Edmonton police are asking for the public’s help in identifying a suspect involved in a violent assault and car theft Tuesday night.

The incident happened in the parking lot of Chapters - on 170 Street and 99 Avenue in the Terra Losa neighborhood - around 7:50 p.m.  

Police say a 46-year-old woman was walking with a 7-year-old girl when they were approached by a man, who pointed what appeared to be a handgun at the woman. The man demanded the woman’s purse and car keys, and when the two tried to flee, the man allegedly threw the woman to the ground.

A number of bystanders tried to intervene but the man pointed his weapon at them and they ran for safety.

The man then reportedly ran towards a vehicle that was left running nearby, and threatened the 56-year-old owner before stealing the car and driving away.

"It's certainly surprising that somebody would assault a woman that has her young child with her," said EPS Sgt. Neil Thompson. "That is quite rare. I haven't seen it very often in my career."

The suspect is described as an Aboriginal man in his mid-twenties, with short brown hair and a mustache with a beard or goatee, between 173 cm (5’8”) and 178 cm (5’10”) in height, stocky build, wearing a black jacket with a grey hoodie, blue jeans and white running shoes. It’s believed he is in possession of a black handgun.

The stolen vehicle is a blue 2009 Toyota Venza with the licence plate ZGG 418.

Police say they are actively working to identify the man and locate the stolen vehicle as soon as possible.

If a member of the public believes they’ve spotted the suspect, or the stolen vehicle, they are advised not to approach the man and instead call 911.

Anyone with information about this incident is asked to contact Edmonton police at 780-423-4567 or #377 from a mobile found. Information can be submitted anonymously through Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or online.