“I just want it to go away, to tell you the truth,” says Mark Oberholtzer, a local plumber from the Galveston area in Texas. The “it” in the sentence is seemingly endless phone calls full of angry invective, accusing him of supporting jihad in Syria after his truck somehow found itself in a jihadist propaganda tweet.
Oberholtzer, owner of Mark-1 Plumbing in Texas City, sold a pick-up truck to the company AutoNation that had his company’s name and phone number on it. He did not remove it, he told the Galveston Daily News, assuming AutoNation would remove it before selling the car. They never seemed to, and the truck appears to have been sold multiple times before finally ending up in Syria, armed with jihadist weapons and featured in a tweet by a supporter of the Ansar al-Deen Front, a jihadist group fighting President Bashar al-Assad in Syria that has yet to pledge allegiance to either the Islamic State or al-Qaeda. While the group has no affiliation to either group, it is decidedly jihadist.
“They were supposed to have done it and it looks like they didn’t do it,” Oberholtzer said of removing the decals, which contained his phone number and thus has left him vulnerable to public ire. “How it ended up in Syria, I’ll never know.”
Oberholzter told the Galveston paper that the calls from the general public included threats, and the employees at the company had begun to become extremely concerned for their safety. “People think you are aiding and abetting terrorists,” he explained. “We have a secretary here, she’s scared to death. We all have families. We don’t want no problems.”
CBS News contacted AutoNation to ask whether they had any traces of how the truck fell into the hands of a jihadist group. While they declined to give that information “over the phone,” they also confirmed that they would make it a policy to remove all such decals from vehicles in the future to prevent such an issue from arising again.
The Daily Mail notes that it has not been confirmed whether the truck in the photo is indeed the same, citing a video that shows a very similar truck shooting from the same location. The two trucks are clearly different models, however, as are the weapons in their trunks.
AutoNation has remained almost entirely silent regarding the ordeal, so few clues surfaced which would lead to a reasonable explanation for how the truck crossed the Atlantic Ocean.