A citizens band radio and a group of friendly, anonymous truckers helped Fairfax County police track and capture a suspect in a carjacking that began yesterday morning at Springfield Mall and ended about 40 minutes later in Prince William County.
The episode began about 8:40 a.m. in the parking garage outside the Macy's store in the mall, where a 64-year-old Springfield woman was attacked as she walked away from her car. A man grabbed her car keys and her book bag, then jumped in her black 2000 Toyota Camry and sped away, police said.
Fairfax officers at the mall broadcast a lookout for the woman's car. Not far away, in the southbound lanes of Interstate 95, Officer John Harris of the police motor carrier safety unit was stopped on the side of the highway checking out a truck. He spotted the Camry as it went past but did not want to start a chase in the congested morning traffic near the Mixing Bowl.
Because he is in the motor carrier unit, Harris is equipped with a CB radio, one of probably fewer than a dozen in the department of 1,300 officers, Sgt. Richard Perez said. Harris put out a call to truckers in the area and immediately got help from several drivers who kept the Camry in their sights.
Harris radioed the Camry's location to dispatchers, with updates from the truckers, Perez said. As the car crossed into Prince William County, police there picked up the pursuit, aided by the Fairfax police helicopter.
The Camry exited onto Route 234 in Dumfries, where it was boxed in by police cars, including Harris's. Perez said the driver rammed Harris and drove off but crashed a short distance later. The driver then jumped out and ran.
Again, citizens helped police, pointing out the fleeing suspect. Prince William officers caught him about 9:19 a.m., Perez said. Aaron Christopher Bland, 21, of Richmond was charged with carjacking and was being held without bond last night in the Fairfax jail.
"It shows that citizens do want to improve their communities" by assisting police, Perez said, "and that truckers out there are readily available to assist when they can. In many cases, you find them to be the ambassadors of the interstate when they render assistance."