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Car with young child inside stolen from DC elementary school drop-off, officials say

Photo of Watkins Elementary School where a mothers vehicle was carjacked with her 5 year old son in the backseat on Friday morning. Oct. 19, 2018. (ABC7 photo)

A 5-year-old boy is safe after his mother’s vehicle was carjacked in front of Watkins Elementary School in Southeast Washington on Friday morning.

The mother watched as a stranger got into her car and drove off with her child after she confronted two men who she believed were stealing items from other parked cars. A Metropolitan Police officer was near the school when he saw the stolen car speed off down the street. The officer found the car and child a few minutes later.

After school pickup is a busy time at Watkins Elementary. Many of the parents were still talking about what happened near the school Friday.

“It is really crazy someone would try something like this with so many people around,” said Erica Stanley, a parent who lives across the street from the school.

It was just before 8:30 a.m. near 12th and E Streets Southeast. A woman told police she saw two men taking items from a parked vehicle. She got out of her running car, left the driver’s door slightly open, and walked over to tell the men to put the property back.

One of those men crossed the street and got into the women’s car in the school drop off line. She ran back but couldn’t stop him from driving off with her 5-year-old son in the back seat.

“There was a struggle there, where part of her body was inside the car and she actually did fall because he accelerated. So, she actually did fall out of the car,” said First District Commander Morgan Kane with the Metropolitan Police Department.

The woman suffered minor injuries and did not need medical care.

Stanley said she is terrified about what happened. She usually only worries about speeding cars around her 5-year-old daughter.

“We always hold hands, she knows to wait, but you don’t think you have to worry about something like a kidnapper or someone who’s going to jack the car,” she said.

Police found the boy crying but safe a few minutes later a half mile away on D Street Southeast.

No weapons were used.

“This is particularly troublesome, worrisome because there was a child involved in this situation,” said Kane.

ANC Ward 6 Commissioner Nick Burger saw the events leading up to the carjacking and told ABC7 the mother was hysterical when the man drove away.

“If you live in DC you’ve heard about carjackings. This was pretty different in the sense that someone was getting in a car and that car having a child in it. It’s incredibly traumatic and awful,” said Burger.

He said he was relieved to hear the boy was found safe and doesn’t believe the carjacking was planned.

“From what I observed, it felt very opportunistic for me,” said Burger.

Police say they are looking for two black males who were in a silver Honda hatchback with stolen Maryland tags 3DC2612.

Investigators are asking anyone with information to call the First District Detective's Office at 202-299-2025.

Below is a statement from school principal Elena Bell on the carjacking.

"Dear Peabody and Watkins Elementary School Parents and Families:

At Watkins Elementary School, we highly value and are committed to fostering a learning environment where students are safe and secure. A large part of our commitment to families is providing timely communications around incidents that occur during the school day.

I am writing to notify you that this morning at drop-off, a car belonging to a member of our school community was stolen with a young child inside. We immediately contacted the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), who responded quickly and began to investigate the issue. Shortly after, MPD was able to safely recover both the car and child.

The incident has been referred to the DC Public Schools police team and MPD, who are onsite to collect accounts and statements from staff and adult witnesses. We will continue to cooperate with any ongoing investigation.

Please be assured that the safety of our students is paramount at all times. If you have any questions related to this incident, please call the school office at (202) 698-3355 or contact me via email at elena.bell@dc.gov.

Thank you for your continued support.

Sincerely,

Elena Bell

Principal, Peabody and Watkins Elementary School"

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