Volkswagen said it was a “serious breach of policy” after they required police to pay to obtain the location of a carjacked vehicle, which had an abducted two-year-old Libertyville boy inside.
The incident happened around 3:35 p.m. Thursday in the 16000 block of West Buckley Road in unincorporated Libertyville.
Lake County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Chief Christopher Covelli said deputies received a call for a vehicular hijacking with a two-year-old child still inside the vehicle.
Taylor Shepherd, 34, who is approximately six months pregnant, had just returned to her residence, according to her neighbors and police.
She pulled into her driveway and brought one of her children inside, Covelli said.
Shepherd came back to her car to retrieve her other child, a two-year-old boy, when a white BMW pulled into her driveway behind her car.
A man exited the passenger side of the BMW and struggled to get into the woman’s 2021 Volkswagen Atlas as she tried to keep her two-year-old son safe.
The offender battered Shepherd and knocked her to the ground, Covelli said. He then stole her car with the child inside.
He and the driver of the BMW, described as a 2000s model with a black bumper and loud exhaust, fled from the scene.
The suspect was described as being tall and thin, wearing a grey zip-up hooded sweatshirt and a light green face mask.
One of the two drivers ran Shepherd over as they fled, causing serious injuries to her extremities, Covelli said.
The woman was still able to call 911 and sheriff’s deputies immediately responded.
Sheriff’s detectives also responded to the scene and the general area to assist in the search for the Volkswagen.
Covelli told Lake and McHenry County Scanner that one of the detectives immediately called Volkswagen Car-Net because he knew the stolen vehicle had a GPS locator.
The detective called the emergency number and explained the circumstances.
The employee looked up the VIN and confirmed the vehicle could be tracked but declined to do it because the trial period for the software in the car had ended.
Covelli said the detective pleaded with the employee and informed them it was a life-and-death situation.
The employee said he was required to follow policy and could not give the location until payment was secured.
Detectives had to get a credit card to pay Volkswagen. The entire process added a 30-minute delay.
“It took so long that we had very fortunately already located the abducted two-year-old and also found the stolen Volkswagen,” Covelli said.
An employee of a business in the 2200 block of Lakeside Drive in Waukegan called 911 to report they saw two vehicles enter the parking lot a short time later and the driver of one of the cars abandoned a small child.
Sheriff’s personnel confirmed the found child was the abducted child.
Sheriff’s deputies located the stolen Volkswagen in a parking lot near Casimir Pulaski and Route 43 in Waukegan.
“Thankfully, this ended in the child being unharmed, but had the offenders had different intentions, we can’t say it’d be the same outcome, because of the delay,” Covelli said.
Mark Gillies, a spokesperson for Volkswagen, said the company takes the safety and security of its customers “very seriously.”
“Volkswagen has a procedure in place with a third-party provider for Car-Net Support Services involving emergency requests from law enforcement,” Gillies said.
“They have executed this process successfully in previous incidents. Unfortunately, in this instance, there was a serious breach of the process. We are addressing the situation with the parties involved,” Gillies added.
Covelli said the sheriff’s office is glad Volkswagen Car-Net is taking accountability for the incident.
The recovered vehicle will be processed for trace evidence. Sheriff’s detectives continue searching for the BMW.
Covelli said the BMW was stolen in the past week from a car dealership in Waukegan.
Shepherd remains at an area hospital in serious but stable condition as of Friday.
She underwent medical procedures Friday and detectives have been in close contact with her and her family, Covelli said.
The North Libertyville Estates neighborhood created a GoFundMe account to help the Shepherd-Koutelidakis family following the incident.
Over $33,000 has been raised in less than a day. The fundraiser has a goal of $50,000.
Shepherd’s two-year-old son, Isaiah, suffered no physical injuries and was reunited with his family.
Shepherd will be unable to work due to her injuries. Her unborn baby will require ongoing monitoring to ensure a healthy pregnancy and delivery, neighbors said.
Anyone who sees the stolen BMW or has any information about the incident is asked to call the Lake County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigations Division at 847-377-4000 or contact Lake County CrimeStoppers at www.lakecountycrimestoppers.org.