Video shows torching of Phila. tow truck lot

Flames shoot into the dark night as the cars burn.

July 22, 2010 7:21:04 AM PDT
Philadelphia police are investigating what appear to be violent, retaliatory attacks between two tow truck companies in the city.

About a dozen cars were set on fire just before 1:00 a.m. in the rear lot of J & Sons Auto Collision located on the 3700 block of North 2nd St. in the Hunting Park section of Philadelphia. There were no injuries reported.

One of the cars that burned belonged to a Philadelphia police officer.

In video first released by Action News, at least one suspect can be seen in the J & Sons lot. He appears to have a gasoline can and he's seen pouring a trail of fuel for the fire.

RELATED: Watch the raw surveillance video - CLICK HERE

Seconds later flames shoot into the dark night.

The owner of the lot says the arsonist got in by climbing under a chain-link fence.

"If the Philadelphia Fire Department didn't respond as quick as it did, I would have lost everything," said Jose LaTorre, Sr., owner of J & Sons. LaTorre went on to say he fears for his life and the life of his family.

The Philadelphia Fire Department has declared this a suspicious fire. Arson investigators were at the lot on Wednesday trying to figure out who ignited the blaze.

Meanwhile, Philadelphia Police report that someone fired about six bullets into the Mystical Towing office building around 1:30 a.m. Wednesday on the 100 block of West Ashdale Street in the Olney section of Philadelphia.

The owner and his wife were in the building, but nobody was hurt.

"I heard a couple of different bangs, I didn't know it was gunshots at first," said John Campbell, owner of Mystical Towing. "I came outside, then when I came in is when I noticed all the holes in the walls."

Campbell added "Eventually, someone's going to jail or get hurt. One or the other."

RELATED INTERACTION: Have you ever felt harrassed by a tow truck driver in Philadelphia? - CLICK HERE

Police are trying to figure out if the fire and shooting are in any way linked to Monday morning's shooting that left a driver from Mystical Towing injured and the son of the owner of J & Sons Towing being sought by police.

The shooting happened at the scene of a minor crash at Whitaker and Hunting Park avenues. Police say Jose LaTorre, Jr., apparently arrived at the scene first, driving a black Cadillac Escalade. He's also the son of the owner of J & Son's Towing.

At one point a tow truck from Mystical Towing, driven by Anabel Carrera, also arrived and an argument ensued.

"The guy in the Escalade sees the guy in the tow truck, tells the guy to move his truck because he blocked him in with the tow truck," said witness Jack Roth.

The shooting happened after that argument, Roth said, and LaTorre, Jr. took off. He remains at large. His father told Action News LaTorre, Jr. is not a tow truck driver. His brother says he works for personal injury attorneys.

Police say anyone with information on Jose LaTorre, Jr.'s whereabouts should call East Detective Division at 215-686-3243 or 911.

LaTorre, Sr. said he has no doubt the fire at his shop Wednesday morning was an act of retaliation.

Both he, and Campbell, deny any involvement with Wednesday's morning shooting or fire.