DENVER (CBS4) – A controversial Denver towing company has infuriated some Denver police officers with its latest move: towing a car belonging to witnesses who were assisting Denver police officers with an accident investigation.

“It caught me off guard. I didn’t think it was the proper thing to do,” said DPD District 2 patrol officer David Curtis. Curtis was called to assist with a non-injury accident that occurred on the afternoon of Aug. 30 at the intersection of Colfax Avenue and York Street. Two elderly citizens — Peggy and Barbara —  witnessed the accident and immediately pulled over to help and provide witness statements.

“We thought we better pull over and be witnesses for it,” said Peggy, who requested her last name not be used.

She pulled out of traffic and parked in a lot at the intersection attached to a vacant Arby’s restaurant. The lot was empty as the restaurant has been closed down for months. The two women then walked to the nearby accident and filled out witness statements for police.

Officer Curtis picks up the story from there: “While I was getting written statements, the tow company came and took their car and drove away with it.”

In the rush to assist, Peggy and Barbara hadn’t noticed signs that warned anyone parked in the empty Arby’s lot would be towed by 303 Recovery, which is also known as Aftermath Towing Services or ATS. “It’s frustrating,” said Curtis. “When these people are helping you with an investigation and then they get punished for it.”

Peggy and Barbara (credit: CBS)

Peggy and Barbara (credit: CBS)

Denver police called towing company owner Heath Cameron Cook, asking he return the car given the circumstances, or reduce the $273 fee he was demanding for the return of the women’s car. Police say Cook thumbed his nose at them. “(I) started asking his name and he went ballistic and told me I didn’t have the right… and said they shouldn’t be parked and I can’t tell them who they can tow and not tow,” said Curtis.

“My own opinion is it is unethical. Was it legal? Yeah,” said Curtis. “Was it moral? I don’t think so.”

CBS4 contacted Cook by phone. He said he did nothing wrong and had no regrets.

“They were parked on private property. Nobody authorized that. They had nothing to do with the accident. They were witnesses. They got towed because they were parked on private property. That’s all I got to say,” said Cook before hanging up.

Heath Cameron Cook (credit: CBS)

Heath Cameron Cook (credit: CBS)

RELATED: Cars Being Wrongfully Towed Near Stock Show

The manager of the vacant parking lot, Craig Souza, told CBS4 he was unaware of what had happened.

“I didn’t know about that case. I really don’t care,” he said. He went on to say that what happened with the tow company that he hired was “not ethical. They are not the best guys. I know how sneaky 303 is. That’s why I hire them,” said Souza. He told CBS4 that he would consider refunding the women’s $273 if CBS4 agreed to drop the story.

This was hardly the first time Cook and 303 Recovery have been accused of sketchy behavior. In 2012 a man accused 303 Recovery of towing his car while he was inside. He called it legal carjacking.

A truck from 303 Recovery (credit: CBS)

A truck from 303 Recovery (credit: CBS)

Colorado’s Public Utilities Commission cited Cook five times last year for being an unauthorized tow driver and imposed $6,875 in fines. The Better Business Bureau gives 303 Towing an “F” rating, saying, “Customer’s vehicles would be towed very quickly from where they were parked, and in some circumstances they were towed even when they were parked within posted and/or legal guidelines. BBB has requested a meeting with the business to address the complaint allegations. However, the business failed to respond.”

The Denver Police Department did respond, though, ultimately reimbursing the women their $273 in towing fees from DPD’s victim assistance fund. The women expressed gratitude for the reimbursement, saying it outweighs “the unethical and indifferent actions of individuals like 303 Recovery.”

Commander Matt Murray of the DPD said, “We have been working very hard to establish a relationship that’s a partnership with the community. And when these people attempted to help us and had misfortune, we thought it was important to remedy that misfortune.”