LGBTQ mayoral candidate’s vehicle stolen in Atlanta

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Atlanta City Council member Antonio Brown – running to become the city’s first LGBTQ mayor – had his sport utility vehicle stolen and was dragged several feet along a street on Wednesday morning. 

A group of four young men – Brown told a 911 operator they appeared to be 14 years old and younger – jumped in his 2016 Mercedes 450 GLE about 11:45 a.m. as he stood a few feet away. Brown left the vehicle unlocked with the key fob inside, according to WSB. The incident took place on Verbena Street near its intersection with Sewanee Avenue in northwest Atlanta.

The thieves left with his cellphone in the SUV, according to an incident report from the Atlanta Police Department. 

When one of the young men entered the vehicle on its passenger side, Brown and the person he was speaking with went to the driver’s side. Brown held on as the vehicle pulled away.

“While trying to open the door, Mr. Brown stated that the male put the vehicle in drive pulling Mr. Brown before letting go of the vehicle traveling northwest on Verbena Street,” according to the incident report. 

Brown said the incident could have escalated. 

“He started to speed up and I knew that if I had not let go, I could have probably killed myself because he was going so fast,” Brown told WSB.

WSB reported that one of the young men motioned that he had a weapon underneath his clothes. Despite that, Brown told a 911 operator that he and another person left Verbena Street to search for the stolen vehicle.

“We went to try to find the car,” Brown told the operator.

The vehicle was tracked to several locations as the driver traveled to East Point, according to an incident report. The vehicle was still missing on Thursday.

Brown identified himself as a city council member three times during his nearly two-minute conversation with a 911 operator. It took police 40 minutes to arrive, according to the incident report.

Brown told media outlets that if police identify who stole the vehicle, he does not want to press criminal charges. 

“I don’t know if someone else put them up to doing it. I don’t know what the circumstance was. But it was just unfortunate to see kids that young engaging in criminal behavior,” Brown told WSB.

In an interview with CBS 46, Brown questioned why the young men weren’t in school and called for the city to open recreation centers. Atlanta Public Schools ended its school year on Wednesday. Most city-operated facilities are closed under coronavirus pandemic protocols. On Thursday, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced city swimming pools will reopen on Saturday. 

“The reality is it’s extremely unfortunate because why aren’t they in school? I mean these are little kids that I would have never thought in a million years would be attempting to steal my vehicle. They are the age of my siblings,” Brown told CBS 46.

“They live in this community, they have to. For them to be walking in this community, they live in this generational poverty right now,” he added.

City Council member Antonio Brown asked voters to help him ‘reimagine Atlanta’ as he formally launched his campaign for mayor on May 14. (Photo by Matt Hennie)

‘Reimagine public safety’

Brown launched his mayoral campaign on May 14, calling on voters to help him “reimagine Atlanta” – including the city’s troubled police department. Atlanta and jurisdictions across the region are experiencing a spike in crime.

“I ask that you join me as we begin the journey of reimagining Atlanta together – a journey to create an inclusive ecosystem that reimagines public safety and empowers safe communities, improves our transportation and our crumbling infrastructure, provides quality jobs and affordable housing while recognizing the needs of our most vulnerable residents, our youth, our seniors, our LGBTQ+ community, our working middle class and our unsheltered population,” Brown said.

As a city council member, Brown introduced legislation to create a city Department of Public Safety & Wellness to coordinate public safety and non-emergency response efforts. 

On Wednesday, he said putting more officers on the streets wouldn’t prevent auto thefts like the one he experienced.

“It’s no matter how many officers you would have put on the street that could have kept this from happening. These are kids that are coming from nothing and they see an opportunity of a Mercedes sitting in front of them and for them to risk their lives to steal this vehicle speaks volumes about their economic condition in this city,” Brown told CBS 46.

In July, a federal grand jury indicted Brown on seven fraud charges. Among the allegations is that Brown faked loan documents to buy a Mercedes and a Range Rover. He spent $24,742 on a 2008 Mercedes C300 and $37,748 on a 2008 Range Rover, according to the indictment. The vehicle stolen on Wednesday was a 2016 Mercedes 450 GLE.

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