By Kallie Leonard
On January 30, 2010, Western Michigan University student Justin Kurtz woke up to find his vehicle, a Saturn SL2, had been towed from his apartment complex, The Arboretum.
This incident, which Kurtz originally believed to have been a mistake, has since led to a $750,000 lawsuit and Kurtz becoming somewhat of a celebrity in Kalamazoo four months later.
Kurtz, who had been a resident of The Arboretum since August 2009, thought at first that his car had been stolen. He was advised by The Arboretum office to first check with T&J Towing to see if his car had been towed by mistake.
As Kurtz explained, he then called T&J, who confirmed that his car had been towed. He asked them to look in his front window, where they would see his parking sticker. He was put on hold while the man on the phone went to check.
“I’m not even sure if he checked, with how short of time he took to look,” Kurtz said.
He was told there was not a parking sticker in his window. He then went to the T&J office himself.
“At that point I thought it was something like the guy wasn’t looking, and I was going to get there be like ‘look, there is my pass, you can give me my money back’, but it turned into something much bigger than that.”
When he arrived at the office he was told that he would need to pay $118, cash only, to get his car back.
“I wanted to see my car before I paid them the money, but they wouldn’t let me near it,” Kurtz said.
He paid them the money, and went to get his vehicle. When he saw it, Kurtz said he first noticed that his parking sticker had been removed, except for a small piece of the corner that is still on his car today.
“So I did a little walk around my car. There was no sign of forced entry, no broken windows or anything, and I checked all my doors, they were all locked.”
Kurtz said that when he went to leave, he unlocked his car with the ‘clicker’ and it beeped three times.
“I have never unlocked my car and had it beep so I thought something is really wrong here,” he said.
He got into his car and began to look around. Other than his rearview mirror being moved to the side Kurtz said everything else was where he left it including his Ipod Touch, all of his audio equipment and his passport.
“Everything that would be worth money was still in my car except for my parking pass to my apartment complex.”
Kurtz later noticed some damage to the exterior of his vehicle.
“The brush cover that is under your oil pan was hanging because they towed it improperly, so it was dragging on the ground as I drove it home.”
To find out why his car had mysteriously beeped when he had unlocked it, Kurtz called a friend that is a Saturn mechanic and asked him if that beep meant that the security system in the vehicle had been reset, and he said yes.
“Then I popped the hood and I checked the battery terminal, and there were marks on the battery terminal from them taking it off to disconnect the battery so the car alarm would reset.”
Kurtz then called the Kalamazoo Police Department.
“I waited probably two and a half hours, and no one came, so I called again.”
Kurtz said he was told that they were busy and they weren’t sure when someone would arrive.
“I told them to just not come and I would call when I got out of work, which I did, and they were there within a half hour.”
He said that he showed the officer the piece of his sticker that was left behind and the marks on the battery terminal. He was told that they couldn’t take photographs of those things because they wouldn’t show up on the camera.
“I told [the officer] that the tow company had gotten into my car. Who else would jimmy the door and disconnect the battery? That is what they do is jimmy doors for a living and they are good at it, that’s how they got the door open,” Kurtz said.
“Any one else would have broke the window and taken all my stuff that was worth money.”
Kurts said he didn’t feel like he was being taken very seriously.
“I’m not going to take my own pass out of my car, get myself towed, and have to pay $118 to get my car out of the impound just because I thought that would be a good idea.”
A couple weeks later, after Kurtz said he had gotten nowhere with the police or T&J Towing, he created a Facebook group against T&J. He never thought this would lead to T&J suing him for $750,000 for slander and defamation of character and loss of income.
Keep reading westernherald.com for parts two and three of this story.