi-)legal opportunity to "take a stand" and shoot somebody.

Note to Self: Avoid Hoffs professionally and personally, which shouldn't really be that hard to do.

Da Troof, what part of "play acting" did you not understand?

He whipped his suit jacket back, slapped his holster, and pointed his hand and finger at me as if he had drawn his weapon. It was amazingly fast!

Sorry about the confusion.

The main point I was making, these quick draw videos you see on YouTube are slow compared to him. If a man is fast enough, he doesn't have to draw his firearm like Mr Hoff seems to have done, you can wait until you see the other person go for a weapon. I'm not a large fan of people brandishing firearms like Mr. Hoff did, even though I still think everybody should be armed today.

Market Street, if the Hoffs were to place some concrete blocks an the entrance of the lot, they would most likely be responsible when some drunk runs over them and does damage to their vehicle. If you think this is a far fetched notion, research the people who have sued homeowners and won after being shot while breaking into their homes. The courts don't always rule the way we think they should.

Old Timer, you bring up a good point. If the Hoffs place some concrete blocks at the entrance of the lot, they would get sued when somebody trips over them as well.

Ummm . . . we're in Virginia, right?

>>Bill Marshall November 29th, 2012 | 10:55am
>>in .032 seconds with google...

>>http://www6.montgomerycountymd.gov/content/ocp/pdf/mdtranscode21_10a_oct...

I hope everyone takes note of the neighborly behavior of Anna's.

This same week, on Friday Nov 16th, I too decided to eat dinner with my family at Fry Spring Station... To our surprise (after almost 2 years of parking in the same exxon lot) 3 of our cars were towed, and another 3 from another dinner party were gone as well. The other party was the an ex-employee (and her family) of the Restaurant. 6 cars, in an hour and a half.
When we pulled into the Exxon lot to park, those "signs" posted about waist-high in the window were blocked by cars who were parked to patron the Restaurant.

We too, noticed the Black SUV and also approached it...This time, Mr. Hoff was in the passenger seat, and his wife in the driver. As my mother approached the vehicle, Mr. Hoff exited and approached her in an erratic manner, only to retreat in response to his wife's pleas. Mrs. Hoff showcased the same "my property, I can do what I want" attitude towards us.

It is a shame that these property owners are getting away with this scam. I challenge the fact that they are not getting kick backs from the Towing company. Why else would Mr. and Mrs. Hoff spend repeated nights "watching" there vacant, rundown, waste of space, lot. Both of their properties on that corner are an eye soar to the rest of the neighboring community and businesses.

These Property owners are ruining the opportunity for Charlottesville residents trying to support local establishments at the Fry Spring corner. If they were truly "concerned" about there property, they would have parked in that lot and denounced parking there, instead of sitting around the corner of the building with a cellphone in hand, FBR Towing on speed-dial.

"Da Troof, what part of 'play acting' did you not understand?"

The part where you literally said "he pulled his weapon" but failed to mention that it was just his finger.

I too was fell victim to this same scam. It's amazing how lucrative an enterprise these folks have going on. I had a breakdown a few months ago and the towing fee was $40 and I could pay by credit card. Here the fee was $150 and had to be in cash. Although I got a receipt it was not property filled out and the name of the tow truck operator was not even legible. Very shady all around. The City Council needs to take this issue up in earnest before the city gets such a bad rap that it truly impacts the overall business climate.

The other thing that people need to remember is that the Commonwealth has very lax rules/regulations when it comes to tow truck operators.

In Roanoke, there have been horror stories regarding Spanky Macher and his building and the predatory towing practices there. Another site, unrelated to him in the Grandin Village has also had no signage and very unethical towing practices.

Bottom line: tow truck operators by and large can get away with just about anything. At some point someone's going to end up getting hurt and then they will finally be regulated, but wouldn't it be nice i there were some other impetus for them to act ethically?

Typical Cville scumbags...there's alot of this around Cville believe me. Old money and some of the jerks that go with it! If Mr. Hoff points a gun at the wrong person he might get a BIG surprise one day too!

So what would be the outcome be if Nicholas Rigterink, who does indeed look like a menace with that powder blue hoodie, also had a concealed weapon, and, as many of us might, felt threatened by having a firearm pointed at him and successfully drew his and shot Mr. Hoff?

This is hardly the place to rewrite the Code of Virginia, but shouldn't the burden of proof be upon the person who introduces the prospect of deadly force into a verbal confrontation?

