Man shot during 2018 booting incident files suit

A vehicle booted in a private parking deck in Buckhead.

A vehicle booted in a private parking deck in Buckhead.

A man who was shot in the leg in a midtown parking lot last Thanksgiving during an argument over a booting is suing the man who shot him and the company that put the boot on his car.

The lawsuit is the latest turn in the intense relationship between booting companies in metro Atlanta and drivers who find themselves on the receiving end of one of the yellow immobilizing devices.

The suit claims plaintiff Matthew Stevens was not a threat to Empire Parking Services employee Alexander Bland Jr. and that Bland had no legal reason to shoot him. Moreover, it claims that Empire knew or should have known its employees “were using firearms to resolve disputes while performing their duties on behalf of EPS.”

The lawsuit, filed in Fulton County State Court, seeks unspecified damages for physical and mental pain and suffering, plus punitive damages for “willful misconduct, malice, fraud, wantonness, oppression, and an entire want of care” by Bland and Empire.

Empire Parking did not return a call seeking comment. The AJC was unable to contact Bland, who was indicted in July oncharges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and possession of a firearm during commission of a felony.

Alexander Bland Jr. (left) faces criminal charges in the early Thanksgiving Day booting dispute that left Matthew Stevens, right, injured. Stevens has now sued Bland and the booting company that employed him.

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The shooting took place in the early morning hours of Nov. 22 when Stevens and a friend returned from a Buckhead nightclub to find his car had been booted. Stevens said he had paid to park in the lot and argued with Bland over the $75 fee and having the boot removed.

Stevens said Bland got a gun from his vehicle and pointed it at his face. At some point in the altercation, Stevens was shot in the leg.

Stevens is represented by Atlanta attorney Matt Wetherington, who has spent the last several years building class-action lawsuits against booting companies and fighting to get the practice outlawed. He said Stevens’s case is a serious case, but not the only one where drivers were threatened by booting company employees.

“Our phone started ringing off the hook with people who had violence against them from booting operators. It was not limited to Empire Parking,” he said.

Booting is a hot button issue with many metro Atlanta drivers and advocates for reform like Wetherington consider the practice predatory.

Booting is illegal in several Georgia counties, including Cobb, Gwinnett, Clayton and Cherokee. Earlier this year, House Bill 469, which would have effectively banned the practice statewide, made it out of a State House Committee but never made it to a vote before the full chamber. The General Assembly could pick the measure back up when lawmakers return in January.

It’s not unheard of for disagreements between booting company employees and drivers to become violent.

Police arrested a man in another Buckhead parking lot in December 2017 when, during an argument with booting company employees, he took a pistol from the waistband of one of the employees and fired a second pistol in the air. And Stevens's shooting prompted another man to come forward with video showing another Empire Parking employee apparently brandishing a pistol during another booting dispute.

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