SEATTLE — She was beaten and had her car stolen at gunpoint while her dog was in the back seat. Now, a Seattle woman is sharing her story in the hopes of bringing awareness to rising crime rates in the downtown area.
Every day, hundreds of tourists and locals alike stop by the McDonald’s on Fifth Avenue for a quick bite to eat.
For the last 20 years, Gena Apo has been one of those customers, and thanks to the restaurant’s proximity to the Space Needle, she never felt unsafe.
That changed on Jan. 18.
Apo made the rounds at the drive-thru (as she had done a number of times in the past) and pulled into one of the stalls in the parking lot to get situated before heading home.
“It was completely lit up, it was completely packed full of cars,” she said as she described her early-evening surroundings.
Then a woman approached the front of her parked car and asked for directions to the Woodland Park Zoo.
Little did Apo know that a man wearing a dark hoodie and mask was sneaking around the back of her vehicle at the same time.
“He was like, ‘Here’s the deal and this is how it’s gonna go,’ and I was like, ‘Excuse me?’” That’s when Apo said the man pulled out a gun and started forcing his way into her car.
“When he put the gun in my face, the first thing he said was, ‘I really don’t want to hurt you,’” Apo said. “The next thing I know, I’m being punched and hit and pulled and kicked.”
Despite a number of witnesses and bystanders who tried to interject, the carjacker could not be stopped. And Apo was left watching as the thief made away with her car and her service dog of nine years, Ella.
“Devastating,” Apo said as her eyes filled with tears. “[Ella] was barking like crazy, her window was half down, she was trying to get out the window, she was barking the entire time.”
“I was like, how can you be so heartless and so cruel?” she said. “As they’re driving off, you have that nightmare of what are they going to do. Is he going to shoot her, you know? Is he going to hurt her? Am I ever going to see her again?”
Apo was then taken to Harborview Medical Center for help.
A short while later, a doorbell video caught the carjacker ditching Ella in a neighborhood off Eighth Avenue NE and Revenna Street in Seattle.
He took off in the car once again, and Ella found her way to a neighbor’s porch. That neighbor took a quick photo of Ella and posted it to a Facebook group for lost and found pets.
“People found Ella on King County lost pets on Facebook within a matter of 20 minutes of her being on there,” said Apo.
Meanwhile, a police pursuit was already underway. King County Sheriff’s deputies followed the car onto I-5 where they used a pit maneuver to bring it to a stop. KCSO arrested the suspect, but Gena’s car was totaled in the process.
“The car, you know, you can replace the car, but you can’t replace her,” Apo smiled. “I’m just happy to have her back.”
And while Gena and Ella are healing physically, the emotional pain is still there.
“Just be blessed for what you have, seriously, because it can go away in a second,” she said.
Gena is a handmade crafts vendor who relies on her vehicle for transport and to sell her goods. She has also used her vehicle to give her elderly neighbors free rides to doctor’s appointments since the onset of the pandemic to help them avoid public transit, a service she can no longer provide.
Unfortunately, Gena’s car insurance policy had recently lapsed, and she does not have the financial means to purchase a new car. A fundraising page has been started to help Gena buy a new car.
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