(GSOE please don't respond please. Go play Cowboys and Indians in the backyard.)

I TOO WAS VICTIM. I BLAME FRY SPRING. IT IS THEIR CUSTOMERS, THEY SHOULD HELP THEIR CUSTOMERS. HOW ABOUT WHEN YOU ARE SEATING PATRONS, TELL THEM THAT THEY WILL BE TOWED IF THEY PARKED IN THE OLD EXXON LOT. IT SEEMS THEY NEW THIS WAS GOING ON AND NEVER CARED ABOUT THE PATRONS. THEY LET THIS GO ON NIGHT AFTER NIGHT.
I WILL FIND A DIFFERENT PLACE TO EAT. THANKS.

@ALSO A VICTIM, I bet you're a blast to wait on and that all caps rant just screams BIGG TIPPERER. I doubt anyone will miss your patronage.

Do it..

I was pointing out how easy it would be for the Council to find some regulations to adopt without forming a committee to study whether or not an advisory board should be established to discuss whether or not the Council should seek an advisory board to do a two year study on whether or not a problem actually exists.

This should have been dealt with twenty years ago.

Also... If kickbacks are involved then I am sure there is enough to warrant a criminal conspiriacy investigation which would open the books and see if their are kickbacks which should give investigators enough to report any suspicious transactions to the IRS.

I wonder if the no parking sign were posted that hidden if a parking ticket would hold up in a court of law?

Are we suppose to support this kid Nick? While the actions by the owner of the lot is far from civilized and in truth, aggressive, I agree this kid got his due. Sure, he says he's parked there many times before and not received a ticket. Well, many people speed and don't get ticketed. it only takes once to teach you. There were signs on the property and her parked there any way and then this "one time" he got caught he tries to get out of it before being towed. A simple solution was to not park there and find a spot like the rest of is. It's convenient to Fry's Spring but in this case, convenience has a price. He knew what he was doing the whole time.

@I knew it: did you miss the following paragraph? Nick didn't know it was illegal to park there.

"Perhaps unbeknownst to him, the Exxon went out of business in early November, so the longtime policy of allowing parking on the expansive lot had come to a halt as the landlord posted a pair of no-parking signs on the inside of the glassed office."

These are just old bitter folks with nothing better to do but complain. They have lived a prosperous live and should be greatful for the blessings they have. Their judgement is coming sooner than mine.

GassBag,

I appreciate this sue happy nation loses it's mind at time, but I don;t think you would find a lawsuit over the concrete barrier, a series of well marked no trespassing signs, and towing enforcement signs. Four sawhorses with no parking signs, no trespassing signs, and towing enforcement signs would solve 98% of the problem. But that presumes they wanted to solve it, which they obviously didn't.

And yes, he DID have the right to approach the people in their car, the same way I might have the right to approach someone if I had a question on the time. I don't believe them for one minute that he threatened them, though his face might have suggested being irritated. I support the second amendment but I don't support jerks and scammers.

I knew it,

Yes, you should support Nick. Do you know why? Because the previous owner allowed them to park there routinely and apparently had a shared parking situation with the Fry's Spring place. Why she he or any other patorn know that the ownership agreement had changed?

The signs are not really visible and this can be handled in a much more mature fashion. The action of the Hoff's suggest they know exactly what they are doing.

Grow up people. Don't park on private property because you can't walk a block to eat dinner and then cry about the crazy property owners. Yes, they seem crazy, but that doesn't mean you can be lazy and claim a non-existent plausible denial. I'm happy to boycott 7 Day Jr. because I'm pretty sure there is collusion with the tow truck operators. The owners of Anna's are model community members and I always enjoy walking over there to pick up a pizza. In my experience the staff at the Station do make efforts to alert customers not to park in the private lots. People just need to have a clue.

failure and/or lack of civility all around. except Cville police. they seem to have done a decent job here. the Hoff's might be able to sleep better at night if they had made it quite clear that trespassers should not park there (perhaps signs at the entrance to the lot)--especially knowing that the previous owners allowed it. their "predatory" actions seem rather uncharitable. restaurant owner should have let their patrons know of the change in parking policy next door. nick should realize that trespassing on private property has its consequences.

