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Car stolen with child inside while parents dropped off students at D.C. elementary

(Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The morning drop-off routine at a Capitol Hill elementary school turned terrifying Friday when a carjacker sped off in a vehicle with a 5-year-old boy still inside.

The vehicle and child were recovered blocks away, unharmed.

A woman driving in front of Watkins Elementary in the 400 block of 12th Street SE with her son reportedly saw two young men steal items from another vehicle.

She stopped her car, got out and confronted the men as they sat in a Honda Fit, according to a letter from police sent to residents on a neighborhood email list. The man in the passenger seat then left the Honda, got into the woman’s car and drove off. Witnesses said the boy who was sitting in the back seat was not clearly visible from outside.

The woman ran to her vehicle and grabbed the steering wheel, trying to thwart the theft of her car.

Walter Winston, who witnessed the incident while dropping his children off at Watkins Elementary on Friday morning, said the car swerved back and forth as the woman and the driver fought for control. The driver ultimately sped off with the vehicle, dragging the woman until she let go. She jumped into Winston’s car to try to track down her vehicle and son.

She and Winston watched the carjacker speed through a stop sign, and a police car parked nearby followed the vehicle, Winston said. By the time Winston and the woman found the vehicle, less than five minutes later, the child was safe in the police car.

“She was tough. She was fighting,” Winston said of the woman.

The two young men escaped. Brianna Jordan, a D.C. police spokeswoman, said police are searching for two men traveling in a Honda hatchback with Maryland license plates.

The woman involved in the incident posted to a Capitol Hill Facebook group detailing what happened. She wrote that her son appeared to be in good spirits when she found him and told her that “the car was going very fast and the man didn’t even put his seat belt on!”

“What a terrible morning this was but I am so glad that we are OK and no one else was hurt,” she wrote.

The woman could not immediately be reached for comment, but witnesses confirmed that the person who wrote about the incident on Facebook was the woman involved.

Watkins’s principal sent a letter to the school community saying that police are investigating the crime.

The principal said officers were at the school Friday collecting statements and accounts from adults who witnessed the incident.