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Irate car buyer charged in attack

A man accused of ramming a truck and pulling a gun at an auto dealership says he wanted some respect.

By JAMIE MALERNEE

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 14, 2000


At least, that's what he said Tuesday as he sat smiling in the Hernando County Jail. The 50-year-old Dade City resident is accused of ramming his 1997 Chrysler Sebring convertible into a truck and threatening dealership employees with a BB gun after his car began to fall apart within days of his buying it there, McCarty said.

No one was hurt Monday, but after McCarty left a large dent in the truck he hit, he got out of the forest green convertible -- BB gun in hand -- and started throwing computers that were set up under a sales tent, a police report said. McCarty says he never meant to injure anyone; he just wanted some respect, as well as the return of the truck that he traded for the convertible.

"It was an unloaded BB gun," he said, shrugging, Tuesday. "They lured me into buying (the car) . . . and it was junk."

McCarty bought the convertible from ValuCar on Friday in exchange for the trade-in value of his 1991 Chevrolet, a $500 down payment and another $9,000 in future payments, a Brooksville Police Department report said. ValuCar, which is based in Tampa and has traveling sales events throughout Florida, has been in Brooksville for a week. The dealership sold cars out of the parking lot in the South Square shopping center at Cortez Boulevard and Broad Street until it packed up and left Tuesday, the day after the incident.

McCarty first realized something was wrong with the convertible the day after he bought it, when the battery died, he said. While having a new battery installed, the mechanic told him that more work was needed: the brakes were shot and the rotors needed to be turned, the police report said. To add insult to injury, one of the tires blew out on McCarty soon after.

McCarty then called ValuCar and demanded the dealership exchange the "lemon" for his truck. The dealership refused, although representatives offered to pay for the new battery and any other repairs as the 30-day 1,000-mile dealer warranty required, McCarty said. A ValuCar salesman has since confirmed that this offer was made.

But that wasn't good enough for McCarty.

So Monday morning, McCarty -- who has an extensive criminal history, including convictions for drunken driving and aggravated assault -- reported the incident to police, who told him that they could do nothing because no crime had occurred.

"He said, "That's fine,' that he just wanted the police to know there was a scam in our city," police Chief Ed Tincher said. "We recommended that he go talk to the dealer to see if there was a dealer warranty, and he seemed to be happy with that and left like he might do that."

Instead, at 3 p.m. Monday, McCarty returned to the shopping center, his car limping on its "doughnut" spare tire. That's when police say he rammed the truck.

"Some of the guys started to walk over to see if he was okay, and they got about 30 feet away when he pulls a gun," salesman Jody Burge said of the moments after the crash.

After scaring a handful of employees and a few customers, he rummaged through a wooden box where all of the car keys were kept, looking for his truck keys, witnesses said.

That's when police arrived. McCarty was taken in for questioning, during which time police say he began to loudly sing gospel music to himself, and was later taken to jail. He faces five counts of aggravated assault and one count of felony criminal mischief. He remained there Tuesday night in lieu of a $2,000 blanket bail.

This is not the first bizarre incident McCarty has been charged with. In February 1980, authorities say McCarty walked into the Pasco County Sheriff's Office, described himself as a retired Coast Guardsman, displayed a pistol and asked about gun laws and the availability of eligible women to start a family with. Minutes later, officials said he walked into a Hudson business, threatened to kill his brother-in-law and then fired a round into the ceiling. He received 12 years' probation for the shooting, state records show.

At the time of McCarty's 1980 arrest, his mother told the St. Petersburg Times he had been seeing a psychiatrist but refused to return to a mental hospital for treatment.

- Times researcher Cathy Wos contributed to this report.

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