Dolemite -- you write "shouldn't the burden of proof be upon the person who introduces the prospect of deadly force into a verbal confrontation?" That's a good point. But there are two aspects that may help do that for the Hoffs here. First, we have really two materially different stories and none of us readers really knows for a fact which is true. And second, assuming the Hoff's version, they're on their own property, not confronting but instead being blocked in. (Hey, I'm not defending their whole pro-tow approach here, just addressing how this case could play out.) If in fact -- and it may well be false -- but if in fact this kid blocked them in and was acting angry and outraged (yes, even nice student kids can get in-your-face at times) and confronting them, then I think that might possibly carry that legal burden.

The Skinny: C-ville's old money are not spending their nights watching who's parking at their closed gas station. They are out making sure the right horse gets stabled in the correct place at the barn where the horse's name is engraved.

hardly a "kid", what does the age of Nick have to do with anything?

Hey Sam, if you read my post, it says "some" not "all" but since you feel guilty about being rich and a jerk then so be it! Maybe it is all inclusive? Lived here all of my life, see it everyday...now you can go back to cleaning up your horse poop too and hanging out with the Hoffs'.

I don't have a horse and it was just making fun of what I think the old money does around here, I don't really know.

Todd, you wrote, hardly a "kid", what does the age of Nick have to do with anything?

Sorry, meant no offense, just showing my age.

Relax Dolemite, I don't debate 2nd amendment rights.

Da Troof, I said, and I quote myself, "...he pulled his weapon and shot me (play acting)..." Your mind tricked you into applying the words "play acting" to shooting me, but did not apply it to "he pulled his weapon". Isn't it funny how the mind works.

Old Timer, if you have my car towed because I have parked illegally and blocked your driveway, do I have the right to come onto your property, knock on your door, and demand answers? Would you not be on the defensive as soon as you see me approaching your front door? Suppose it's after dark and you know that I have just left an establishment with an ABC license?

"Old Timer, if you have my car towed because I have parked illegally and blocked your driveway, do I have the right to come onto your property, knock on your door, and demand answers? "

You have a right to knock on my door and ask. I have a right to not answer. Your knocking on my door does not give me the right to pull a gun on you and cry that I was threatened. Start kicking my door down and that's another story.

An open parking lot that is poorly marked versus my driveway are not really quite the same thing anyways. Why? Because my driveway is opening on to a public street and you are blocking my access and you know you aren't supposed to block a driveway. Trust me,I have towed people for just that thing. We are talking about a parking lot that was part of a shared parking agreement and now it has changed hands.

I also have zero sympathy for the lazy patrons who park in front of no parking signs, saw horses marking private parking spacs in lots, and block driveways down in Belmont and Woolen Mills for their convenience. Yeah, they should be towed in a blink.

The Hoffs are doing something else entirely, and they reacted like they did because they knew they were at best, being nasty, and at worst, looking to get kick backs.

Put up some saw horses with no parking signs at the entrance, and be done with it. Then have no mercy on the towing.

Why don't they just make it an official parking lot and charge people $25 to park there -- forget getting the tow trucks involved? Sounds like it's a great location, and clearly they have the time. Security seems to be covered, too.

Seriously, Gasbag? Are you for real?

(I cannot believe that I am even arguing this point, but here goes… )
Since it seems pretty stupid to surmise a person’s ability to rapidly draw a gun based on their ability to quickly point their finger, I don’t see how any mind-trickery need have been involved in interpreting your meaning to be that Leon pulled his weapon (you said “weapon”, not “finger”) on you and said “bang” without actually pulling the trigger. You know, “play acting”.

My kids run around the house all the time playing “cops and robbers” and pointing their fingers at each other like guns and going “pow-pow”. I do not presume that such behavior translates into any real expertise with, you know, actual guns.

How hard is it for you to admit, without being snarky (i.e. “What part of ‘play-acting’ did you not understand?”), that you might possibly have typed something that was not as you intended? Geez.

OK, Old Timer. I still disagree with approaching somebody that has just hurt one's feelings and cost them $75, but... whatever. And, if and when somebody does start kicking your door in, always remember that contrary to popular belief Virginia does not have the Castle Doctrine.

Yes, Da Troof, I am for real. Without being snarky, I honestly have to wonder how many other people applied the words "play acting" to his actually shooting me, but didn't apply the same words to his actually pulling his firearm out. OK, I will take the blame. I should have said.....

"he pulled his weapon (play acting) and shot me (play acting)."

"Relax Dolemite, I don't debate 2nd amendment rights."

They were never up for debate, if you can process that distinction. Brandishing a firearm and aiming it at an obviously mild human being who made a vocal protest in public space was the issue. Now go play (more) Cowboys and Indians like a told you to. Or just go change your drawers, since they probably moisten every time you talk about pulling guns or having your buddies point their "weapons" at you. And I'm going to go write "Don't bait the troll" 100 times on the blackboard.

