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Girl, 4, Taken in Carjacking Is Found

April 06, 2002|ANDREW BLANKSTEIN and CAROL CHAMBERS | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

A 4-year-old girl was reunited with her parents late Friday, seven hours after she was taken by two men who carjacked her mother's sport utility vehicle outside a Northridge store.

Komal Surani was found safe shortly before 11 p.m., still strapped in her car seat in an industrial section of North Hollywood, by a Los Angeles police car theft unit. She had been missing since 3:45 p.m. when two men assaulted her mother with a screwdriver in the parking lot of Costco at 8810 Tampa Ave. in Northridge and drove off in with the little girl still in the back seat of her mother's 1999 Lexus LX 470.

The suspects were still at large late Friday.

At least 60 volunteers and Los Angeles Police Department personnel had searched a 4-square-mile area of the San Fernando Valley by helicopter, car and on foot, for the 3-foot, 34-pound girl, broadening their search as the night wore on.

The searchers were aided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the California Highway Patrol.

Michelle Breeze of Reseda had just entered the Costco when she heard the mother's screams over the crackle of a security guard's walkie-talkie.

"I heard a bloodcurdling scream, then the store alarm went off," she said. "People said someone stole something. But I knew it was something else when I heard that scream."

The man who took the Lexus is described as 5-foot-8, 20 to 30 years old with a light mustache. He was wearing a yellow baseball cap, a white sweatshirt and dark pants.

Another man, who police believe is an accomplice, picked up the woman's purse after the attack and was last seen driving out of the Costco parking lot in a white SUV following the Lexus.

The mother was walking beside her car when the first man came up behind her and attacked her with a screwdriver, Los Angeles police Cmdr. Michel Moore said.

"The mother had just placed the daughter in the car and was moving around to get into the car when the attack ensued," Moore said. "The suspect was able to get control of the car and drove away with the 4-year-old inside."

Police said they had hoped that the thieves would abandon the vehicle once they realized that they had the child or that they would take her to a safe place such as a hospital and drop her off.

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