Atlanta councilman wouldn’t press charges against ‘little kids’ who stole his car

City Councilman Antonio Brown speaks at a press conference last year.  STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

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City Councilman Antonio Brown speaks at a press conference last year. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

The Atlanta city councilman whose car was stolen Wednesday said he wouldn’t want charges to be levied against the juveniles who sped off with the Mercedes.

“These are little kids … making poor decisions in their lives right now that I think are a reflection of the environment and conditions in which they live,” Councilman Antonio Brown said in a virtual press conference Thursday morning. “I’m not going to press charges on kids to impact them for the rest of their lives.”

Brown’s 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE 450 has not been recovered and the people who took it haven’t been caught, according to police. But if they are, he hopes the juveniles are put into a diversion program “to help rehabilitate them so they don’t think crimes like this are OK,” said Brown, who is running for mayor on a platform of “reimagining” public safety and policing.

ExploreCity councilman’s car stolen after ceremony in NW Atlanta

Brown’s car, which was unlocked, was taken while he spoke to a resident along Verbena Street in the Dixie Hills neighborhood in northwest Atlanta about 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, according to a police report. Brown had attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a Dunkin’ and Baskin-Robbins combination store on Moreland Avenue earlier in the day.

“I was maybe, at most, 4 feet away from my vehicle,” Brown said. He said four “kids” walked up — he estimated they were between 7 to 12 years old. “My immediate reaction wasn’t, ‘Hey, they’re going to steal my vehicle.’”

But Brown said they jumped in the car from the passenger side and started it. Like many modern vehicles, Brown’s car has keyless push-to-start ignition. He tried to stop them with the resident, grabbing onto the car, but he let go as they drove away.

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Atlanta City Councilman Antonio Brown poses for photo a with his supporters following a press conference where he announced his bid for mayor of Atlanta on Friday, May 14, 2021. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer/Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Atlanta City Councilman Antonio Brown poses for photo a with his supporters following a press conference where he announced his bid for mayor of Atlanta on Friday, May 14, 2021. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer/Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

caption arrowCaption
Atlanta City Councilman Antonio Brown poses for photo a with his supporters following a press conference where he announced his bid for mayor of Atlanta on Friday, May 14, 2021. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer/Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer/Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

“By that time, the kid had already put the car in drive and was continuing to hit on the gas pedal and move the car forward and flee the scene,” he said.

Brown said he immediately called 911 and was put on hold for about five minutes. He said it was about 45 minutes before Atlanta police arrived on the scene, but officers worked diligently once they were there. They were able to find Brown’s phone, which had been in the car, on a nearby street using the Find My iPhone app.

ExploreAtlanta City Councilman Antonio Brown officially launches campaign for mayor

“The vehicle was tracked and pinged at various locations including in the city of East Point,” the police report states, but it has not been found.

The theft comes within weeks of Brown announcing his mayoral campaign amid an increase in violent crime across the city. Brown threw his hat into the contentious race May 14, joining the ranks of Councilman Andre Dickens, attorney Sharon Gay and City Council President Felicia Moore, who previously pointed to Atlanta’s “out of control” crime as her motivation for running.

The surge has led to an outcry from rattled residents and business owners and put pressure on public officials to put the epidemic of violence at the forefront of their efforts.

Brown kicked off his run for mayor with a pledge to “reimagine” public safety and policing in Atlanta. Earlier this year, he sponsored a City Council ordinance to look into the feasibility of restructuring Atlanta’s public safety agencies and creating a new city department focused on “wellness.”

The councilman was also among the seven councilmembers who voted in support of an ordinance to withhold $73 million of the Atlanta Police Department’s budget until Bottoms’ administration drafted a plan to reinvent the culture of policing in the city. The ordinance, which was narrowly voted down, came in the aftermath of mass demonstrations nationwide sparked by the deaths of numerous Black people at the hands of police officers.

— Staff reporter Asia Simone Burns contributed to this report.

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