LIBERTYVILLE, Ill. (WGN) — The parents of a toddler who was kidnapped during a carjacking earlier this year are suing the automaker.
The incident happened in Libertyville, Illinois, in February when Taylor Shepherd, who was pregnant at the time, was returning home.
Shepherd explained to Nexstar’s WGN that as she went to retrieve her 2-year-old son from the car, an assailant pulled up behind her 2021 Volkswagen Atlas, assaulted her, and knocked her to the ground.
According to the lawsuit, the assailant then stole the Volkswagen Atlas, with the 2-year-old boy inside, and fled — running Shepherd over and causing serious injuries to her pelvis and extremities.
Shepherd was still able to call 911, the Lake County Sheriff’s Office said earlier this year.
Attorneys for the family claim Volkswagen refused to assist authorities in tracking the car until payment of their tracking system was paid and activated.
The lawsuit claims a deputy from the Lake County Sheriff’s Office contacted Volkswagen and requested the GPS tracking location data from the vehicle and explained the “extremely exigent” circumstances and that the situation was “life or death.”
However, the deputy was informed that the vehicle’s free trial period for the Car-Net services had expired and that a subscription of $150 was required before the location of the vehicle could be provided.
“The detective had to work out getting a credit card number and then call the representative back to pay the $150 and at that time the representative provided the GPS location of the vehicle,” sheriff’s office Deputy Chief Christopher Covelli told The Chicago Sun-Times. By the time the payment was sorted out, however, the GPS location was no longer necessary.
The family said the automakers’ demand for payment and refusal to cooperate with authorities delayed the search for their abducted child and caused Shepherd and her husband extreme emotional distress. The family remains in therapy over the incident, lawyers add.
Ultimately, someone working at a Waukegan business reported seeing two vehicles enter a parking lot before abandoning a small child less than an hour later, Nexstar’s WTVO reported. That person was able to bring the child, Shepherd’s son Isaiah, inside. The stolen SUV was later tracked to a different parking lot.
In a statement released last February, Volkswagen said it has a procedure in place with a third-party provider for Car-Net support services to help with emergency requests from law enforcement.
“Unfortunately, in this instance, there was a serious breach of the process,” the statement read. “We are addressing the situation with the parties involved.”
Shepherd and her husband are now suing Volkswagen and Verizon Connect, which provides the wireless to power Car-Net.
“For what Isaiah has been through, I think this is the least I can fight for,” Shepherd said of the reason they’re seeking monetary compensation which “exceeds $50,000,” according to court filings.
WGN reached out to the companies involved for comment but has not yet heard back.
Shepherd now calls her son, Noah, who she was pregnant with at the time, a “real-life miracle baby.”