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This story has been updated from a previous version to include comments from LMS Parking owner Jon Tate.

Originally published: 2014-06-09 16:36:19
Last modified: 2014-06-12 11:53:50

Update: Boone parking lot attendant charged with assault

by Allison Haver and Anna Oakes

A wheel-locking company employee was arrested and charged with misdemeanor simple assault June 6 following an altercation at the privately owned parking lot at the corner of King and Water streets, Boone Police said.

That day, several Boone Police officers were assigned to the King Street area due to the Art Crawl event and because of several recent complaints from individuals about incidents allegedly occurring in the area of King and Water streets, Boone Police said in a statement.

At approximately 6:50 p.m., a verbal dispute began between the on-duty LMS parking lot attendant, James Faron Cooke, 57, and a woman who had a wheel boot applied to her vehicle while visiting a nearby business, according to BPD.

According to the news release, the woman and her two young children were visiting Boone from Florida. She was very unhappy about the circumstance and her argument was based on the lack of signage in the parking lot, the news release stated.

Cooke and the woman both raised their voices at times during this dispute, but neither party used any profanity or abusive language, according to Boone Police. Cooke explained many times that she was parked in a private lot and at one point Cooke told the woman that if her vehicle was still there in two hours that the vehicle would be towed and she would then owe more money to cover the tow bill, police said. 

A citizen named Charles Brady III was allegedly walking by and observed this verbal dispute. According to Boone Police, on Friday, Brady said that he saw an agitated man involved in a dispute with a woman and two small children. Brady called the woman out of the parking lot and away from Cooke and began explaining the town ordinance concerning vehicle booting to her, according to BPD. 

According to police, Cooke became angry and shoved Brady.

At the time of this assault, Brady was standing on the public sidewalk between the parking lot and Water Street and Cooke shoved Brady toward the street, the release stated.

Officers nearby witnessed this assault and immediately responded by taking Cooke into custody for assaulting Brady, according to the news release. 

Brady has been a vocal critic of the wheel-locking company's practices. During a Boone Town Council meeting last month, Brady said he has had negative experiences with parking in the lot and recalled an incident in November 2012 when he said a parking attendant was hidden inside a vehicle when he parked in the lot.

Reached for comment on Tuesday, LMS Parking owner Jon Tate said Brady -- an attorney whose law firm is located across the street -- has been accusing LMS Parking of violating the town's ordinance on wheel-locking and booting and has been advising people not to pay the wheel-locking fees.

Tate said that his employee approached Brady and asked him to stop and that when he felt physically threatened by Brady, "he put both his hands up to keep him off him."

But "all they saw was a simple assault," he said, referring to the police officers.

Tate said his own employees have been subject to physical and verbal abuse at the downtown parking lot and that police have encouraged his employees to press charges, but that "we've chosen not to until someone is physically harmed."

The company has been the subject of several complaints to the Boone Police Department and Boone Town Council in recent months, but Boone Police Capt. Andy Le Beau said last month that his department had not been able to substantiate claims that the town code was being violated.

Tate said he believed statements by the town attorney and council members were contributing to confusion.

"The problems that have arose from that parking lot in the last month are directly related to the misinformation that the town has been putting out," Tate said. "Officials have created this problem by not letting people know in a definite way that what we're doing is not illegal."

Cooke was released from the magistrate's office following the arrest with a written promise to appear in District Court on July 30.