Isabel Hughes Via Delaware Online
After nearly a week of car thefts, carjackings and robberies outside Wawa convenience stores in New Castle County, Delaware State Police say they've arrested four teens on charges related to several of the incidents — but have released little other information, including whether the teens are suspects in other recent Wawa carjackings.
A 14-year-old, two 15-year-olds and a 17-year-old, all from Wilmington, face a host of charges in connection with four Thursday morning incidents. The crime spree began just before 9 a.m. at the Wawa at Memorial Drive and Route 13, near New Castle.
Troopers responded there after a man called 911 to report that he'd parked his silver Honda Accord at the gas pump and had left it running, unlocked, and gone inside the Wawa. When he came out, it was gone.
Police said the teens stole the man's car, then drove it to the Wawa on Route 13, near Route 273.
There, they tried to steal another car but weren't successful, police said. The teens then drove to the Wawa on New Linden Hill Road in Pike Creek, where they tried to carjack a 60-year-old woman, who was in a Honda Accord, police said.
The teens showed the woman a gun and demanded her car keys, but she fought back and refused to give them the keys, police said. The group was able to get away with only her purse before they fled, police said.
About an hour later, Wilmington police were dispatched to a robbery in the 3300 block of N. Jefferson St. When patrol officers tried to stop the teens, who were still in the car stolen at the first Wawa, the group fled.
After a brief police chase, the teens crashed the car into a brick building. Wilmington officers arrested them there.
Though Delaware State Police say the teens, who were not identified because they are juveniles, are responsible for the three Thursday incidents at Wawa stores, the agency would not say whether the teens are suspects in other recently reported carjackings.
On Monday around 10 p.m., a 31-year-old woman was waiting in a car for her sister, who was inside the Wawa on Concord Pike in Talleyville, when a man got into the driver's seat and "demanded everything," state police said.
As the woman got out of the car, a second man came up to her and "held an unknown object to her abdomen." The woman's sister came out of the Wawa as this happened and confronted the man who was in the driver's seat.
The man got away with the car and later led troopers on a chase, police said. Troopers ended the chase "for safety precautions" but ultimately found the car abandoned. They did not give information about suspects.
Several days before that carjacking, a woman posted on the Nextdoor app saying she and her 77-year-old mother were at the same Wawa when they were carjacked.
The woman said she was putting air in her tires around 9:30 p.m. when she heard her mother screaming from the passenger seat. When the woman stood up, four "guys were in my car with her," she wrote.
"I ran to the driver's door because they were trying to drive away with my mom," she wrote. "The driver jumped out and acted like he had a gun in his shirt. Adrenaline made me pull his hand out while one of the other guys pulled my mom out of the car."
The woman said there was no gun, but the group stole her car, which had her and her mother's wallets in it. She didn't say what kind of car she was in or whether it was later found.
When asked by a reporter about the incident, police did not give an answer.
They also did not respond to questions about whether they believe Monday night's carjacking is connected to Thursday's theft and attempted carjacking, nor did they say whether the public is in any danger.
In a Nextdoor post, however, Delaware State Police spokeswoman Master Cpl. Heather Pepper issued a warning about "a recent increase in thefts of vehicles in the New Castle area."
The spokeswoman said police "began seeing an increase of vehicle thefts at the beginning of October," the majority of which occurred "at convenience stores in which a vehicle was left unattended, idling or unlocked with the keys left in the vehicle."
"In some cases, the victim is sitting in their running car in a parking lot and become an easy target because they are not paying attention to their surroundings," Pepper said.
In the post, which is only on Nextdoor and does not appear on the state police's website, Pepper did not mention Wawa by name, nor did she use the word "carjacking."
She also cited Delaware law that prohibits a person from leaving a running car unattended on a highway. The law she referenced, however, does not apply to
private property, such as Wawa parking lots.
When asked about that fact, Pepper said the paragraph about the law was "for informational purposes and to let citizens know there is a state law regarding unattended motor vehicles."