Sam Jones detained in Florida after police mistake him for car thief
By Tyler Stocks
The Daily Reflector
Wednesday, April 17, 2019
Sam Jones, legendary pitmaster and owner of Sam Jones BBQ in Winterville, spent nearly an hour in the back of a police car last Thursday after Orange County Sheriff deputies arrested him at a rental car company near the Orlando International Airport.
Jones and some of his employees flew to Orlando and were planning to drive to Ocala for a culinary festival where they have showcased eastern North Carolina barbecue for the past two years.
When he went to pick up a car he had rented from Priceless Rental Cars about noon, Jones said those working the counter began to question him for several minutes, even asking him for an insurance card and alternative forms of identification. While being questioned, the rental car company called police because he matched the physical description of a car thief they were looking for.
Perplexed, Jones said he told one of the men, “Sir, I rent cars all over the country, I’m not sure exactly what you’re talking about.”
A few moments later, Jones said, an Orange County deputy sheriff tapped him on the back.
“He asked, are you Samuel Jones? I said, ‘Yes sir’ and he said, ‘Turn around and place your hands behind your back,’” Jones said. “He placed me in handcuffs, locked them and started marching me outside and the whole while I was like, what’s the problem?”
Jones was read his rights and put in the back of the police car.
“(The deputy) took everything off of me except my cellphone and closed the door,” Jones said. “And I sat for 10 or 15 minutes. I asked him, will you please tell me why I’m being detained? And he wouldn’t. Two more deputies arrived and one them came and took my hat off me and made me smile because I’m smiling on my driver’s license,” Jones said.
After nearly an hour and a half, and after Jones submitted digital fingerprints and proper ID, deputies discovered they had the wrong man and let Jones go.
Jones said he never received an apology from the deputies or the owner of the rental car company.
“I was sweating like I was going to the gas chamber,” Jones said.