I read Gasbag's story as him saying he had a real gun pulled on him by someone who ought to know better. I was stunned to hear of such a fool having a permit for a concealed carry! I also wondered what on earth quickly pointing a finger had to do with pulling a real gun, one that has real weight and also some drag from the holster etc.. I can make some pretty sharp turns when I hold my hands out in front of me like I'm driving a car. I wouldn't count on that skill winning me any races at the track.

Gasbag-

I have to chime in that I was a bit confused by your choice of words as well. I thought he pulled his gun and then pretended to shoot you. Didn't seem to make sense that you would tell a story about someone quickly pointing their finger.

And unless your follow-up is actually the best writing you can do to make it clearer, your snark continues.

Anyway, these lot owners are mean.

Dolemite, you don't really have to do the blackboard thing. Backing away from the keyboard would be much easier.

a waiter, thanks for stopping by and commenting. The entire point was that people don't need to openly brandish a firearm just because some upset person is approaching them. Then I added a little bit of trivia in there. I should have known better, most people can't chew bubble gum and walk at the same time. I apologize for going off topic and distracting everybody's train of thought.

repeal the ban, hang around a while. My writing style and quality gets much better after I have gone out to dinner and had about 12 beers. I shoule be back by 11:00 p.m. if you're up that late.

I sure hope the City Council and Police Department are reading these comments. Folks are really hot about this. They need to do something about the Hoffs and the tow truck owners & drivers.

1. Revoke Mr. Hoff's license to carry a concealed weapon immediately. He demonstrably not fit for any gun license. His wife is a willing accomplice.
2. An investigation needs to be started by the State/FBI to determine if Mr. Hoff, Mrs. Hoff and the tow truck owners and operators are in a conspiracy to commit crime under the RICO Act.I don't thinkI have read about anything more threatening in this town.

Lastly, the Charlottesville Police Department seems almost unconcerned about the behavior of these people. Are they scratching each other's backs?

Well it seems that they are either "A" too greedy and would rather "earn" their money sitting outside in the cold watching other people suffer, "B" too stupid to rent the lot to the resturant for a parking lot while they decide what to do with it or "C" too pathetic to realize when they subtract "B" from "A" and divide that by the total numbers of hours he and his wife collectivily spend setting people up to be popped that they are making little more than minimum wage on thier kickbacks.

If the objective were to have people not park there then sawhorses , a chain or a rope would have already been installed.

They are just in it for the money and don't mind making unwitting human beings suffer to get said money.

People in EPA regulated houses shouldn't throw stones.... If one ounce of oil or gas leaks off that property (or their other one... or the towers lot) it is a FEDERAL offense and ANYONE can report them anonomously. Karma is a beach.

Hmmm, well so the Hoffs were parked on one of their properties and allegedly calling in the troops to tow people parked on another one of their properties? So what laws are they breaking doing so? And someone pulls behind them so as to block them in their parking space and comes up to the vehicle to yell at them?
You'd have to be flat deranged to think he didn't yell at them; that's what people always do when in a state of high dudgeon over some such effrontery to their personal sovereignty as having their car tampered with while having a few brews with friends. One doesn't spend an hour stewing over such a thing and then pull up and ever so politely ask them why they're being so mean. "step away from the vehicle...NOW" emphasized with a weapon's display seems just about right. having witnessed many such displays of wounded dignity by people in such circumstances, I think that's a well calibrated response.
I guess it's just time for The Hook's latest article about the outrages of people denying free parking to otherwise entitled folks. Can't we just give it a rest? People have the right to post their property no parking and tow those who do. Those who don't like it may consider revising their views that ownership of a vehicle comes with lifetime parking privileges and think twice about where they dump their cars. This fellow needs to grow up..

Gasbag-

You wouldn't know it since I rarely post, but I've been enjoying yours and other comments for years.

Angel eyes, I don't think you read the article. You just repeated your usual rant.

So hey, how about this quote from that Hook article:

"As for the future, if any Lethal employee charges more than the state limit and gets caught, Morris has agreed to pay the City $1,000 per instance: $500 to the Literacy Fund and $500 to the general fund."

Does that include if the person starts a new company? Or is it only if the tow is by a company called "Lethal"?

Yea well, you brought your mouth to a gun fight and lost.

Angel eyes... if it were that simple you would not have 50 plus comments about it.

