Carjacking at Walmart Sends Driver Screaming
Victim ran screaming from her station wagon; Bethlehem police officer witnessed theft and identified the accused, according to court records.
There was a carjacking Friday afternoon outside the Bethlehem Township Walmart on Linden Street, and court records say it had several dramatic twists:
- The accused, Matthew Edward Strohl, 26, of East Allen Township, didn’t get far. Police found him across Linden Street from the carjacking scene.
- Strohl led police on a foot chase, running toward Linden Street before police took him into custody.
- Strohl took control of the carjacked vehicle by entering the passenger-side door. The driver, a female, immediately tried to get out but her seat belt was still on. “Somehow it released and she was free from her vehicle,” the records say.
- A Bethlehem city police officer, apparently off-duty, witnessed the carjacking and later identified the suspect as the man who drove away in the woman’s car.
- Strohl’s driver’s license expired in September 2006.
A criminal complaint filed by township Det. Scott Lipare said police received the carjacking call around 4:15 Friday afternoon for the Walmart, 3926 Linden St. (Route 191) in the Bethlehem Square shopping center.
The complaint also said:
- The female driver said she was waiting to park her car – a 1999 Mercury SW (Sable Wagon) – “when suddenly a man jumped into her car on the passenger side door.” Saying she “got scared,” the woman described how she was able to get out even though her seat belt was still on.
- She said she started screaming and the man who jumped in drove away. She described him as short (the complaint lists Strohl as 5-feet-2 and 180 pounds) with facial hair and wearing a dark jacket and hat.
- Officer Edward Fox, who responded to the carjacking call, found the vacant car nearby – at the shopping center entrance by the Burger King.
- Meanwhile, Bethlehem city Officer Samuel Del Rosario was in the Walmart parking lot and witnessed the incident. He said he heard a woman screaming in front of his vehicle and saw her jumping out of a vehicle while it was still moving. He saw a man move from the passenger seat to the driver’s seat and drive away.
- Del Rosario also said the woman was yelling “he had all her belongings.”
- Lipare and Officer Mark Lichty were checking the parking lot of the Kmart, which anchors a shopping center on the other side of Linden Street, when they saw a man matching the description of the alleged carjacker.
- The man started running toward Linden when he saw the officers but did not get far and was taken into custody.
- Del Rosario identified the man as the person who drove away in the woman’s car. The woman, meanwhile, viewed the man as he stood outside a police cruiser and identified him as the man who entered her car and drove away.
Strohl, of 6935 Weaversville Road, was charged with robbery of a motor vehicle, theft by unlawful taking and receiving stolen property – all felonies.
He was arraigned later Friday by on-duty District Judge John Capobianco of Nazareth and committed to Northampton County Prison in lieu of $5,000 bail.