Carjacking attempts spike in broad daylight

A neighbor’s video camera captured a silver-blue Volkswagen Passat involved in an alleged carjacking outside of Danielle Cotey’s home last month. An Austin Police Department spokesperson is warning citizens to pay attention to their surroundings at all times and to be cautious of suspicious persons. She stated three other similar incidents occurred in northwest Austin on the same day as Cotey’s carjacking. Courtesy CBSAustin

Police urge attentiveness to surroundings 

By LESLEE BASSMAN, Four Points News

Danielle and Paul Cotey. Courtesy Paul Cotey

Danielle Cotey was on her way home from work for lunch on a January day when she was targeted in an attempted carjacking. She turned onto Spicewood Parkway and heard the driver of a car behind her blaring its horn while passing her on the left side. Cotey said she thought that maybe she had been driving too slow or that the driver was just aggressive.

“But then they pulled in front of me and stopped,” she said of the four-door silver-blue Volkswagen Passat. “I started to reverse in order to go around them and, once I reversed, somebody got out of the car and threw something at my car.”

Cotey said she then started to drive off but the perpetrators maneuvered their vehicle to block her in. She said she hit their car twice with hers and got away, driving a few blocks before calling the Austin Police Department to report the harrowing incident on Jan. 20.

The officer told Cotey the vehicle she described as perpetrating the incident was a stolen car and sounded like the same vehicle that had been in other carjacking attempts recently, she said. 

Cotey, 52, lives north of the Four Points area between RM 620 and HWY 183 at Spicewood at Bull Creek. A neighbor’s outdoor video camera caught the incident on tape. 

During the incident, Cotey said she felt the actions were being taken “by a really aggressive driver who had lost his mind” and didn’t think the perpetrators weren’t trying to steal her vehicle.

“When he threw something aggressively at my window, I was more concerned,” she said, adding that’s when she became “petrified.” Later, Cotey found out that the item thrown at her car was a lug nut but didn’t do any damage. 

“It wasn’t until the police officer told me that it looked similar to the (other) carjacking incidents that I was aware that that’s what it was,” she said.

In early February, a detective told her the department couldn’t positively connect the vehicle involved in Cotey’s incident with other similar incidents, she said.

In response to her posting the incident on social media, a Western Travis County father — who declined to be named in the story for fear of retribution — said that on the same day as Cotey’s incident, his daughter escaped a carjacking in a different area, near Barker Lane. He said a vehicle blocked her car as she was leaving work and entering her vehicle. He said that two men jumped out and yelled, ‘drop your keys.’ She managed to safely get into her car and lock the doors when the men ran away.

Citing other similar incidents recently reported, the victim’s father advised drivers to “be careful when you are going to offices, malls, (because) there is clearly a group trying to steal vehicles.”

According to APD’s Robbery Unit, as of Feb. 5, three other attempted carjacking cases were reported nearby on Jan. 20, the date of Cotey’s incident, including:

  • 10801 N. MoPac at 12:24 p.m.
  • 4030 W. Braker Lane at 12:33 p.m.
  • 4700 Seton Center Pkwy. at 12:42 p.m.

Cotey’s incident occurred at 1 p.m. on Jan. 20, following the above-reported cases.

APD Public Information Officer Lisa Cortinas cautioned that these cases occurred during broad daylight and “the suspects appeared to have little regard for those around them.”

“Citizens are reminded to pay attention to their surroundings at all times and to be cautious of suspicious persons,” she said. “If you see something or someone who is acting suspiciously, please make sure you’re safe and then call 9-1-1 to report the activity.”

As a result of this experience, Cotey said she’s definitely more aware of the cars around her when driving. The first few days after the incident, she said she was “hesitant,” opting for her husband to drive her where she needed to go.

“I think I’m more cautious at night when I get home and get out of the car,” Cotey said. “Normally, I’d be looking at my phone and not paying attention. Now I’m looking around for any other car, making sure there’s nobody around.”

She advised other women to “just get away” if they see anyone coming near them.

“I know the instinct is to roll your window down and say, ‘hey, can I help you?’,” Cotey said. “I’m very grateful that I didn’t do that.”