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An eyewitness describes the attempted abduction of a toddler

By Greg Hanlon
Updated September 05, 2015 09:20 AM
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Credit: Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty

“Let go of my baby! Let go of my daughter!”

These are the cries Tara Young heard when she witnessed the attempted abduction of a toddler aboard a Washington, D.C., metro train Wednesday morning, she recalls to PEOPLE.

Young regularly takes the metro to her job in the nuclear energy industry and says the suspect, now identified as 48-year-old D.C. resident Monique McKnight, was acting erratically on the orange line train that day. Between the Rosslyn and Foggy Bottom stops, Young says McKnight reached into a stroller and began to clutch a toddler.

Instantly, both the mother and the 3-year-old child reacted by “screaming and crying,” says Young. “It was a very aggressive grab. It happened very fast.”

Young suspected from McKnight’s loud, aggressive demeanor that she suffered from mental illness, and she was right: The Washington Post reported from court documents that McKnight has a nearly decade-long history of psychiatric issues and cocaine use. Over the years, she has been committed to three treatment facilities in the city.

“It was like this woman saw something that intrigued her and she just grabbed it,” Young says, contrasting the episode with a premeditated abduction.

An instant after McKnight reached into the stroller, a man restrained her, Young says. Two more men followed, pinning down her arms. “When she was restrained, she seemed extremely shocked and scared,” Young says.

Meanwhile, Young and another woman sought help over the intercom system, but were having a difficult time communicating with the metro personnel: “It was the worst intercom system, ever,” she says.

When the train pulled into the Foggy Bottom station, the men continued to subdue McKnight, and the quartet got off the train. So did the mother and her daughter, as well as Young, who spoke to the mother to calm her down.

Police who were stationed on another train arrived two minutes later and arrested McKnight. The Washington Post reported that McKnight, at a Thursday hearing, was ordered to undergo a psychiatric evaluation and will remain in the Washington, D.C. jail until her hearing next Wednesday. The paper also reported that McKnight made repeated outbursts during the hearing and was escorted out of the room.

Young says the mother calmed down while they talked on the metro platform that morning. “She was fine and the daughter was totally fine – she won’t even remember this, probably,” Young says.

“But the mom will probably be scarred for life. I’d never go on the metro again.”

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