Averyl Bailey has always prided herself on being able to keep a cool head, so when three men pulled handguns on her near her Fort Washington home Monday night and demanded her purse and car keys, she says she didn't panic.
She remembered yesterday that she calmly told the men that the keys to her 2002 Land Rover Discovery were in the vehicle. They weren't, but she wanted to buy time. While the men searched, she quietly removed her house keys from her key ring, then handed the ring and her purse to them.
"I definitely thought they were going to shoot me, but God gave me a very calm spirit. He prevented me from panicking," said Bailey, 33, who was returning home from choir practice at Metropolitan Baptist Church in the District when the men approached her. "I know God definitely had his hand on me."
The crime occurred about 10:45 p.m. Monday in the 8600 block of Devon Hills Drive, just as Prince George's County police continued to look for a violent carjacking gang that shot a man during the weekend. There have been three carjackings in Clinton and Hyattsville since June 18 that police have connected to the three armed men.
Police are searching for the men as part of a crackdown on carjackings, which have increased 42 percent this year over the same period last year. A police spokeswoman said yesterday that there have been 305 reported carjacking this year. Last year, Prince George's reported the highest number of carjackings in the state: 563, compared with 492 for all of the state's other jurisdictions combined.
Police public information officers would not discuss Bailey's carjacking yesterday, citing their involvement in the investigation of the killing of police officer Steven Gaughan in a Laurel area shootout. But Bailey's description of the crime shows similarities to other cases attributed to the gang. The three men are between the ages of 17 and 20, and Bailey said her assailants are in their late teens. The gang members are believed to be armed, and two of the men in Bailey's carjacking displayed weapons.
Bailey said the men drove up in a bright-red station wagon and got out as she was retrieving mail down the hill from her condominium. Police told her later that the car they were in had been stolen last week.
After demanding her purse and keys, the men searched the handbag. "Their faces lit up" when they found $100 in cash and a credit card in her wallet, which they refused to return to her, she said. At some point during the minute or two that the incident lasted, the red car drove off. Two of the men then drove away in her car while the third ran up the hill, Bailey said.
"The police told me they attempted two other carjackings in my neighborhood -- one before me and one after," she said. "I think it was organized. They knew what they were doing. You could tell it was something they were accustomed to doing."
Police found her handbag in Oxon Hill yesterday and returned it, Bailey said.