West Hartford Police have recovered the woman’s vehicle, but the suspects, at least one of whom is armed, are believed to be involved with other area carjackings and car thefts, and are still at large.
By Ronni Newton
West Hartford Police and other law enforcement agencies are searching for suspects who stole a vehicle from a woman at gunpoint in the parking lot outside the Bishops Corner Post Office just after 1:30 p.m. Friday afternoon, and the same individuals are believed to have been involved in other area car thefts and carjackings that have taken place over the past few days.
West Hartford Police Capt. Eric Rocheleau said several vehicles involved in a string of carjackings and car thefts – that they believe are associated with the same suspects – have been recovered.
The victim’s story
The victim in the West Hartford carjacking, a 51-year old female resident, spoke with We-Ha.com about the terrifying incident. She asked that her name not be used in this story, but she wants others to be aware of what happened and could have happened to anyone.
She said she went to the Bishops Corner Post Office in Crossroads Plaza Friday afternoon to mail the rent check to pay for her daughter’s college apartment.
“I parked directly in front of the post office,” she said. “There were a lot of cars.”
She parked her car up against the building, and it just happened to be that there were no vehicles parked on either side.
She said she didn’t exit the car right away, but sat there for a few moments writing out the check. She then got out of the car, locked it, and stepped inside the post office – where there was a line of people – to drop the envelope in the mailbox.
“I got back into my car. I was only out for 10 seconds. I put on my seatbelt, turned on the car – which locks the door,” she said. She used some hand sanitizer before pulling out of the space, and as she was preparing to back up, she saw someone approaching the car.
As she put the vehicle in reverse, the woman said, suddenly “I saw someone at the window with a gun. He said, ‘Don’t move,'” she said. Another suspect was on the other side.
She put her car in park. “It was clear to me that they wanted the car,” she said.
She couldn’t provide a description of the suspects and has no idea how old the man with the gun was. She guessed he was anywhere from 17 to 24, but said he was wearing a gator-type mask and had his head covered, and could have been as young as 16. He, and another suspect who had also exited a car parked elsewhere in the parking lot, where yelling at her to make sure the key was still in the car so they could drive it.
She thinks the suspects were parked in the center area of the parking lot. Someone going to the post office as the suspects fled got a description of the suspects’ car, which was shared with police.
The woman’s vehicle, a Genesis, was recovered in a Bloomfield parking lot a very short time later. Her purse had been dumped, although she said her credit cards and some gift cards were missing. The license plates from the car were found in nearby woods. In fact, she said, someone had reported to police that they saw people jump out of a car and throw things into the woods, and that was how the car was found so quickly.
The suspects did not discard the key to the woman’s car, and police told her they may have been planning to come back for it.
She said she had just worked out, wasn’t wearing nice clothing or any jewelry at all when the incident occurred. She said she had no idea why she was chosen as a victim, other than perhaps that there weren’t cars on either side of where she had parked so it was more accessible, and at that exact moment there wasn’t anyone else out of their car in the lot.
“We’re all so comfortable in that parking lot,” she said. She’s there often, she said and used to wait for her son to get dropped off from school there in the evenings.
“The police seemed pretty confident they would find [the suspects] … but they did not seem confident they would get punished,” the woman said.
The woman said she didn’t believe there were any cameras in that particular parking lot, other than at the far end.
She shared her story because she wants others to be aware.
“It was so brazen,” she said. You think about cars being stolen from driveways, but this takes it to a whole new level, she said.
“I’m pretty aware of where I am,” she said, but this just happened so quickly.
“It’s so brazen,” West Hartford Police Capt. Eric Rocheleau told We-Ha.com.
He said police do not have any surveillance photos or video for the incident. The suspects are believed to be two Black males, and one is armed, he said.
Police believe the West Hartford incident on Friday involved the same individuals who are now suspects in three incidents that happened on Saturday, and at least one other that happened previously. Rocheleau said that in addition to the West Hartford woman’s car, a black Volkswagen SUV, stolen from another town and used by the suspects who committed the carjacking in Bishops Corner, has been recovered. Both have been processed for evidence.
A white Porsche, stolen in a carjacking in Rocky Hill Saturday, Rocheleau told We-Ha.com, involved the same black SUV, which was later recovered elsewhere. Police spotted the while Porsche early Monday afternoon.
He said a Camry was also stolen at gunpoint in Bloomfield on Saturday, and a vehicle that was left running in Middletown was stolen Saturday. Police believed the same suspects are involved in all of the incidents.
“I don’t know if they are juveniles,” Rocheleau said.
The north end of West Hartford is very well covered by police and Rocheleau said an officer, who was at the time diagonally across the street in the parking lot near Marshall’s, was at the scene in 30 seconds.
This type of incident is very hard to predict or prevent, Rocheleau said, and the best advice he could give was “stay alert, watch where you’re going, and see who is coming.”
The victim in this case did the exact right thing in giving up her car, he said. “It’s not worth getting injured, whether it’s a slap, a punch, a knife, or a gun.”
Stealing cars, even carjacking, is often done for “thrills,” Rocheleau said, and the cars are likely just being used for joy riding or as a means to steal other cars, perhaps as some type of “initiation.”
In January 2020, a woman was carjacked in the same Bishops Corner parking lot, following a carjacking attempt that was thwarted across the street near Whole Foods. West Hartford Police formed an Automobile Theft Task Force shortly after that incident, but it is not currently operating.
Rocheleau said a West Hartford Police officer is currently assigned to the FBI’s violent crime task force, and they are assisting in this incident. Other area law enforcement agencies are also involved.
The public is asked to call the West Hartford Police at 860-523-5203 or use the WHPD Tip Line with any information, Rocheleau said. The Tip Line email is [email protected] and the phone number is 860-570-8969.
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