Jacksonville tesla carjacking
Courtesy Action News Jax

A recent carjacking attempt in Jacksonville, Florida shows us the value of situational awareness, quick thinking, and fast cars.

Draper Younce, a Naval officer, got a nasty surprise in a parking lot. A man ran from around the side of an apartment building and pointed a handgun at him while he was sitting in his Tesla Model 3 talking on his phone.

“The first thing I said was, ‘No, man, I’m not getting out of the car,’” Younce told FOX Business. “And the second thing I said … ‘this is a Tesla, you can’t steal a Tesla.’”

What the would-be robber didn’t know was that the whole thing was caught on the vehicle’s eight cameras. While the cameras were originally added to Tesla vehicles for use with the car’s driver assist technology, they can also be set to act as an advanced multi-angle dash camera system. The car can record everything that happens around it.

Younce told media outlets like Fox Business and Action News Jax that he waited for the right moment to escape, and the car’s unique features gave it to him. When the carjacker attempted to grab the door handle, he found that he couldn’t because they’re flush with the car when it’s locked. This brief moment of confusion caused the robber to point his gun away from Younce briefly. That’s when the driver decided to launch the vehicle like a SpaceX rocket.

The robber managed to get one shot off, striking the car’s B-pillar. The shot narrowly missed striking Younce. At that point, footage from the vehicle’s rear camera shows the carjacker fleeing the scene.

While the vehicle can be set to continuously record, it doesn’t save the footage to a memory card or hard drive unless the driver tells it to do so. In Younce’s case, he programmed it to save footage when he honks the horn, which he quickly did once he was out of harm’s way.

Younce is offering a cash reward and hopes that by sharing the footage, someone can identify the robber. More information is available on his Twitter feed.

What We Can Learn

Situational awareness is key. The sooner you see someone advancing on you with a gun, the sooner you’re able to take action. In this case, seeing the man approaching in the mirror could have led to the owner driving away sooner.

By not seeing the carjacker until he was already in his face pointing a gun at him, the owner was only able to narrowly avoid being shot. The situation could have been much worse had the shot gone just a few inches to the right.

Don’t forget to train for situations like this. Start by visualizing what you would do during an attempted carjacking, then find safe ways to practice dealing with the situation on the range.

In some situations, you’ll want to drive off if at all possible, especially if you have kids in the vehicle. If that’s not possible, you’d be better off fighting or letting them take the car. If you do choose to fight, make sure you have an opening, like a moment where the thief is distracted and briefly turns away.

One oddball non-lethal tip I got from a guy who had been robbed several times in New York is to use dollar bills like fighter jets use flares and chaff. Thieves are looking for a quick buck, and the guy would carry $10 in singles in his pocket. If someone presented a knife or gun, he’d throw the money on the ground to distract the thief and run while the thief stooped down to grab the cash. In every case, the thieves went for the money.

Having a fast, technologically sophisticated car doesn’t hurt, either. Hopefully as more vehicles not only go electric, but add cameras for accident avoidance and self-driving capability (and also capture every move a potential carjacker makes), more of them think twice before trying it. But hope isn’t a plan.


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