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Girls, 13 and 15, charged with murder after alleged carjacking attempt in D.C.

The crash site near Nationals Park.
The crash site near Nationals Park. (Erin Kenney)

Two girls ages 13 and 15 have been charged with felony murder after D.C. police said their attempt to carjack a food delivery driver outside Nationals Park on Tuesday afternoon ended in a crash that fatally injured the man.

The girls — legally too young to drive — were also charged with armed carjacking, according to authorities. A D.C. police spokesman said at least one was armed with a stun device, which was found inside the crashed vehicle.

Authorities did not identify the girls because they are charged as juveniles.

The death of Mohammad Anwar, a 66-year-old immigrant from Pakistan who lived in Virginia and was working as a driver for Uber Eats, comes amid a wave of carjackings that began last year in the District and in suburban Maryland, and is continuing this year.

In February, authorities launched a carjacking task force, combining the resources of the FBI with police in D.C. and Montgomery County to help solve cases that cross jurisdictional lines. Authorities say many cases involve juvenile suspects.

Police said the carjacking attempt targeting Anwar occurred about 4:30 p.m. near N and Van streets SE, near South Capitol Street.

There was a struggle inside the Honda Accord and the car accelerated, crashing into parked vehicles and bending a metal rack before turning on its side, a department spokesman said.

Anwar, who lived in Springfield, was thrown from the vehicle. Police said the teens ran but were quickly apprehended by police with the help of a nearby member of the National Guard. Anwar died at a hospital.

His family members said in a statement that they are “devastated by this senseless crime.”

They said Anwar had three grown children — two in the United States and one in Pakistan — and four grandchildren, also in his homeland. He is also survived by his wife.

He immigrated in 2014 “to build a better life for himself and his family,” the statement says.

The family described Anwar as the main financial provider, and a GoFundMe campaign has been started to help provide a traditional Islamic funeral. He worshiped at the Darul Huda mosque in Springfield.

The family wrote that Anwar was a “friend who always provided a smile when you needed one.”

An Uber spokeswoman confirmed that Anwar was making a food delivery when the incident occurred.

“We are devastated by this tragic news and our hearts go out to Mohammad’s family during this difficult time,” Uber said in a statement.

The teens made their initial appearances together on Wednesday via video in D.C. Superior Court. Each pleaded “not involved” — the juvenile equivalent of not guilty — to the murder count and other charges.

Detective Chad Leo of the D.C. police homicide unit testified that after the teens were arrested, one of them told authorities that she and her companion wanted to steal a car.

The detective did not describe precisely the beginning moments of the incident. Leo said the girls, armed with a stun device, got into Anwar’s car at the Navy Yard Metro station. He drove a short distance to Nationals Park, Leo said.

There, the alleged plan turned deadly.

Based on witness accounts and a video of the incident, Leo said, an argument and what appeared to be a struggle erupted, with the 13-year-old shouting, “He’s got my cellphone!” Eventually, Anwar was standing outside his car, with the 15-year-old in the driver’s seat and the other girl in the front passenger seat, the detective said.

Anwar tried to force his way back into the car by climbing on top of the teen in the driver’s seat, Leo said. Before he could get all the way in, though, the 13-year-old reached over from the passenger seat, turned on the ignition and “manipulated” the gear shift, Leo said.

With Anwar “hanging outside the car” through the open driver’s door, Leo said, the vehicle lurched forward and accelerated down the block, made a sharp right turn, struck a curb and overturned, landing passenger side up. Anwar was ejected and suffered broken bones and injury to his head, Leo said.

A prosecutor asked Magistrate Judge Tyrona DeWitt to order the teens held in a secure facility while the case proceeds. Juvenile court is generally closed to the public. DeWitt allowed journalists to attend most of the hearing but barred them from disclosing the teens’ names or hearing her decision about detention.

D.C. police say 46 carjackings occurred in the District in the first five weeks of this year, compared to eight by the same time in 2020. In all of last year, police reported 345 carjackings, a spike of 143 percent from the 142 that occurred in 2019.

Juveniles have been a particular concern. In the District, police say 23 youths ages 12 to 17 have been arrested this year on carjacking charges. One 14-year-old was charged in two armed carjackings and three armed robberies on a single day in January.

Teen carjackings rise with covid restrictions

Carjackings have nearly tripled this year in Prince George’s County, to 62, compared with this time in 2020. In Montgomery, police said three dozen carjackings were reported in 2020, nearly double the number in 2019. There have been 16 carjackings this year in the county, police said last week.

Montgomery County Police Chief Marcus Jones told reporters at a March 18 news conference that the youths being arrested do “not understand the seriousness of what they’re actually doing, the willingness to go out and — not only endanger the lives of others — but they’re also endangering their own lives for those who really don’t know how to drive.”

Jones said some youths brag about their crimes on social media, “showing the world what they’ve done.”

Other cities, including Chicago, New Orleans and Minneapolis, are experiencing similar surges, which police experts are blaming in part on the coronavirus pandemic that has closed schools and youth programs, and made outreach and monitoring more difficult.

Delivery and ride-hail drivers have been particularly vulnerable, according to authorities.

David Do, director of the District’s agency that regulates for-hire vehicles, said at a news conference last month that ride-hail operators have been targeted more during the pandemic because they are now delivering packages and other goods for people who are staying home.

“We’re moving from transporting passengers to transporting parcels,” Do said, which makes drivers attractive targets.

Dan Morse and Katie Mettler contributed to this report.

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