An Oak Park woman was driving her Dodge Durango northbound on Ridgeland Avenue on July 8 at about 2 p.m., when she felt her car jolted from behind by a white truck as she turned left onto Ontario Street.
She had noticed prior to the fender bender that white truck was following her closely.
The woman, who requested she not be identified by name out of concern for her safety, pulled over and got out to view the damage and trade insurance information.
"They parked in front of me, and I got out of the car," she said. "Now I realize how stupid that was. At the time, I didn't think twice about it."
She said a young man got out of the back seat of the truck and came around to look at the damage.
"He looked like a teenager from Oak Park – not even 20 years old," she said.
In retrospect, the young man seemed "overly concerned" about the possible damage and seemed dramatic the way he observed the bumper.
Suddenly, another young man jumped out of the truck, and before she knew it, was in the driver's seat of the Durango. The other man ran over and also jumped into her vehicle.
They began to pull away and the woman grabbed for the door handle in an effort to stop them. Both vehicles sped away.
She remembered in the aftermath that she'd left the car running while she checked the bumper, making it easier for the thieves to steal the car.
The woman ran to her home nearby and called the police. She and her son began tracking her cellphone, which was left in the front seat of the car. The vehicle was headed east near Garfield Park and then stopped.
The thieves jettisoned the phone, presumably assuming the device could be used to track them. The phone was later found smashed in a grassy area behind a building near Chicago and Pulaski.
The next day, the woman received a call from the Chicago Police Department, revealing the vehicle had been recovered near the intersection of Monroe and Pulaski in the West Garfield Park neighborhood of Chicago.
The vehicle was riddled with bullet holes, she said.
The back window was blown out, the there was a bullet hole through the roof and one of the seats, and one round was lodged in the vehicle's stereo. A shell casing also was found on the floorboard of the vehicle and another bullet appeared to have ricocheted off the roof of the vehicle, she said. The windshield was cracked and the exterior of the vehicle was scratched up.
She later learned from Chicago police that the offenders are believed to have fired several rounds shortly after stealing the vehicle as they were being pursued by police.
The victim was unable to recall many details about the offenders' appearances but noted, "They didn't look like derelicts to me, but average teenage boys."
The woman said that it all happened so fast that the reality that her life was in danger did not hit home until after it was all over.
Police in Oak Park have reported that other such bump-and-run incidents have taken place this year, and discussed the issue at a public forum at the Oak Park Public Library on Thursday evening, just two days prior to the theft of the Durango.
Officer Shatonya Johnson told residents at that meeting that those who are involved in fender benders should immediately call the police and stay in the car. Johnson also advised motorists to pull into a populated area, like a parking lot or a gas station if they are in such a crash, so others are around, and take the keys out of the ignition.
The July 8 victim said she was told the same thing by police, but she worried that if she had stayed in the vehicle that the offenders might have tried to physically remove her from it.
The entire episode still has her shaken, she said.
"I'm doing fine – really; I'm just a little jumpy and a little nervous," she said. "I've had a huge amount of support from family and friends. I really feel blessed.
"People have asked me if it makes me feel like leaving Oak Park – it doesn't," she said, adding that she just wants to get the information out to people to help prevent future bump-and-run incidents.
* This story was updated to correct the spelling of the name of Officer Shatonya Johnson.
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