Store Says Customer Used Gun to Negotiate

Eric Freedman

Automotive News
March 9, 1998


DETROIT - A disgruntled customer who allegedly stole a car at gunpoint from a suburban Detroit used-car dealership and then brought it back because the car was overheating faces trial on assault and weapons charges.

Authorities said Bobby James Webb-Stokes III, who previously bought two cars from Patrick Auto Sales in Warren, Mich., was easy enough to arrest.

According to the prosecution, Webb-Stokes had returned to the dealership with his 1989 Ford Probe because of a transmission problem. When he became angry, a dealership employee threatened to call police. Webb-Stokes then pulled out an 'Uzi-style handgun' and demanded another car, according to Joseph Cozzolino, Macomb County assistant chief prosecutor.

A salesman, 'fearing for his life,' handed over the keys to a 1987 Chrysler LeBaron, and 'he took off,' Cozzolino said.

But Webb-Stokes later phoned the dealership to complain that the LeBaron was overheating. 'The salesman told him to bring it in, and he bought the line,' Cozzolino said. Police arrested him at the lot when he returned with the LeBaron.

Defense lawyer Ronald Goldstein said there was no gun and no theft. He said his client returned the Probe because of the transmission problems and was negotiating to buy the LeBaron. A manager put a 15-day temporary tag on the LeBaron, let him take the car and told him to return four days later to complete the paperwork, Goldstein said.

But when the cooling system malfunctioned a couple of days later, Webb-Stokes called, was told to 'bring it in right away,' and was arrested, Goldstein said. 'My guy denies pulling a gun,' Goldstein said. 'He had no intention of stealing anything.' He also said Webb-Stokes was unarmed when arrested.

Webb-Stokes originally was charged with carjacking, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison, but the charges were reduced in Warren District Court to assault with a deadly weapon and using a firearm to commit a felony. Cozzolino said he faces up to four years in prison if convicted.

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