Two men were banned for life from Carowinds after repossessing a vehicle without authorization from the park and leading officers from three agencies in a short pursuit earlier this week, according to the York County Sheriff’s Office.
Officers pulled over a black tow truck that was towing a Mercedes-Benz sedan near Avenue of the Carolinas and Carowinds Boulevard about 7:35 p.m. Sunday, according to a sheriff’s report. A Carowinds security officer approached the driver of the tow truck earlier after it made an illegal U-turn in the parking lot and backed up to the Mercedes.
The tow truck driver told officers he was repossessing the vehicle, and an officer told the driver he was on private property and not permitted to repossess vehicles from the park, deputies said. The driver and another man in the vehicle ignored multiple orders by the officer to stop the repossession and hooked the car to the truck.
The security officer stood between his patrol car and another parked vehicle, but the tow truck driver “struck” the officer with the front of the truck, the report states. The officer tried pulling on the handle of the truck before the wrecker traveled around the patrol car and sped out of the parking lot.
The wrecker traveled off the roadway to get around a patrol car and onto Carowinds Boulevard. The security officer followed the truck for about 500 yards until York County deputies and a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer stopped the truck.
The truck’s passenger told deputies the Carowinds security officers were beating on the truck’s windows with their batons and had their hands on their stun guns, according to the report, which notes that Carowinds officers don’t carry stun guns. The truck’s driver told deputies he was “in fear for his life” and drove off.
The two men provided officers a lawful repossession order from the lien holder on the Mercedes. Both men were placed on permanent trespass notice from Carowinds, and the driver, 27-year-old Samuel Leopard, was cited for failure to yield to blue lights.
Deputies reviewed surveillance footage, which showed Carowinds security officers pull their vehicles in front of the wrecker on several occasions, and the wrecker backing up on a one-way road in heavy traffic to pull away, the report states. They determined Leopard drove with “a willful and wanton disregard” for the safety of those in the park in order to evade lawmen who were signaling for him to stop.
Teddy Kulmala • 803-329-4082