A University of West Georgia student was able to safely escape from a terrifying kidnapping, all thanks to her quick thinking.
Jaila Gladden recently shared her story with BuzzFeed News in the hopes of helping others who may find themselves in similar situations one day.
Gladden, a resident of Carrollton, Georgia, left her apartment on the night of September 4, 2017, to buy medicine and tea from a nearby Kroger. After she left the store and was headed back to her car, a man asked her for a lighter and she replied that she didn't have one. Then, once she got to her vehicle, the unthinkable happened: she felt a knife pressing against her abdomen. It was the same man from earlier.
In the blink of an eye, Gladden's normal night had turned into a nightmare. Her assailant, later identified as a man named Timothy Wilson, instructed her to get into the car, and drove them both to the parking lot of an abandoned church, where he raped her.
Wilson later revealed his plan for the evening: driving to Michigan and robbing a convenience store on the way there. When he ordered Gladden to direct him to the nearest one, she insisted that she needed to use her phone to look up directions. Her quick thinking worked; once she had her phone in hand, she turned down her screen's brightness and surreptitiously shared her location with her boyfriend, Tamir Bryant, via text. When Bryant asked why she was in Atlanta, Gladden responded, "Kid napped."
"Stop playing rn," Bryant wrote back. "I'm heading to the police station."
"In god," Gladden wrote.
Throughout the course of the night, Gladden was able to continue secretly texting information to her boyfriend, including the fact that she'd been taken in her own car, what kind of weapon her assailant had, and where he was headed next. While Wilson did eventually take Gladden's phone away from her again, her boyfriend had already contacted the authorities and help was on the way.
Gladden's car was soon spotted by a local police officer; when Wilson realized he'd been spotted, he sped away and caused a four-car collision. Gladden was able to get away while Wilson fled the scene of the accident. He was arrested 10 hours later and now faces charges of kidnapping, hijacking a motor vehicle, aggravated assault, rape, aggravated sodomy, false imprisonment, and aggravated assault against a police officer.
"If this victim did not have her phone and did not think quickly she may not have been as lucky," a spokesperson for the Carrollton police told BuzzFeed.
Gladden was able to escape to safety, and now she's sharing her story in the hopes of helping others and inspiring positive change. Over the course of the night, Wilson had considered robbing a Kroger, but ultimately decided not to because there was a security guard present. Gladden told BuzzFeed that what she went through could have been prevented if the Kroger location she visited on that fateful night had had better security in their parking lot.
"He's taken a lot away from my life and it doesn't need to happen again," she said. "It shouldn't have happened in the first place."