Mother taking child to doctor fights off would-be car thief at gas station

FALLS TWP., Pennsylvania -- A mother on the way to take her blind son to a doctor's appointment fought off a would-be thief trying to steal her car at a Bucks County gas station with her child inside, according to police.

The suspect has been identified as Donald Darnell. He has been arrested for attempting carjacking.

Donald Darnell

Christine, the child's mother, who did not want to reveal her last name, told Action News she was on her way to Delaware for an appointment Wednesday morning when she stopped at a Falls Township gas station.

Police said shortly before she arrived, surveillance video from the Sunoco station showed a man pacing back and forth outside.

"He sees that her car is running, so that's the car he goes after," said Falls Township Police Lt. Henry Ward. "He approaches it on foot."

Christine said her car remains locked from the outside unless it is opened with a key, even if it is running. But when she opened the passenger door, it unlocked the driver's side and the suspect made his move.

"And I said, 'What are you doing?' I said, 'I have a kid in the car.' I guess he paused and turned around because he didn't realize it, and he looked at my kid and then he tried to get away," Christine said.

Christine said she struggled with the suspect inside the car, as her 10-year-old son was in the backseat wondering what was happening.

The mom said there was no way the would-be thief was taking her car with her child inside.

"I grabbed him and I think he knew I meant business when I grabbed him," she said. "That was not going to happen. I was going to be in the car and he was going to be out of the car."

Sure enough, the man decided that this was a fight he was not going to win and ran away.

"Let this be a lesson to everybody, take your keys out of your car especially with your most precious possession in the world, your child, in the backseat," said Ward.

Police later received a tip from a Bucks County Adult Probation Officer who recognized the suspect from the surveillance photos as Darnell.

They then received a call from Darnell's boyfriend who also identified the suspect. He told police that Darnell confessed to attempting to steal the vehicle at the gas station.

Falls Township police officers then arrested Darnell.

Authorities say once at police headquarters, Darnell confessed and said he did not know there was a child in the vehicle until the mother told him.

While in custody, police say he also admitted to a number of thefts in Falls Township. They say he will be charged at a later date for those crimes.

Darnell was unable to make bail and was sent to Bucks County Prison.

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Woman fights off attempted car thief in Falls Township: Dann Cuellar reports on Action News at 10 p.m., May 30, 2018.

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