Missing teen rescued after making hand gesture she learned to signal for help

A 16-year-old girl from Asheville, North Carolina was reported missing by her parents last Tuesday. Just two days later, a motorist recognized the teen making a hand signal indicating she was in distress and called 911. 

The Laurel County Sheriff’s Office posted a statement on Friday that reads, “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 ‘Tik Tok’ to represent violence at home – I need help – domestic violence.”

The one-handed sign is a gesture someone can use when they are in distress, according to the Canadian Women’s foundation. To make the signal, the individual holds their hand up with their palm facing out, tucks their thumb into their hand, and closes their fingers to trap their thumb. Police told a CNN affiliate that the teen learned the hand gesture on TikTok.

The person who called 911 had followed the vehicle for seven miles while giving information to police. Eventually, police were able to pull the car over and rescue the girl. The suspect, identified as 61-year old James Herbert Brick of Cherokee, North Carolina, had taken the teen from North Carolina to Ohio where he has relatives. Once his relatives found out she was a minor and had been reported missing, they left the state, according to police. Brick was arrested at the traffic stop.

“Our guys were waiting at the top of the ramp. We had one cruiser getting behind the vehicle. We had another cruiser get in front of the vehicle we boxed it in,” said Sherriff’s Deputy Gilbert Acciardo. He also noted, “We don’t know how long coming down the interstate from Ohio that she had been doing this to other motorists hoping that they would notice that she was in distress, but finally someone did recognize.”

Brick has been charged with unlawful imprisonment and possession of a matter of sex performance by a minor over 12 but under 18. 




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