Councilman Antonio Brown was attending a ribbon-cutting ceremony at an event in northeast Atlanta around noon when at least four kids jumped into his car and took off, FOX 5 of Atlanta reported.
"You don’t immediately think, ‘Oh, these kids are going to steal my car,’" Brown said, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The incident occurred amid a recent crime wave in the city. Brown, who joined the city's mayoral race less than three weeks ago, is running on a campaign of "reimagining public safety," the paper reported.
Last year, he voted in support of an ordinance to withhold $73 million from the budget of the Atlanta Police Department. The ordinance was narrowly voted down.
Brown on Thursday denied to Fox News that he ever supported "defunding" police, but added, "I support reimagining public safety as I’ve always stated in every public and private conversation on this issue."
Brown said the thieves jumped in his vehicle Wednesday after he got out to speak with community leader Ben Norman. He noted his white Mercedes-Benz coupe has keyless push-to-start ignition and he failed to realize it had been started, reports said.
The councilman described the kids as being between ages 6 and 12, FOX 5 reported.
"One kid was in the driver’s seat. Ben attempted to open the door to get him out of the car. He fought with Ben. I then engaged and tried to get him out of the car. The three other kids were trying to figure out how to get in the car or stay out of the car. He started to hit on the gas," Brown said.
Brown added that he held on to the car in an attempt to stop them and was dragged about a block down the road before letting go.
"As he started to speed up, and I knew that if I had not let go, I knew I probably could have killed myself because he was going so fast, I would have started to tumble. And I would have hurt him," the councilman said.
Brown doesn't plan on filing charges against the kids, who he says acted out of desperation, Atlanta's WSB-TV reported.
"This is a generational poverty issue. These kids, it’s 12:30 in the afternoon. Why aren’t they in school? Why aren’t we enforcing systems to ensure that if they are not in school, they’re in recreational centers?" he said.
Atlanta police are investigating.
Brown is under indictment on federal fraud charges related to alleged incidents that occurred in the years prior to him winning the council seat in 2019, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.