Jacksonville police: Woman carjacked outside Lakewood gym

LA Fitness manager says they plan to install new cameras by end of November

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – There's a neighborhood crime alert in Jacksonville's Lakewood area, where a woman was carjacked in the parking lot of a gym.

It happened about 5:20 a.m. Nov. 2 in the LA Fitness parking lot near the intersection of University Boulevard and St. Augustine Road.

According to a Jacksonville Sheriff's Office report, the woman was getting out of her car when a silver SUV carrying three men wearing bandanas pulled up, and one of the men demanded her keys.

She told police she didn't know if he had a gun, so she threw her keys at him and watched as he drove off in her car. 

There’s one security camera in the area, but News4Jax learned the camera was pointed in another direction.

The woman told News4Jax by phone Wednesday that she's still frightened by what happened. She said she's planning to look at a police photo lineup to try to identify the carjackers.

"It's very concerning," LA Fitness member Heather Keller said. "My husband always tells me to be situationally aware, and that heightens my awareness to be more aware when I get out of the car."

The incident has also left other gym members worried about their own safety.

"I do come here almost every day, and to know that I could have someone come up and try to take my car or something of mine scares me," LA Fitness member Christopher Schuman said. "I'm not of the age to have anything to properly protect me."

LA Fitness managers told News4Jax on Wednesday that they take the safety of their members very seriously and have made plans to have cameras facing the parking lot installed by the end of the week. 

The next day, a manager said the camera installation had been pushed back to Nov. 24, because of new plans to install cameras at all LA Fitness locations -- not just the one in Lakewood. 

The LA Fitness manager said they expect to have the new cameras installed by the end of November.

In the wake of what happened, one employee now walks the parking lot every so often to keep an eye on things.

Though people were inside the gym, when it's dark outside and well-lit inside, the gym's windows facing the parking lot become one-way windows -- so people can see into the gym, but members inside can't see what's happening outside.

"(Now that it's getting) darker earlier, it definitely makes you a little bit more aware when you're coming after work and want to be a lot more careful," LA Fitness member Tammy Bywaters told News4Jax.

Also at that time in the morning, there's anywhere between two and four off-duty law enforcement officers who work out at the gym. If they had seen something, they would have likely intervened.

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