Eastern Carolina pitmaster mistaken for car thief, detained in Florida

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) A local fire chief, restaurant owner and nationally known BBQ pitmaster was mistaken for a car thief and taken into custody while in Florida recently.

Sam Jones, owner of Sam Jones BBQ and Skylight Inn in Pitt County was taken into custody at a rental car counter in Orange County, Florida on April 4th after employees and deputies mistook him for a thief who had recently stolen two cars from the rental agency.

Jones managed to record video of himself while in the back of the police car and shared it on social media.

He says it took an hour and a half for deputies to confirm his identity and release him.

Jones is the current Ayden Fire Chief and he says it ultimately took a call to the town's police chief to convince deputies he wasn't their man.

Jones says they told him, "You fit the physical description of a gentleman or a man who has stolen two cars from here, and we're 98% sure you're him. And I said, I can promise you I'm not. I'm a lot of things but a car thief is not one of them."

Jones says while the mistake was a scary experience, he still supports law enforcement.

He says he was able to join other southern pitmasters at the Ocala Culinary Festival where he was invited to cook.

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A renowned North Carolina pitmaster trying to rent a car in Florida was detained by police after he was mistaken for a car thief.

Sam Jones of Pitt County called his ordeal "one of the most dehumanizing things I've ever experienced."

Cpl. Rose Silva of the Orange County Sheriff's Office said deputies agreed with employees at the car rental agency who believed Jones looked like a suspected car thief who had visited their shop in the past two months.

Police handcuffed Jones, put him in the back of a patrol car and detained him for two hours. He said it took an extensive background check to prove he wasn't the suspected thief.

In addition to his own restaurant, Jones' family owns the Skylight Inn in Ayden.

He is also the fire chief for the volunteer fire department in Ayden.