Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild was carjacked at gunpoint Saturday morning. He wasn’t injured and said the crime felt “more surreal” than scary.
His city-owned Toyota Prius was found abandoned a couple of hours later, several miles away. But the carjacker — who also tried to take a car from a woman and young child earlier in the day, police told the mayor — had not been caught as of Saturday night.
The mayor was leaving his home in the midtown Sam Hughes Neighborhood shortly before 11 a.m.
He was met by a man holding a handgun who demanded to know where his car was parked, Rothschild told the Star.
Rothschild said he pointed to the 2012 Prius and the man demanded, “Gimme your keys.”
The mayor handed them over and the carjacker drove away in the Prius.
Rothschild, who did not have a security detail with him, said he’s doing well. “I am fine. Nobody was hurt.
“It was not scary,” he said. “It was so quick and, I hate to say this, but so businesslike.” Rothschild said he was “prudent enough” to just point to the car, which was about 5 feet away, and to hand over the keys. Then, “he was gone.”
The mayor said he went inside and told his wife, “Karen, this just happened ...” and called police.
Robbery detectives learned that before the carjacker’s run-in with the mayor, which happened in the area of North Tucson Boulevard and East Fifth Street, the man unsuccessfully tried to take another car, said Tucson Police Department spokesman Sgt. Pete Dugan.
The man also had a “small altercation” with a mail carrier before his confrontation with the mayor, leading police to believe that he wasn’t targeting Rothschild, Dugan said.
Rothschild said Saturday night that he learned from police that “this fellow tried to get into a car on the street over from me,” and that a woman and a young child were in that car.
“A bunch of neighbors came out yelling,” and the man ran around the corner. “I guess somebody tried to chase him and that’s when he pulled the gun for the first time.
“Guess who was ‘lucky’ enough to be coming out of his house at the time,” the mayor said.
He said the man appeared “clean-cut,” and “I have no sense of motivation. Well, get a car as quick as he could was his motivation by the time he got to me.” Nothing valuable was in the car, the mayor said.
“I’ve lived in the city for a very long time and I’ve never been a victim of any serious crime,” Rothschild said. “It does go to show, it can happen to anybody at any time.
“Although we live in a safe community, this can happen at any time.”
The Prius was found about 1:30 p.m., abandoned near East 36th Street and South Forgeus Avenue, police said. Officers watched it during the afternoon to see if the carjacker would return, but no one did and the car was recovered, police told the mayor.
The car is not equipped with GPS tracking, although some city cars are, Rothschild said. “Depending on cost,” city officials will probably look at getting GPS tracking installed on administrative vehicles, he added.
As for his own security, “for the weekend, they’re going to keep a closer eye on me,” Rothschild said.
He’s lived in Sam Hughes Neighborhood since 2005. “I’ve felt very comfortable, very safe,” he said.
Molly McKasson Morgan, a former city councilwoman, has also lived in Sam Hughes for many years. She was stunned when she heard the news.
“Oh, my God. Gosh, that’s so scary,” she said.
McKasson Morgan said of crime in the neighborhood, “The one thing we do have is a lot of bikes are stolen ... and there’s vandalism of our cars.”
The neighborhood, just east of the University of Arizona campus, is a National Historic District with a median home value of $315,700, according to Zillow.
Rothschild said the incident “does drive home the point” that a city needs a public-safety system that’s modern, up-to-date and supported. “I think we’re fine,” he added, “but you always have to keep up.” He added that he couldn’t have been more pleased Saturday by the police response time and professionalism.
He said he hopes the unusual incident won’t hurt the city’s reputation for crime. “I certainly hope not. ... In 61 years here, I’ve never been a victim.”
Carjackings are not broken out as a category in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting data. In Tucson in 2015, the most recent full-year statistics available, 1,929 motor vehicle thefts and 1,059 robberies were reported to law enforcement. The city’s population at the time was 529,675.
For all of Pima County, with more than 1 million residents, the 2015 rate of motor-vehicle theft per 100,000 residents was 256.6. The robbery rate per 100,000 residents was 123.7.
Both were higher than the national averages of 220.2 motor-vehicle thefts and 101.9 robberies per 100,000 residents, the FBI reported.