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Kidnapped woman rescued after she used secret hand signal to alert staff at gas station

It was a secret hand signal that helped save the life of a 19-year-old woman in Hickman County, Tennessee. The unidentified woman credits her amazing rescue to a TikTok video she had once stumbled upon.


The woman, who came incredibly close to losing her life, had been visiting her brother when her former boyfriend, Johnathon Smith, suddenly showed up.

The 31-year-old offered her a ride and even though she willingly got into his pickup truck, she never could have imagined what was about to unfold.

Per Lt. Mike Doddo, the pair was driving along Highway 100 when they “got into a physical altercation” inside the vehicle. It soon escalated and the woman “asked to be let out” of his truck and was shocked when her ex said, “No.” Doddo added, “(Smith) then threatened to kill her by grabbing a screwdriver and telling her, if he couldn’t have her, nobody could have her.”


The man began recklessly driving his car, passing double yellow lines before arriving at the Twice Daily gas station at Highways 100 and 46 around 1 p.m. on Sunday, April 10. The victim used their brief stay at the store to gesture at the cashier. Remembering the signal to silently alert people when one’s in danger, she placed her palm forward, tucked her thumb in, and closed her four fingers over it the clerk repeated the gesture back to her and the woman nodded saying, “Yes.”

The staff person immediately informed 911 and as Smith was checking out, the cashier began stalling him by saying something was wrong with the register, according to Doddo. At this point, Smith seemingly “catches on to what’s going on” and takes his ex to the truck. Just as the vehicle pulls away, a Hickman County Sheriff’s Office corporal nears and starts following them.

Following a 10-15 minutes speedy (90 miles per hour) pursuit, the truck ultimately crashed into a creek on Bear Valley Road in southern Dickson County. From there, officials launched a pursuit on foot until Smith was ultimately captured and charged with aggravated kidnapping and aggravated domestic assault. Thankfully, the woman was not injured in the process.


The sign used by the woman is known as the Violence at Home #SignalForHelp which can be used in cases of domestic violence or other emergencies. Previously this gesture helped save a 16-year-old girl from North Carolina who had been held in a vehicle against her will. The incident unfolded back in November 2021 when she made the gesture from a passenger-side window, according to Tennessean.

A fellow driver who recognized the signal informed the police and even relayed the license plate of the vehicle. 61-year-old James Herbert Brick was subsequently arrested for abducting the teenager.

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