(NewsNation) — Police had their weapons drawn as they ordered Nick Wright and his 13-year-old daughter to put their hands on the hood of the car they had rented less than an hour earlier.
“I couldn’t see my daughter for most of the situation, so I felt completely helpless,” Wright said. “I was being detained with my fingers locked behind my head and police telling me to shut up. It was surreal.”
Wright and his daughter were on vacation and had just landed at Savannah airport. They’d rented the car about 30 minutes before officers stopped them.
“This is what happens when the rental company doesn’t clear a stolen license plate-vehicle from the national database. Yep! That just happened.” Wright said into his cellphone during a video he recorded after the incident.
He’s one of hundreds suing Hertz over mental and emotional damages after they were arrested — sometimes jailed — based on police reports labeling the cars stolen.
Hertz has declined repeated NewsNation interview requests.
The company previously issued a statement last year saying in part: “The vast majority of these cases involve renters who were many weeks or even months overdue returning vehicles and who stopped communicating with us well beyond the scheduled due date.”
In Wright’s case, he tried to explain the situation to police but officers continued to press him, he said.
“One walked over and was like…’Do you have proof of that?’ I said absolutely. It’s in the car,” Wright said. “…He came back around, not even two minutes (later) and said to the lead officer, ‘his story adds up. He just rented this car 35 minutes ago at the airport.’”
Wright’s receipt from Thrifty, which is owned by Hertz, shows he rented the car at 11:23 a.m. — 36 minutes before police stopped Wright and his daughter at gunpoint.
The officers determined the car was reported stolen before Wright’s rental and cleared him to leave.
“They told us ‘Do not drive this car out of this parking lot. Make Hertz come and pick it up and bring you a new one because if you get out on the highways it may not go well for you,’” Wright said.
But Wright, who filed the lawsuit against Hertz last month, says his daughter couldn’t sleep for days following the stop and remains affected by it.
“It’s become pretty apparent to me now that Hertz obviously has an inventory control problem,” Wright said. “And clearly they are not fixing the problems.”
Another man, Julius Burnside, was arrested and spent seven months in jail before a Georgia court reviewed the evidence and ruled that Burnside had, in fact, paid for his rental. The case was ultimately overturned.
“Everything was dismissed, overturned,” Burnside told NewsNation in an interview earlier this year. “I cried.”
Hertz didn’t respond to a request for comment on the case.
“We’ve heard nothing from Hertz in regards to Nicholas and (his daughter’s) case,” Wright’s attorney Francis Malofiy said. “And that’s the thing that’s so shocking. They’re not treating this with the care, concern and attention it deserves…when we have now 367 and counting cases against Hertz for wrongfully arresting, jailing, or prosecuting their very own customers, it shows that someone’s asleep at the switch.”
Although Wright was cleared to leave, he said he worries others won’t receive the same treatment.
“What’s going to happen when a police officer makes this mistake or someone makes the wrong move and someone actually ends up dead?”