An elderly woman spent her Easter in a New Jersey hospital after an alleged shoplifter carjacked her outside a diner where she had just wrapped up breakfast with her family.
The wild scene played out Sunday morning outside the Metro Diner at Crescent Boulevard (Route 130) and Browning Lane in Brooklawn, Camden County but it actually started inside the Rite Aid store next door.
A man in his mid- to late-20s walked into the pharmacy around 11 a.m. attempting to return an item he took the night before, according to Brooklawn Police.
The manager of the store told police that she recognized the man, who was wearing a gray hoodie, blue jeans and a black baseball cap, from before. When she tried to alert authorities, the man darted out of the store, according to police.
He then ran behind the store, across a small grass median on Browning Lane and to the diner parking lot as 80-year-old Catherine Hodge was inside her car. Hodge says the man opened the door as she placed the key in the ignition.
"I hadn't turned it on," she said. "If I turned it on, the doors would have been locked."
Police say the man pushed Hodge out of her Gray 2008 four-door Honda Accord, got inside and then drove off.
"I said, 'leave me alone, stop it,' and he grabbed me and pushed me out," said Hodge. "I ran around saying, 'help me, please somebody help me.' I was yanked from behind the wheel. I thank God he didn't have a gun or a knife."
The woman's purse, with cash and credit cards, was in the vehicle, police said.
Hodge was shaken up but refused medical treatment at the scene. Her family later took her to the hospital where she was treated for a swollen foot, cuts and bruises. She also says the experience has made her more cautious.
"From now on I'm going to get in my car right away and lock the doors," she said.
Police told NBC10 that they want to catch the suspect before he causes anymore havoc. Hodge's vehicle has a license plate number that reads "E87AZD."
Police hope fingerprints found at the scene and a planned sketch of the suspect also help track him down.
Anyone who sees the car should call 911 and anyone who knows anything about the crimes should call (856) 456-0750 Ext. 110.