Tow truck drivers hold vigil for slain one of their own

Horns blaring and yellow lights flashing and twirling, a caravan of tow trucks from a dozen companies filled the 500 block of Mosher St. in West Baltimore Sunday night, the same block where 23-year-old Andy Joyce was shot to death two weeks ago while making a service call that his boss says would have netted the young driver $15.

It was part trucker rally, part vigil, an effort to return public attention to a senseless tragedy and to help police identify a suspect in the unsolved murder.

By 9 p.m., about 40 white trucks and red trucks from Quick Response, Greenwood, Universal, Frankford, Ted's, GRI, MEI, Mc-N-Mc, Mel's, AAA, Cherry Hill and Auto Barn towing companies were parked on both sides of Mosher Street. A 75-ton truck from Auto Barn filled the middle of the block and raised a crane adorned with a U.S. flag awash in flood lights.

Andy Joyce had worked only a few weeks for Gordon Kelly's Quick Response towing company when someone shot him once at close range, killing him instantly in the cab of his truck at the corner of Mosher Street and Druid Hill Avenue. The gunman took nothing — not Joyce's wallet, nor the two cell phones in the truck, nor its global positioning device.

"I'd never had a driver assaulted," said Kelly, who organized Sunday's event. "To the best of my knowledge, I don't know of a tow truck driver ever being murdered in the city, or even assaulted. And what makes this so unique was that Andy was out on a friendly call, trying to help somebody. This wasn't an impoundment; it wasn't a repossession. This was a motor club call for help. Andy didn't want to do repos or impounds. He didn't want confrontations with people."

Andy Joyce answered a service call on Mosher Street, in an area with many abandoned rowhouses, about 12:30 a.m. Nov. 1. The owner of the disabled vehicle — a woman with a small child — gave Joyce the keys to her car and got a ride home, police told Kelly. More than an hour later, a passerby noticed the Quick Response truck's driver-side door open and the driver slumped against the steering wheel.

Joyce, the father of a 7-month-old boy, was pronounced dead at the scene. Baltimore police said they found his truck with its bed down, ready to load the disabled vehicle. "Andy had activated the bed of the truck and he had pulled cables back, but he had not attached them to the car," Kelly said. "Something made him leave the cables and go back inside the truck."

Kelly told the crowd of mostly drivers and family members Sunday that Joyce would have received $15 out of the $50 his company charged for the call.

No arrests have been made in the killing, which is why Kelly decided to organize Sunday night's vigil — to draw attention to the $5,000 reward offered for information leading to the arrest of a suspect.

"Collectively, as a society, we have to do something to stop all this violence," said Andy Joyce's father, Mike Joyce, a Verizon manager. "And the other thing is, Andy was just performing a service. He was a service guy, like so many others out here — like the BGE workers, like the mailmen, the trash collectors — like so many people out here. They are neutral entities, just performing a service for others. [The vigil] is a way of saying, 'Look what you've done to someone who was performing a service in the community.' "

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