A TOW-TRUCK operator shot a competing driver in the leg yesterday, after the two went tow-to-tow at a Feltonville accident scene, police said.
An accident between a Dodge Neon and a GMC Yukon at Whitaker and Hunting Park avenues shortly after 10 a.m. brought at least two tow-truck operators to the scene before police arrived.
The 45-year-old son of the owner of J & Son's Auto Body arrived on the scene first, not in a tow truck, but in a Cadillac Escalade, trying to stake claim to the scene until one of the company's tow trucks could arrive, a police source said.
Another source familiar with the case identified that man as Jose LaTorre Jr.
While LaTorre was waiting for his tow truck to show up, a 36-year-old employee of Mystical Complete Auto Service arrived in a tow truck first and an argument ensued, police said.
"The doer was like, 'Yo, I was here first,' " the police source said. "But the victim said, 'You don't have a tow truck, and I'm here.' "
Jack Roth, who told reporters that he witnessed the incident, said that he heard the Mystical driver say that he had to tow the Neon, to which LaTorre allegedly responded, "You're not taking it anywhere."
That's when LaTorre shot the victim once in the upper left thigh, police and witnesses said.
The victim then got in his tow truck and drove a couple of blocks south on Whitaker to the headquarters of the 24th and 25th police districts, said police spokesman Lt. Frank Vanore.
He got out of his truck and collapsed on the steps of the police station, Vanore said. He was taken to Temple University Hospital, where he was listed in stable condition last night.
LaTorre left the scene. Last night, police were awaiting approval on a warrant for his arrest.
"He fled the scene and is still at large," Vanore said.
At large indeed, according to the police source, who said that LaTorre is estimated to be between 320 and 350 pounds.
"He's a big guy," the source said. "At the time of his last arrest, two years ago, he was weighing 280."
Since LaTorre responds to numerous accident scenes in the 24th and 25th police districts, his face is familiar to many of the cops there, police said.
The operator of another city towing company who asked not to be identified said that he's had run-ins with J & Son's before, and that although J & Son's has only two or three tow trucks, they have 10 to 15 people driving around in cars trying to "bully people off the hits."
"These people get territorial," the tow-truck operator said. "Their people get there in cars and when the other trucks get there, they chase them away."
J & Son's did not respond to repeated calls from the Daily News for comment.
William Davis, who was blocked from his normal route to work by the crime scene yesterday, marveled at the senselessness.
"He's going to jail for nothing," Davis said. "He had all day to tow another car. It's crazy."