Ray Santiago got into the cutthroat world of Philly towing two months ago to change his life around, according to his friends.
Instead, Santiago's life was taken early yesterday morning by a rival tow-truck operator who repeatedly ran him over in the parking lot of a Kensington bar, police said.
Glen McDaniel, 25, a tow-truck driver with Straight Up Towing, was charged with homicide by vehicle and related offenses yesterday in the death of Santiago, 30, who worked for Siani's Towing, police said.
McDaniel and Santiago, both operating tow trucks, allegedly got into a heated argument in the parking lot of O'Reilly's Pub, at Frankford and Lehigh Avenues, about 2:45 a.m. The argument, police said, was either over tow-truck territory or a woman, or both.
After the verbal argument, McDaniel allegedly ran over Santiago with his tow truck, backed up and ran over him again before fleeing.
McDaniel, of Aramingo Avenue near Somerset Street, was apprehended shortly thereafter about a half-mile away, police said.
Santiago, of Gillespie Street near Unruh Avenue, was taken to Temple University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 3:15 a.m.
About 12 people milled about yesterday afternoon in the parking lot where Santiago died. A memorial with nearly 50 candles, at least a dozen bouquets of flowers, stuffed animals and an empty bottle of Rumple Minze with the words "We love you" scrolled on the side were covered by a large, mesh tent to keep out the rain.
A photo of Santiago with a son was left at the memorial, and a single white balloon tied to the top of the tent read: "Love you Daddy. I'm gonna miss you soo much!"
Two friends of Santiago's, who had known him since childhood but asked not to be identified, said that he was called "Sas" and that he was a "really nice guy" and a "hardworking man" who loved cars.
"He had your back regardless," one of the men said. "He wasn't a soldier, he was a general."
They said that he had at least two children, possibly more, and that he was "just out here working" when his life was taken away. One of the men said that Santiago never considered Philly towing to be dangerous.
"It's not a dangerous business," the man said. "Other guys just don't know how to act."
Philadelphia's towing industry made headlines in July, when a tow-truck driver was shot in the leg by a driver from a rival company.
After that shooting, cars from the lot where the accused shooter worked were set on fire, and bullets pierced the walls of the office where the victim was employed.