STUART, Fla. — Police in Stuart are asking for the public's help to find the people responsible for a violent carjacking that occurred Monday night.
Investigators said a group of thieves stole a car after robbing the owner and hitting a female passenger in the back on the head with a gun.
The carjacking happened outside Crunch Fitness on Southeast Federal Highway.
Police said a young couple were inside a Dodge Charger. They parked on the east side of the parking lot near the Regency Square entrance.
A car with three or four people inside, according to police, pulled up behind the Charger, blocking it in. One masked male got out of the car and approached the owner of the Charger.
"He told him, 'Give me your car and money or I'll shoot you," Stuart police Lt. Michael Gerwan said.
Police said the man's girlfriend was struck when she tried to help her boyfriend.
The thieves then fled down Interstate 95, tailed by Martin County sheriff's deputies and Stuart police officers. The Florida Highway Patrol, Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office, Palm Beach Gardens police and Jupiter police were also notified.
"We were told speeds were anywhere from 120 to 150 mph," Gerwan said.
A police report said the thieves hit a car in Palm Beach County and abandoned the car in North Palm Beach.
Gerwan said detectives believe the suspects are from South Florida.
"We in Martin County now know there's a crime wave down in the southern counties pushing their way up," Gerwan said.
Investigators said there have now been three carjackings in Stuart in two weeks.
The other two carjackings occurred at the following locations:
- Chase Bank, at 2280 SE Federal Highway, on March 20
- The Crossings at Indian Run, at 3800 SE Gatehouse Circle, on March 25
Police said someone was hurt in two of the three carjackings.
"This is still a small town, very quiet," Gerwan said. "It's unusual for this to happen."
Stuart police officers started their shift outside Crunch Fitness on Tuesday night and will be increasing patrols in the area.
"We're going to do extra heavy patrols in here. This incident has got our attention," Gerwan said. "We want people to understand they're still safe here and we're doing everything we can to bring the suspects to justice."
Gerwan said seasoned criminals can read body language and tell if someone is distracted, timid and vulnerable.
"What we tell people is whenever you go to a parking lot, already map it out before you hit your destination walking to your car. Be aware of your surroundings. Walk with confidence," Gerwan said. "If anything seems out of place, go back inside call 911 and a police officer will respond."
Anyone with information about the case is asked to call Stuart police or Treasure Coast Crime Stoppers.