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A 16-year-old North Carolina girl, who had allegedly been kidnapped, was rescued after she covertly used hand gestures to alert a stranger that she was in danger, authorities said.
James Herbert Brick, 61, was arrested by county authorities in Kentucky in connection with the suspected abduction. He was charged with first-degree unlawful imprisonment and first offense possession of child pornography.
On Nov. 4, Brick was apprehended after the 16-year-old girl signaled a passing motorist using emergency hand signals popularized on TikTok to communicate she was “in distress,” according to the Laurel County Sheriff’s Office.
“The complainant was behind the vehicle and noticed a female passenger in the vehicle making hand gestures that are known on the social media platform "TikTok" to represent violence at home — I need help — domestic violence,” the Laurel Sheriff's Office said in a Facebook post.
The driver, who was traveling southbound on Interstate 75 near London, Kentucky, later called 911 and tipped off dispatchers to the suspected abduction. He reported the unidentified passenger was traveling in a silver Toyota.
"It just looked like she was waving at people, he had no idea that she was putting out a distress signal," Gilbert Acciardo, a public information officer for the Laurel County Sheriff’s Office, told Kentucky television station WHAS-TV.
After pulling off at an exit, Acciardo said Brick was pulled over by county investigators.
"Fortune of lady luck, the victim vehicle got off at exit 41, our guys were waiting at the top of the ramp," the sheriff’s spokesperson added. "We had one cruiser get in behind the vehicle. We had another cruiser get in behind the vehicle. We boxed it in, it literally could not go anywhere.”
Authorities later confirmed the unidentified passenger had previously been reported missing by her family from Asheville, North Carolina.
"A check through NCIC confirmed that she was a reported missing person,” the statement added.
Since her family reported her missing, the teenager disclosed she and Brick had traversed multiple states, including North Carolina, Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee. The 16-year-old added that they’d left Ohio after Brick’s family discovered she was a minor and was allegedly being held against her will. She told investigators she then began attempting to “get motorists attention to call 911” using emergency hand signals that have been widely shared on social media.
Law enforcement also seized Brick’s mobile phone, which allegedly contained media depicting a juvenile girl in a sexual manner. The FBI and the Kentucky State Police also assisted in the investigation.
Brick is from Cherokee, North Carolina, officials said. No additional information was released by authorities this week regarding the investigation.
The 61-year-old was booked into the Laurel County correctional center following his arrest, according to online jail records. He’s being held on a $10,000 cash bond. Brick’s next court date is scheduled for Nov. 9 at 11 a.m. It’s unclear if he’s obtained legal representation in the pending case.
The Laurel County Sheriff’s Office wasn't immediately available when contacted by Oxygen.com for comment on Monday.
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