Michele Pettiford and her 12-year-old daughter were returning to their Chicago home from volleyball practice last week when two men ran up to them and demanded the keys to the family’s car.
In a video captured by surveillance cameras on Nov. 2, Pettiford is heard yelling “they’re in my purse” as she is held at gunpoint and thrown to the ground. Her daughter ran inside screaming, and dialed 911 once she got upstairs.
“You hear about blood curdling screams — that’s just something I’ll never forget,” Jeff Pettiford, who ran outside to help his wife, told NBC Chicago.
One of the men put a gun to Jeff Pettiford’s head as he tried to offer them money, but they only wanted a car. He helped them start his Audi, but said they kept asking for a key because they did not understand that the vehicle used a fob. The men fled the scene in the car.
“When they came at me and I looked at them, they weren’t afraid,” Jeff Pettiford told NBC Chicago. “I came running directly at them and the thought wasn’t, ‘Oh no, let’s get out of here.’ It’s, ‘Let’s turn around and potentially shoot this person.'”
The Chicago Police Department said they recovered the car in South Crandon on Wednesday, around 8 miles from the Pettifords’ Beverly property. A 24-year-old woman was placed into custody for misdemeanor trespassing after she was found inside the car. Police said they are still looking for the two suspects.
Although the Pettiford family wasn’t physically hurt, Jeff Pettiford told NBC Chicago that they are seeking professional help to deal with the trauma from the incident.
“I think it went through my head, like, is this real? Is this really happening?” said Michele Pettiford on NBC’s “TODAY” show. “Our home isn’t the place of comfort and safety that it once was, which is really sad.”
According to the FBI’s 2022 crime report, carjacking increased by 8% from the previous year, and nearly 90% of incidents involved weapon.
The Pettiford family’s carjacking comes just weeks after Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar was carjacked at gunpoint a mile from the nation’s capitol.