OAKDALE, Minn. - We count on locksmiths when we’re locked out of our homes or our cars. But KARE 11 Investigates has uncovered evidence that one of the people we depend on in vulnerable situations like that has been repeatedly accused of threatening the people who call for help.
"I thought, he's going to kill me," said Sue Heroff of Oakdale.
The fear for her life started with an early morning call for help. Heroff had a flat tire and needed to get to work.
"I took out my phone and I typed in, ‘Who can change a tire,’ and Metro Lockout popped up,” she said.
Metro Lockout is a Twin Cities company owned by Todd Shiber, a locksmith who also does jump starts and tire changes.
But when he arrived, Sue says he suddenly got angry, poking her with his jack handle, after he told her to stay in the house while he fixed the tire.
"I was waiting for him to haul off and swing when he was done poking," Heroff said.
And she feared even worse.
"But all I could see is my kids coming home, finding me laying in the driveway because he took that pipe to me," Heroff said.
Zach DuBois from Minneapolis said he saw Shiber's temper too.
"Felt very threatened, for sure," DuBois said.
Zach called for help unlocking his car, and says Shiber quickly became confrontational.
"He took his headband flashlight off his head and started swinging it around until it flung off. And I had to keep backing up until the neighbors came down and stopped him. It was unreal," DuBois said.
And they’re not alone.
When Jeff Locke from Minneapolis called Metro Lockout this winter, he says Shiber argued with him, rammed his van into Jeff's car and then he took off without stopping.
“So yeah, he did all kinds of damage to the hinges, to the paint, the front fender, headlights. Everything’s out of alignment,” Locke said.
Tim Casey from Minneapolis needed help too when he was locked out of his house.
"He immediately turned very hostile," Casey said. "It frightened me when he had a screwdriver pointed at my chest and was threatening me with it."
And the stories go on.
In all, KARE 11 Investigates found Metro Lockout customers in Oakdale, Minneapolis, Fridley, Andover and Brooklyn Center who called police after frightening encounters with Todd Shiber.
Authorities thought two of those incidents were serious enough to file criminal charges - Sue Heroff’s case in Oakdale, and another woman in Brooklyn Center who claims Shiber pushed her and rammed into her car.
Those charges are still in court.
But we found one more bizarre citation.
At Wendy’s in Burnsville, police say Shiber bought a Frosty, was upset about its size, and threw it back in the face of the drive-through worker.
In a plea bargain, a judge in the Wendy’s case put Shiber on probation and ordered mental health counseling. If he completes it, after a year, the charges will be dropped.
KARE 11 Investigates caught up with Shiber outside court and asked him if customers should feel safe to call him and use his services.
"We're a trusted locksmith company, sir," Shiber said, refusing to answer any other questions.
But we wondered if there’s a pattern of complaints against a locksmith, is anyone watching?
"Apparently, you don't have to be licensed to be a locksmith?" Heroff asked.
She’s right. In Minnesota we learned the state doesn’t require locksmiths to be licensed or bonded, something several of these customers couldn't believe.
"This is unacceptable. People rely on these guys for help. I call somebody if I don't have my keys, I'm usually not at home. I need some help. And I have to worry about assault? That should be the last thing that I'm worried about," DuBois said.
As it stands now, locksmiths only answer to private ratings from groups like the Better Business Bureau.
"Currently we're reviewing the complaint activity we've received and we’re trying to look for a that pattern of a problem, and we are in the process of updating the company's file," said Dan Hendrickson of the Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota.
"You should know who they are, they should be bonded, they should be licensed," Heroff said.
At the very least, these folks want other potential customers to be armed with the information they didn't have.
"He's explosive and volatile to the point of assault. And people shouldn't be exposed to that, particularly when you need something as simple as get me into my house," Casey said.
"And I don't' want to see that happen to anyone else," Locke said.
We asked Todd Shiber to sit down and give us his side of the story, but he turned down our repeated requests for a formal interview. His next court date is scheduled for June 6.
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