It happened just after 10 a.m. and could have turned out even worse - the 37-year-old woman was trying to strap her baby in a car seat when the incident happened.
"We don't know at this point what she could've done to avoid it because we're still investigating the circumstances around it," said Apex Police Chief John Letteney. "However, she was aware of her circumstances, she was aware of the surroundings.
"She did not try and intervene," Letteney continued. "She did the best possible, which is care for her child. She made sure she and her child were safe. The car can be replaced, wallet can be replaced."
The man approached the woman in the parking lot and took her wallet and 2010 Chevy Equinox at gunpoint, police said.
"It is a rare occurrence," Letteney said. "Apex has a historically low crime rate, however when we have an incident like this, it certainly is a concern and there is a victim involved here."
Shoppers were surprised by the brazen daylight crime.
Apex is "just like it always has been, small-town USA," said Allyson Stewart. "You know your neighbors, you ask them to let your dog out, whatever, I would never have thought that to happen here."
Anna Schlosser, another shopper told ABC11 it seemed the victim handled the incident about as well as possible.
"I feel like you just give it to them and take care of it later," Schlosser said. "You have the serial number and license plate ... best case scenario. Just give it to them. Why fight?"
Apex police have just released surveillance pics of the suspect and the victim’s car. The last pic is a stock photo of a similar vehicle. #ABC11 Details here: https://t.co/HiAtxirNeO pic.twitter.com/C1cuUsHgdt— Ed Crump (@EdCrumpABC11) May 24, 2018
Still, Stewart found the bold crime unnerving.
"Unbelievable. I can't imagine coming out and seeing that happen," Stewart said.
The suspect is described as being a short, possibly Hispanic male. He was between the ages of 18 and 30 years old and had acne scarring on his face.
He was wearing a white T-shirt, blue jeans, and dark sneakers.
Police say he was seen a short time earlier inside the Lowe's Home Improvement store prior to the carjacking.
"The best thing to do certainly is be aware," Letteney said. "Be aware of your surroundings. If you see something unusual, call the police. If it's in the evening, park in a well-lit area, park closer to the store rather than in an outlying area of the lot."