A Howard County police lieutenant forgot one of the most basic crime prevention tips: Don't leave your keys in the car's ignition.
From inside a Shell gas station along U.S. 40 in Ellicott City Saturday night, the lieutenant watched another man hop into his 1995 dark-green Camaro and pull away.
The keys had been left in the ignition, and the engine was still running.
The car shouldn't be tough to spot. It carries license plates reading HCP0023, signifying that its owner is a Howard County police officer.
"It even happens to us," said Howard police Sgt. Steven Keller, a department spokesman. "We are human, and we do these things, too."
E. Lawrence Knutson, a shift commander in Howard County's Southern District, had parked his Camaro in the 9000 block of U.S. 40 Saturday around 11:50 p.m., police said.
When he saw the thief start to steal his Camaro, Lieutenant Knutson, a 42-year-old Mount Airy resident, ran outside and tried to open the car door. After a brief struggle, the lieutenant suffered minor injuries while the robber fled in the car.
The Camaro is the latest of almost a dozen auto thefts in the past month along U.S. 40 involving owners who left their keys in the ignition.
Last week, police charged a 38-year-old Ellicott City man with stealing five of those autos, including the June 16 theft of a 1995 Isuzu Rodeo at the same Shell gas station.
Since the thefts began, police have been issuing regular warnings reminding drivers not to leave their keys in the ignition. Lieutenant Knutson was not interested in being interviewed about the theft, Sergeant Keller said.
The robber is described as a 24- to 26-year-old black male, 6 feet tall, weighing about 190 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes. He was wearing a green shirt and shorts.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Howard County Police Department at 313-3200.