Manhunt underway for ‘armed and dangerous’ suspect who tried to kidnap 2 joggers

The attempted kidnapping of two female joggers at gunpoint Tuesday morning sparked a 4th of July manhunt that disrupted activities at the U.S. National Whitewater Center on one of its busiest days of the year.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police were looking for a man considered “armed and dangerous” after finding his abandoned car in northwest Charlotte not far from the Whitewater Center.

As holiday revelers flocked to the center late Tuesday morning, so did police. Multiple patrol cars roared down Interstate 85 and a police helicopter circled overhead.

Walking and biking trails were temporarily closed as police searched the densely-wooded area between I-85 and the recreation hub, along the Catawba River. Signs closing the trails went up as officers in patrol cars, on motorbikes and an off-road cart converged on the center’s parking lot.

The center was holding a special “4th of July Festival,” with music, yoga, water activities and fireworks planned. One employee said planned concerts and other activities would go ahead as scheduled. Despite the commotion, hundreds of people, including families and their pets, enjoyed a sunny day at the Whitewater Center.

Some people who talked to the Observer said they heard of police activity on their way in to the Whitewater Center but decided to come anyway to enjoy their Fourth of July.

Trails re-opened in the early afternoon.

Later, police towed a burned-out 1999 Mercedes that they’d found not far from the Center on Performance Road. Police say the car, which had been stolen in west Charlotte, had been driven by a man who accosted two female joggers in separate incidents Tuesday.

Police said at 7:48 a.m. one woman told them she was running in the 15000 block of York Road when a car pulled alongside. She said the driver pointed a gun at her and demanded she get in. She was able to run away and call 911.

About an hour later, the same man approached another woman jogging in the 5900 block of Dixie River Road. He pointed a gun at her and told her to get inside. The woman flagged down a passerby who called 911.

Neither woman was injured.

Police said they’re looking for a light-skinned Hispanic male, about 20-30 years old. He was driving the Mercedes that had been reported stolen on July 1 in Charlotte.

An initial search for the suspect predominantly took place on the southeastern side of Whitewater Center property and then mainly focused around the interstate, not on Whitewater Center premises.

Anyone with information is asked to call 911.

Jim Morrill: 704-358-5059, @jimmorrill