Police ID woman killed after stolen SUV crashes into DC building; suspect charged with murder, kidnapping, carjacking

D.C. police said the vehicle crashed into the Northwest building shortly after it was stolen. (Courtesy 7 News)

A woman is facing charges after police say she carjacked an SUV with a passenger inside from in front of a D.C. hospital and then crashed into a building Monday afternoon.

The 55-year-old passenger, Leslie Marie Gaines, of Northeast D.C., died following the incident, police said.

The suspect, Kayla Kenisha Brown, 22, of Southeast, was ordered held without bond after her first appearance in D.C. Superior Court on Tuesday afternoon. Earlier, D.C. police said she was facing charges of carjacking, kidnapping and felony murder.

What led up to the carjacking?

Court documents lay out the series of events leading up to the carjacking.

About an hour and a half before the reported carjacking, D.C. police responded to an apartment after receiving a 911 call where a caller asked for help before the line disconnected. When officers arrived, Brown’s parents told them that she had possibly taken a drug with a man she had met on Instagram and that she’d been acting “crazy” for days, according to court documents.

After finding Brown’s blood pressure and heart rate were unusually high, she was driven to Washington Hospital Center in an ambulance.

However, officers left the emergency room just around 12:45 p.m. and at some point, according to police, she left her family.

Meanwhile, Gaines, the passenger of the carjacked vehicle, had just finished a physical therapy session at the hospital’s rehab center when she reportedly began feeling sick, according to court documents.

Gaines’ daughter drove her over to the hospital’s emergency room. The daughter parked the SUV outside and left Gaines in the vehicle, with the keys inside and the engine running, while she went inside to get help with moving her mother into a wheelchair, according to court documents.

That’s when authorities say Brown entered the SUV, got behind the wheel and drove away with the Gaines still in the passenger seat, according to police.

Around 15 minutes later, Brown was about three miles away driving in the 400 block of 6th Street Northwest in downtown D.C. when she tried to turn onto D Street. Instead, police said she struck a building at 601 D Street Northwest, which is where the U.S. Attorney’s Office for D.C. is located.

A still image from a security camera that authorities say shows Brown attempting to flee from the scene of the crash. (Court documents)

Brown tried to leave the scene on foot but a police officer who saw the crash happen while driving nearby intervened, police said. She was taken into custody.

Gaines was taken to a hospital where she was pronounced dead. Her cause of death is under investigation by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

Police initially described Gaines as an “elderly parent,” but clarified Tuesday that she was 55 years old.

The investigation into the crash continues, police said.

Defense attorney: ‘This is not a carjacking’

In the court appearance on Tuesday, Brown’s attorney, Sylvia Smith, argued that the incident could not be classified as a carjacking because Gaines’ daughter had left her vehicle unattended and didn’t know her vehicle was being taken.

In D.C., a vehicle theft is defined as a carjacking when its in the “immediate possession of the victim,” and when taken by force or threat.

Court documents said the daughter noticed the vehicle gone and a special police officer, who had seen a woman matching Brown’s description drive off in the vehicle, alerted her about what happened.

“The complainant did not see her car, she did not know her car was being taken,” Smith said during court proceedings Tuesday. “That is not immediate actual possession.”

A prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney’s Office retorted that Brown was charged with carjacking because though the driver of the SUV was away from the vehicle at the time Brown stole it, she had left it in her mother’s possession.

The judge held Brown without bond. Brown is expected to next appear in court on Friday.

Get breaking news and daily headlines delivered to your email inbox by signing up here.

© 2024 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

Jessica Kronzer

Jessica Kronzer graduated from James Madison University in May 2021 after studying media and politics. She enjoys covering politics, advocacy and compelling human-interest stories.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up