Towing company owner receives threats from fans

By ANTONYA ENGLISH, Times Staff Writer
Published October 7, 2007

BATON ROUGE, La. - Although he maintained from the very beginning he had no intention of pressing charges against Florida safety Tony Joiner, hundreds of Gator fans apparently still felt the need to verbally harass and threaten the man who owns the property where Watson's Towing stores its towed cars.

Stan Forron said Saturday he has received more than 200 calls from fans enraged about Joiner's arrest.

The Florida senior was arrested around 5 a.m. Tuesday morning after Watson's Towing employees called police and said Joiner was trying to steal his girlfriend's car out of the towing lot without paying the $76 towing bill.

Joiner and Forron said the player had made arrangements to pick up the car, and that the incident was a misunderstanding. Forron told the Times on Tuesday he had no intention of pressing charges and he didn't think Joiner should have been arrested.

Forron told Florida Today on Saturday morning that more than a dozen of the calls were death threats, including one message on the company answering machine in which a caller said he would shoot Forron the next time he saw him. Others made bomb threats if Forron didn't drop the charges.

The Gainesville State Attorney's office dismissed the charges against Joiner on Friday, saying it could not sustain charges without Forron's cooperation.

Forron said he assumed most of the calls came from students trying to impress their friends. Still, he found it all disturbing.

"I'm disappointed that people could be like that," he said. But I realize how passionate people can be (about sports). But it's disappointing that they would threaten lives and property over something like this."

JOINER RETURNS: As expected, Joiner did play in Saturday's game, but he did not start. He entered the game on the Gators' second defensive series, with 9:11 remaining in the first quarter. Florida athletic officials said Joiner's failure to start was not due to disciplinary reasons, but because he missed a practice during the week.

RECORD CROWD ... PLUS A FEW: Tiger Stadium's official capacity is 92,400, but LSU officials packed 92,910 in for Saturday night's game. However, Baton Rouge officials estimated that about 30,000 more made their way in and around the stadium. Many without tickets camped out and watched the game near the stadium just to be a part of the atmosphere. LSU hasn't been ranked No.1 by the Associated Press since November 1959.

NO REGRETS: Urban Meyer returned to Baton Rouge for the first time since his inaugural season with the Gators - the game in which Meyer made headlines when he broke down in the postgame interview. Meyer said last week he wishes he had waited more than "about 30 seconds" before entering the postgame interview room.

"I certainly learned a lesson," he said. "I'm not going to walk directly into an interview (after a tough loss)."