Deputies force repo man to return detective's truck

Local 2 Investigates what some say is abuse of power.

Author: Amy Davis, Investigative Reporter/Consumer Expert, adavis@kprc.com
Published On: Apr 11 2012 09:39:11 PM CDT   Updated On: Apr 12 2012 08:29:44 AM CDT
HOUSTON -

A Montgomery County sheriff's deputy is accused of using his badge and gun to force a repo man to give him his wife’s truck back.

“I’m trying to make an honest living,” repo man Brenton Huff told KPRC Local 2 investigator Amy Davis. “I shouldn’t have to worry about being shot, especially by police.”

Huff was hired to repossess a 2007 Chevrolet Silverado from Tammy Berkley. The lender told him she was four months behind on her payments. Huff said he spotted the truck in Conroe on March 15. He followed it, ironically, to the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department Auto Theft Task Force office. When the driver went in, Huff went to work.

“I just backed up to it, hooked up and pulled it down the street,” Huff explained.

The wrecker driver says he pulled into a parking lot at the jail to call the sheriff’s office and report the repossession, a routine procedure. Seconds after he drove away, Huff said three cars pulled up alongside him, boxing in his wrecker. The cars were unmarked, the men in civilian clothes, but Huff says they all had guns pointing right at him.

“I really thought I was gonna get shot right then,” Huff told Davis. “I had my hands up here on the window so they could see them. The officer was yelling at me. He said, ‘That’s my wife’s truck.’”

That officer was Keith Winford, a Montgomery County Sheriff’s detective, who Local 2 confirmed, is married to Tammy Berkley. Winford was accompanied by three to four other deputies.

“He just grabbed me out, slammed me up against the truck right here,” said Huff.

The deputies put Huff in handcuffs. He says Winford drove his tow truck back to the sheriff’s office. After holding him for about 15 minutes, he demanded the repo man release his wife’s truck.

“Once I unhooked it, he told me ‘Get out of here.’ And then he told me if he catches me in his driveway, he’s gonna shoot me,” Huff recounted.

When we called the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office, first Assistant District Attorney Phil Grant told Local 2 the Texas Rangers are investigating the incident.
Grant said law enforcement officers do not have any special privileges when it comes to getting their vehicles repossessed.

“Law enforcement officers have to follow the same rules everybody else does,” he said.

Grant said it’s possible the detectives thought Huff was stealing the truck.

“For somebody to take the time to stop in their parking lot and hook up straps, chains, tow lights and call the sheriff’s department, you know, that’s obviously not a car thief just stealing a car,” said Huff.

The lieutenant at the county’s Auto Theft Task Force told Davis his detectives didn’t make a report on the incident. The lieutenant only reported it to the sheriff after Local 2 called him on March 23rd, eight days after the incident.

“Should there be some sort of incident report so that you guys have something to look at?” Davis asked Grant. “Well, certainly there needs to be an incident report. And we’ll be looking to see if there were any incident reports filed in this case,” he said.

When no one with the sheriff’s department would talk on camera, Local 2 stopped by Winford’s Montgomery County home. With the once repossessed truck parked right in her driveway, Tammy Berkley told Davis she knew nothing about the incident.

“He put the repo guy in cuffs. Did he tell you about that?” Davis asked. “When you were four months behind on payments?”

“No,” said Berkley. “And I have nothing to say to you.”
She told reporters to leave, and then called the Montgomery County Sheriff’s deputies to her home.

“It’s not open season on repo men, regardless of what you see on TV these days,” said Huff. “Somebody has to police the police, really.”

A week after the interview with Grant, he said Winford and the other deputies are claiming that Huff put an illegal tracking device on the truck. Huff denies that allegation. The detectives say they gave it back to Huff, so they have no proof of the tracking device. Grant said he will present both the alleged inappropriate actions of the officers and the tracking device allegations to a grand jury later this month.
Local 2 will follow up and let you know what happens.