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Alabama authorities rescued a woman who had been kidnapped at knifepoint after a quick-thinking witness called police—leading to a wild chase and tense stand-off before the suspect was apprehended.
Around 2:45 p.m. Sunday, a witness called Brookside Police to report a kidnapping in progress after seeing a man trying to drag a woman into the woods, according to a statement from police.
The woman was bleeding from the head and face and screaming “Help, he’s gonna kill me!” police said. After the witness stopped, the alleged kidnapper—later identified by police as Sean E. Sanders—forced the woman into a white van and sped off with the witness following behind in pursuit, according to police.
The witness called police and was able to provide authorities with a vehicle description, license plate number and the direction the vehicle was traveling. Two Brookside patrol units saw the van passing an area church and attempted to stop the suspect, but he fled, leading police on a wild chase with more units joining the pursuit.
After blocking the van at Mt. Olive Road, officers saw an “injured female victim bleeding from her head being held against her will” and who had been “forced to the floorboard.” The officers tried to enter the vehicle, but Sanders allegedly fought them off and rammed a police unit as he once again fled in the white van.
Tactical response units were called in to assist and officers were able to bring the van to a stop using a “rolling roadblock” that barricaded the vehicle. Police said Sanders tried to run over a Brookside police officer in a final attempt to flee, but the officer shot into the van, disabling it and ending the chase.
The van came to a stop in the front yard of a nearby house, but the suspect was able to crawl into the back of the van with the victim leading to a tense standoff with police for more than 35 minutes as the woman screamed for help.
Police said the van was equipped with a cage in the back, blankets covering the windows and chains locking the doors from the inside.
Sanders allegedly held the injured woman at knifepoint during the dramatic exchange as officers tried to negotiate with him to surrender, police said.
Fearing the victim was in "immediate danger," Brookside tactical officers ultimately decided to breech the rear of the van and used a taser to subdue Sanders. He was taken into custody while members of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office rescued the terrified victim.
The victim suffered “serious physical injury” to her head and face after she was struck repeatedly by the suspect with a tire iron, police said. She was taken to a local hospital where she is in stable condition.
“These law enforcement officers are true heroes,” Chief Mike Jones said in the statement. “They risked their own safety to save a life today with outstanding restraint, bravery, and professionalism.”
Jones also commended the man who witnessed the abduction and called police.
“The witness who originally reported the kidnapping, that man did a great job," Jones said, according to local station WBRC.
The man’s help was critical to saving the woman’s life, he said.
“Without his vigilance and proactive response we could be investigating a homicide,” Jones said in the department’s statement.
Police said the charges against Sanders are expected to be formally announced as the investigation continues; however, he already has a lengthy criminal history, with previous arrests for assault, kidnapping and drugs, according to authorities.
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