An armed, off-duty Maryland police officer sent two suspected carjackers fleeing when he fired his weapon as they forced his family out of a vehicle near a large shopping mall outside of Washington, D.C., police say.
“Continue to remain diligent. Be aware of your surroundings,” Prince George Assistant Chief Vernon Hale III said during a press conference last week. “As you can see, if this can happen to an off-duty officer, it can certainly happen to a family. So, we want to make sure that everybody remains diligent, take care of one another, and keep your eyes open.”
Hale said an unidentified off-duty police officer with the department was assisting two of his family members as they got into their personal vehicle at about 5 p.m. Thursday evening in Oxon Hill when they were approached by at least two suspects, Fox 5 DC reported. The family was in a parking lot that serves office buildings, including dental and medical offices, and located accross the street from the Tanger Outlets National Harbor shopping center.
The off-duty cop and his family were forced from the vehicle, Hale said, calling the incident an “apparent carjacking.”
The off-duty officer fired his weapon, causing the suspects to flee in the vehicle. The family members were not injured during the incident and police do not believe any shots hit the suspected carjackers.
“The officer was able to get his family safely out of the vehicle, discharge his weapon and the suspects escaped including his personal vehicle,” Hale said.
The officer used his department-issued firearm during the incident, police later said.
Police issued a “be on the lookout” for a black GMC Acadia shortly after the incident, according to NBC Washington.
Police located one of the suspects on Friday, identified as Washington, D.C., resident Anthony Stewart, 19. He was located in D.C., arrested and will be extradited to Maryland. He is facing charges of carjacking, robbery, theft, and additional charges, police said.
The second suspect is still at large, according to police.
The carjacking is just one of hundreds this year that have plagued areas of Maryland, as well as Washington, D.C. There have been 500 carjackings as of last week in jurisdictions overseen by Prince George’s County Police, which is an 18% spike over data from last year, WJLA reported.
In nearby D.C., which is located roughly 11 miles from the site of Thursday’s carjacking incident, such crimes have more than doubled over figures from last year. The outlet found there were 952 carjackings in the city as of last week, compared to 475 during the same time period in 2022.
Crime in the city has even affected political leaders and their families, including in October when Texas Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar was carjacked by three armed attackers near the U.S. Capitol.
The Prince George’s County Police Department was still investigating the carjacking Thursday and calling on members of the public to come forward with any tips on the second suspect’s identity The off-duty officer was placed on administrative leave until the investigation is concluded.