These people are like cops setting up a speed trap at the bottom of ahill and giving tickets for going 1 mile an hour over the limit while the sign is partially obscured by a tree branch.

It is a jerk move and it is perfectly reasonable to call them out for being jerks.

The "law" is on their side... for now. Hopefully if the Hook keeps exposing these predators then the city will wise up a actually make an attempt to fix the problem which is poor signage and unenforced billing regulations when people are towed.

They DO have a right to keep cars off of their property but it is obvious that that is NOT their goal or they would have put up a rope or clearer signs. so they should be called out as bad people who deserve nothing.

I wonder how upset they would be if hoodlums vandalized the station and those across the street at the resturant didn't bother to call the cops and when asked if they saw anything convienently "forgot" what they looked like. There is a great line in the movieStripes where the sargeent tells one of the recruits:... "lighten up francis... one of these days one of these guys might just save your life" bill murrays character replied.... "Then again maybe one of us won't"

Good neighbors can be better watchdogs then all the cops in town combined.

"I should have known better, most people can't chew bubble gum and walk at the same time. I apologize for going off topic and distracting everybody's train of thought."

Ah, more snark.

Gassy, it's not so much that you went off topic. It's that you typed something that made no sense. Still, you deride your audience (see above) when the misunderstanding was entirely your fault. Unbelievable. You've got serious issues, man.

Mr/Mrs/Miss repeal the ban, thanks! I thought you were being snarky towards me. (DaTroof taught me a new word - snarky.)

Yeah, Troof. I'm not sure why it's called a mental illness. Illness is considered to be a bad thing. But I enjoy my serious issues every single day of my life!

@Angel Eyes ... the Hoffs weren't breaking any laws. They were just being a-holes.

It occurs to me that the owners clearly have some time on their hands if their priority is sitting in a car calling police on parkers. Obviously not the first time, either, since they came prepared to be confronted with a weapon. How much money do they make from it? It seems like a trap, sign posted, but inconspicuously - no barriers to keep parkers out. If the owners were truly only interested in protecting their property they would put up barriers that make it apparent they don't want anyone over there. I would think that would cost less than wasting their evenings lying in wait for someone to park there.

@Today ... you hit the nail on the head. If protecting their property was their top priority, simply putting up some kind of barriers or better signage would do the trick. Ms. Hoff stated it wasn't up to her to put signs all over her property. But instead of a quick and easy fix, she'd rather sit in her car all night defending her empty lot? Sketchy.

What's the legal recourse for victims of this operation? Would they have a course of action that would reveal illegalities and damages?

What should the civil authorities be doing?

There were two posted "no parking" signs. Unfortunately, that's all that's necessary for the vehicles to be towed away by the property owner. It may not be right, but it isn't illegal. The "victims" were parking on private property that was posted, so they weren't really victims.

http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?000+cod+46.2-1231

"[...] if there are posted at all entrances to the parking lot or area signs clearly and conspicuously disclosing that such vehicle, if parked without permission, will be removed, towed, or immobilized. Such signs shall, at a minimum, include the nonemergency telephone number of the local law-enforcement agency or the telephone number of the responsible towing and recovery operator to contact for information related to the location of vehicles towed from that location."

I find much of this commentary troubling. I had occasion to rent from the Hoffs a dozen years ago & found them to be people with rules, but people who were at core fair-minded and often generous. The verbal pictures painted of white trash or old money/new money or whatever other conjectures are rampant here do not jive with the people I've known. Part of what's troubling me seems to be generational: younger 'I-get-to-do-whatever-I-want' vs older 'we-play-by-the-rules'. And I do mean "I" and "we". That's part of it. And an assumption that if we don't have explicit permission, then we don't do it --- that's an older view. The younger view seems to be geared towards forgiveness rather than permission; and the right to yell at people if forgiveness isn't automatically extended, which I frankly find to be, simply, rude in the extreme.

Barbara, read the article. Permission had been given and then that changed without people's knowledge. That simply isn't the scenario you've painted.

The tracks are not CSX; they are NS.

Check read for other inaccuracies.

Hi Barbara. While I might agree with you that there is a false sense of entitlement by so many younger folks in the area, I hardly find they have the monopoly on it. Believe me, I have gotten worn out on the demand for free easy parking in the DT area, and the number of restaurants who the City seems to think should be allowed to take over the parking in an entire community. No one type should be able to hog a shared resource.

