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Tow-truck issue mired in red tape

Solid progress had been made in the investigation of the murder of a city tow-truck driver, but a nearly 40-year-old city code provision on restrictive tow zones has too many legal issues to be be readily enforceable, Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda told The Buffalo News on Tuesday.

Derenda repeatedly declined to comment when asked if a suspect or suspects have emerged in the shooting death Saturday afternoon of Corddaryl Henley, or whether police believe a business rival working for a different tow-truck company may be responsible for the shooting.

Henley, 25, the father of three, was inside his Patriarch Towing truck when he was shot to death at about 1:40 p.m. Saturday at Walden Avenue and Latour Street, near Martin Luther King Park. Police said the gunman repeatedly fired at Henley from a gray or silver vehicle, which quickly sped off.

Robert Heidenreich, operations manager of Chase Towing, which used to employ Henley, told The News on Monday that the manner in which the city government handles motor vehicle crashes -- by letting the first tow truck to arrive at a crash scene haul off the damaged vehicles -- may have played a part in the killing.

Because of the fierce industry competition, Heidenreich said, tow-truck drivers and their bosses constantly listen to police scanners and look to arrive quickly at crash scenes. That can sometimes lead to heated arguments between tow-truck drivers, he said.

Heidenreich said Henley was threatened by another tow-truck operator with a gun the day before Henley was killed. He wondered why the city doesn't create zones and use tow operators to handle crashes in those zones on a rotating basis.

The city has the legal authority to create such zones. But the police commissioner stressed that since the tow zone provision was made a part of the city code in 1974, "no police commissioner has opted to enforce it" because of what he called its legal complexities, which could easily be challenged in court by companies claiming the zones deny them due process.

News Staff Reporter Aaron Besecker contributed to this report.

email: mgryta@buffnews.com