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911 call released from TikTok hand signal rescue in Laurel County

Girl Saved by TikTok hand sign - November 5, 2021
Girl Saved by TikTok hand sign - November 5, 2021
Published: Nov. 8, 2021 at 5:56 PM EST
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LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. (WKYT) - We’re hearing the 911 call about a missing teenager found in Kentucky after a driver recognized a TikTok symbol that meant call for help.

A man driving south on I-75 Thursday afternoon told dispatchers in Laurel County he first noticed the girl making the gesture two counties away, but could not connect to 911. After making a connection, less than 10 minutes later, that car was pulled over.

“We’re just crossing into Laurel County, exit 49, this female in the passenger side, brunette, motioned for help, call 911,” the man said.

He said he was about to run out of gas, but he followed the car for about eight miles giving the dispatcher critical information for the sheriff’s deputies to make a stop. This is all because he recognized the distress signal from the girl that originated on TikTok. The signal is a hand up, palm out, with the thumb tucked then folding the fingers down.

Dispatcher: “You say there’s a female?”

Caller: “Female, passenger side, male driver.”

Dispatcher: “Getting help on the way, will you watch for a mile marker, and let me know when you pass one please?”

Gilbert Acciardo with the Laurel County Sheriff’s Department said when deputies made the stop, they were in plain vehicles.

“And she was still doing that signal, they didn’t identify what that signal was at the time,” Acciardo said.

Police are still investigating what happened, but sheriff’s detectives did find an inappropriate image of the 16-year-old victim on the suspect’s phone, identified as 61-year-old James Brick. He’s in jail, and the victim is back with her parents, who are from North Carolina.

The story of her rescue is garnering national attention.

“I really think prior to this there were very few people that knew that TikTok symbol, I need distress, I need help,” Acciardo said.

Sheriff’s deputies said this awareness could help other victims held against their will.

Brick is from North Carolina, but his relatives in Ohio became suspicious when he brought the victim up there, and was heading south through Kentucky when the man noticed the girl making the hand symbol.

Brick is due in court on Tuesday.

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