A man who had his BMW stolen while showing it to a potential buyer he met through a Craigslist ad has a message for the thief: “You are forgiven.”
But the seller, who requested that his identity not be revealed, said he still wants his black 2008 BMW 535 back.
It all went down Thursday evening on a dark block near 28th Street and Ewing Avenue S., not far from Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis. The thief arranged for the seller to bring by the vehicle, which was advertised for $10,500. With keys in the ignition and the BMW running, the seller showed the potential buyer the engine. As he closed the hood, the suspect shot pepper spray in the seller’s eyes, hopped in the vehicle and drove off.
“I was in shock,” the victim said. “When I realized what was going on, my eyes were burning and I slipped on the ice as I stumbled to a house to call 911. I had this odd feeling, wondering if I did something wrong.”
In an updated posting on Craigslist, the victim described the suspect, who went by the name James, as unshaven and about 5 feet 10 inches, 190 pounds. He also offered a reward for anybody with information about the car’s whereabouts.
“Do not buy this car as it was stolen from me, please if you see it alert the authorities immediately,” the revised posting under the heading “Update: STOLEN! Carjacked! Violent buyer stole car.”
His plea continued: “I don’t have much, but if the guy gets arrested I would be able to come up with $500 to say thank you.”
The victim said he has received a few e-mails saying the BMW may have been spotted in an empty parking lot or vacant lot in north Minneapolis. As of Tuesday morning, the vehicle had not been recovered nor had anybody been arrested, said John Elder, a spokesman for the Minneapolis Police Department.
The National Insurance Crime Bureau earlier this year issued a warning to people using the popular online market place to sell vehicles to conduct face-to-face transactions in locations that are brightly lit and highly public. The Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office has three Swap Spots, designated public places where residents may exchange items that they have purchased or sold online.
“People should look for places that deter crime,” Elder said.
That’s advice the seller says he should have followed. The seller said he’s done several transactions in the past and may have gotten too comfortable at meeting up with potential buyers.
“He did a good job setting me up,” the victim said. “I did all the no-nos.”
The victim, who got treatment for the pepper spray, said he was lucky that he lost only a car and in the process learned a valuable lesson.
“Never meet with somebody on their terms or go to the address they give,” he said. “Take control and set up the transaction. Go to a lit area and bring somebody with you.”
As for his words for the thief. “There can be redemption and grace for everyone.”
Tim Harlow covers traffic and transportation issues in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, and likes to get out of the office, even during rush hour. He also covers the suburbs in northern Hennepin and all of Anoka counties, plus breaking news and weather.
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