Sharlonda Buckman stands with her vehicle next to a canal at Edison Boat Club in Detroit on Thursday after it was pulled from the water. (David Coates / The Detroit News)
Detroit — A good Samaritan who chased down a carjacking suspect on the city’s east side Thursday morning ended up being seriously wounded in a gunfight with the suspect after the stolen vehicle was ditched into a canal of the Detroit River.
Sharlonda Buckman, a 2013 Michiganian of the Year and chief executive officer of Detroit Parent Network, stopped about 8 a.m. Thursday at a BP gas station on the 10700 block of East Jefferson Avenue to buy some aspirin when she said an armed man forced her from her 2011 Chevrolet Traverse.
“I couldn't even get my door closed; he was there with a gun,” Buckman said.
Three men nearby witnessed the carjacking and came to Buckman’s aid, giving chase to the suspect. Police say one of them, an unnamed man who was driving a 2009 blue Ford Focus, shot at the suspect with his licensed firearm after the suspect let the SUV sink into a Detroit River embankment near the Edison Boat Club.
The second Samaritan flagged down a U.S. Border Patrol agent for help while the third comforted Buckman, who broke down in tears after she was attacked.
“Thank God my son was not in the car with me,” said Buckman, who had just dropped off her 12-year-old at school.
Detroit Police Sgt. Michael Woody confirmed a suspect exchanged gunfire with the Samaritan and fled in his sedan. The Samaritan was taken to a hospital in serious condition, Woody said.
Police say the suspect, too, might have been shot. He is described as a black male in his 30s, who was seen wearing a blue hoodie, gray vest and dark-colored pants. The license plate of the Ford Focus is CDU 0284.
Police are looking for a second vehicle driven by a suspected accomplice. The car is described as a tan or gold Crown Victoria or Mercury Marquis with a vinyl-cloth top. The driver of that car is described as a male in his 20s, black with a light complexion and a slim build who was seen wearing a red-hooded sweatshirt.
Police say the suspect and possible accomplice are considered armed and dangerous. Anyone who has seen them is discouraged from approaching them.
Buckman said she was standing in line at the BP, unaware that she and other patrons were about to be connected by an act of violence. She parked her vehicle in a space on the side of the building.
She stood behind Jason McGuire, 37, owner of the Riverside Marina, who walked into the station to pay because the credit card machine at the pump wasn’t working. Also at the station was Michael Turner, 35, and his girlfriend.
When Buckman returned to her SUV, she put some belongings in her lap, turned on the ignition and was about to close the door when she came face-to-face with the suspect.
The man pointed a gun at Buckman. She screamed.
“When they heard me scream, they ran to the car and were able to distract him long enough for me to get out of harm’s way,” Buckman said.
McGuire heard Buckman’s cries. As he approached to try to help, the suspect pulled out a gun and started shooting.
When Turner heard the screaming, he said he stopped pumping gas and ran over, pulling a knife out of his pocket.
“But the man had a gun, so I ran for cover as he started shooting,” Turner said.
McGuire, Turner and the man driving the Focus chased after Buckman’s SUV. McGuire lost the suspect at Jefferson and St. Jean. He returned to the gas station, where Buckman remained.
“I asked her if she was OK. She said she was fine. I said, ‘I know you’re not,’ ” McGuire said. “I hugged her, and she started crying so I took her to my car.”
Turner stopped after he flagged down a Border Patrol agent and phoned police to tell them where the SUV was headed. He too returned to the gas station.
“When I heard her screaming, I thought about my mom because she was carjacked,” Turner said.
Turner’s mother showed up and shared her experience with Buckman as she waited to be interviewed by authorities.
McGuire said he didn’t know what he would have done had he caught up with the gunman.
“I just wanted to get him,” he said.
Buckman said she is grateful the fellow Detroiters stepped up in her time of need.
“They just instinctively were protectors, and they wanted to help. And that’s enough for me, that’s encouraging for me,” said Buckman, whose parent network provides services such as parenting classes to nearly 30,000 people.
McGuire said the city’s residents need to be more neighborly when fellow Detroiters are in need.
“We don’t need neighborhoods, we need neighbors,” McGuire said. “I have a mother, I have a sister, I have nieces. If something like that were happening to them, I would want someone to help. It’s part of being neighborly.”
Those with information may call Detroit police at (313) 596-5600 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-SPEAK-UP (1-800-773-2587).