MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - As part of their series on carjackings, FOX 9 Investigators have analyzed years of court records, police evidence, case files and video of carjacking cases in Minneapolis.
In the process, they encountered carjackings that had not previously been reported on, including a case where, over the course of eight days in the summer of 2020, a man who was out on bond from a previous car theft stole two vehicles in Minneapolis while there were children in the back seat.
The first incident occurred in Dinkytown on June 18, 2020, during the height of the pandemic, and was caught on surveillance cameras.
The video shows 28-year-old Antonio DeLeon wandering the streets near a Raising Cane's restaurant when he approached a white Buick Verano. The driver of the car was inside, picking up food with her young daughter still in the car. Police records show that her daughter has cerebral palsy and can't walk, so she left her in the car with the air running.
In the video, DeLeon appears to notice the car is running and then takes off with the child still inside.
A few blocks away, DeLeon pulled over and dumped the girl on the sidewalk, where she struggled to crawl to a bystander for help. After seven minutes, the mother was reunited with her daughter unharmed.
Court records show that eight days later, on June 26, DeLeon committed another carjacking in Dinkytown that also involved a child in the back seat.
According to the criminal complaint, a man left his Mazda running by a store on the 300 block of 14th Avenue Southeast and ran in to grab some items, with his wife and their eight-month-old child in the car.
DeLeon jumped in the driver's seat, and the man ran out of the store to try and stop him, according to the complaint. As the two struggled, the man fell and was dragged a short distance by the car, sustaining injuries that would require brain surgery to stop internal bleeding.
The woman was still in the car and pleaded with DeLeon to let her and her child go. He dropped them off a few blocks away, the complaint says.
DeLeon was arrested in September 2020 and struck a plea deal with prosecutors covering both cases, pleading guilty to robbery and aggravated robbery in the first degree. He is currently serving a 10-year sentence in a prison in Stillwater.
DeLeon’s two cases of carjackings involving children in the vehicle, including the one depicted in the video, reflect a troubling trend.
When carjackings and car theft soared in the Twin Cities and other cities across the country during the pandemic, the victims were often people who left their cars running, like delivery drivers, or parents with kids in the backs seats who briefly stepped away from their vehicles.
Last November, a 7-year-old boy was in the car with his mom as she was making food deliveries in Minneapolis. When the mom stepped out of the running car to make a delivery, a man got in the car and drove off. Police later recovered the vehicle and arrested the suspect.
There was a similar incident involving a DoorDash driver in San Francisco in February 2020, and more recently, a case in Philadelphia in March which an 18-year-old man was arrested for stealing a minivan from a delivery driver while the driver’s girlfriend and their three children were in the backseat.
Not all the incidents involve delivery drivers. On Jan 7, the authorities issued an Amber Alert when an SUV that was left running in front of a cell phone repair store was stolen in Minneapolis with a 1-year-old boy in the backseat. The child was returned to his family uninjured, and police discovered the missing vehicle about a mile away from where it was initially stolen.