Having said that, these older folks are being sketchy. And the law says they have to post it better too. At best they are being uncivil and not constructive. I totally support their right to deny parking, but it doesn't seem like that's their real goal. If it is, I suspect this article will change their behaviour and help them understand the better way to keep people away, so they don't have to spend their evenings angry calling tow trucks. For the other side, this article will help inform a wider group of customers about the chage of ownership.

On the gun part, I think that was totally out of line, and I am big on the 2nd amendment. All they had to do was walk inside the store around other patrons with a security camera running an call the police if they felt threatened. Then, if the young man tried to assault one of them, I could see the gun possibly coming out. Frankly, I do believe they pulled the gun and I am not interested in ever doing business with them for any reason.

Like wayside;
And my usual rant is what? SFB....

Hoffs are trash, just ask the people that rent from them. Very difficult people that will be punished by a Higher authority. Would not want to be in their shoes when they go beyond. They better hope that this young gentleman that is bringing the lawsuit do not decide to interview the people and patrons that have rented from them. I hear that there are MANY stories that could be used against them in a court of law.

I've been thinking about his quite a bit over the weekend. Seems to me that the young man in this article, may be able to initiate a civile suit against the Hoff's. He should contact an attorney and find out if you can subpoena the Hoff's phone records. My 99% guess is that you are going to find alot of calls to the towing company or directly to one of the drivers.

@Blookie: Oh, snap, I screwed up Courteney's article when I edited in the specific rail line and chose the wrong one! Mea culpa. It is in fact the Norfolk Southern rail line and not the CSX line that runs by the scene.--hawes spencer, editor (in need of a good map)

I'm as pro-gun as they come, but I think pointing a gun at someone unless you genuinely fear for your safety should get you arrested. It seems clear that Rigterink wanted to do anything but talk and maybe complain a bit. Is approaching someone you don't know now grounds to have a gun pointed at you?

When an attorney charges $--- an hour and you are out a towing fee (about 1/3 to 1/2 hour by the attorney's time) and a gun waived but not shot, no video, and you approached their car on their land. How would you get an attorney in town to cover the filing fees, subpoena fees, depositions and their time to have a civil suit over this. No attorney would take this in C-ville.* The best recourse is telling the Hook.

* the exception in C-ville is if this happened to someone in a Judge's family or a law firm partner's family.

Just saying, you are probably correct on that one. Sure would be nice if you could do it though. These folks sound like scum to me. Can you imagine sitting there and watching other peoples cars getting towed away, collecting money and probably laughing about it. How cruel and mean can you get.

I thought it was ironic that the Hoffs blamed their previous tenant Mr Gibson for causing "the parking problem". It would seem to me that as long as his lease was in force that it was up to him who he allowed to park there. I often parked there during football games.

It seems like they were seething over this for a long time, before they finally regained control over who parks on their property. I can only imaging that Mr Gibson is happy not to have to deal with them any longer.

They seem to be a bitter old couple with way too much time on their hands. I also thought it was very foolish to pull a gun in this situation. Obviously they knew they were stirring up trouble and were prepared to kill someone over parking in their lot.

Why not photo the lot & its no parking signage (if it can be done from the street--which should be the case, right?) and show it to an appropriate authority, so they can pass on whether the signage meets the requirements for the Code of VA passage cited herein regarding towing signs? Seems like an easy way to get an answer. Hook, anyone?

If someone is in your wife's face, yes - you protect her. and there are many ways to do that.

but what if Rigterink was carrying? Concealed weapons are for shooting people that are threatening your life, not intimidating others. If someone points a gun at you, unless they are wearing a badge and uniform, they should be shot.

Story in the Daily Progress says Lee Hayword Hoff has now been arrested for brandishing a firearm.

Exactly as he should be. You can't pull a gun to intimidate someone, only to shoot them.

I cam here to say what dan has beat me to .

Then I seen this :)

"My writing style and quality gets much better after I have gone out to dinner and had about 12 beers"

LOL

I am so glad I don't drink.... I cannot fathom what would come out of my mouth :) , But a good story teller and a few beers have always garnered my attention.

So the angry young man went to the magistrate and swore out a warrant on the gun thing..
They will go to court and the older couple will both testify he blocked their vehicle, banged on their car door, and belligerently confronted them. They will say they felt endangered. Mr. Hoff had a CCP so having the gun on him won't be an issue. The brandishing charge will be dismissed...

Hoff will be convicted of reckless endangerment and have his weapon permit revoked. Thank God.