A woman was grabbed by the neck and almost abducted near Potomac Mills Thursday night, Prince William County police said.
The 34-year-old victim, who had just finished working, was standing next to her car in the area of Potomac Mills Circle and Nazarene Way in Woodbridge where employees park just before 9:30 p.m. when she was approached by a man asking for directions. As they spoke, the man grabbed the victim and began to choke her, continuing to do so as he forced her to the ground.
The man demanded the victim's keys and tried to force her into the backseat of her vehicle, police said. Following a struggle, the man ran from the area.
The woman suffered minor injuries.
"It's one of our more violent and bold incidents that we've had of this magnitude, especially between two people who we haven't been able to confirm their relationship, if any," Prince William County police Officer Jonathan Perok said.
Employees who leave the mall after dark told News4 it's very dark in the lot and they try to go in groups.
"The safety of our shoppers and employees is our top priority," Potomac Mills General Manager Sam Hosn said in a statement. "Potomac Mills has a comprehensive security program, which includes working closely with the Prince William County Police Department and Virginia State Police, a roving security team with a fleet of assorted vehicles, 24-hour police presence and ongoing merchant and employee education. We will continue to cooperate fully as the local police continue their investigation of this incident."
"It just goes to show that we do need to beef up our police staffing plan," Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart told Northern Virginia Bureau reporter David Culver. "We need to hire more police officers in Prince William County."
Last week, addressing a series of recent violence, Stewart said there should be 200 more police officers, given the population.
"For years, our violent crime rate in Prince William County has been declining, but just over the last couple years, it has started to edge back up. We're very nervous that this is the beginning of a new trend toward increased violence," Stewart said.
The county used to hire 20-25 new officers each year, Stewart said.
"The county executive's proposed budget only has five new police officers for this upcoming year," he said. "That's clearly not enough."
Investigators described the suspect as a Hispanic male, between 20 and 25 years old. He's 5 feet 5 inches tall, has a thin build and short black hair. Police said he was last seen wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt, dark pants, and a black beanie-style cap.