published: Wednesday, October 09, 2013
Abduction attempt highlights runner safety
Deputies seeking driver of silver Altima
By PHIL ATTINGER
AVON PARK -- Stephanie White, a Sebring resident who runs four to five times per week, said she was shocked when she first heard of the attempted abduction of a woman who was jogging in Avon Park Friday morning.
White had planned on running Tuesday morning, but her husband doesn't want her or any of their two young children running alone anymore.
"I run all the time, with and without friends," White said. "(Now) I plan on carrying my cell phone at all times, and when running by myself, I will make sure it's in a well-populated area."
Friday's intended victim was jogging at approximately 6 a.m. in the vicinity Walmart in Avon Park when she noticed a car following her, the Highlands County Sheriff's Office reported.
She continued running along Shop 16 Road, on the north end of the parking lot, when the car pulled up beside her, the driver aimed a gun at her and ordered her into the car.
Instead, she escaped to the nearby Bill Jarrett Ford dealership at 1305 U.S. 27 N., which had opened early.
When Highlands County Sheriff's deputies arrived, she described the car as a silver, four-door Nissan Altima sedan and described the driver as a heavy-set Hispanic man between 20-40 years old with a deep voice.
She described the gun as a gray or black semi-automatic pistol.
Sheriff's deputies are asking anyone with information regarding this incident to contact Detective Nathan Coogan of the Sheriff's Office Criminal Investigations Unit at 863-402-7250 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anyone who wants to remain anonymous and eligible for a cash reward may contact Heartland Crime Stoppers at 1-800-226-8477 (TIPS) or www.heartlandcrimestoppers.org.
Highlands County hasn't had many incidents like this one in recent years, said Maj. David Paeplow, head of the Sheriff's Office Law Enforcement Bureau.
"It's quite unusual to have a 'real' abduction event," Paeplow said. "This has been an isolated incident, so far."
Paeplow acknowledged that typical abduction incidents, if any, center around domestic disputes or custody battles. In this case, he said it was fortunate the owners of Bill Jarrett Ford had opened early. The jogger also could have sought safety at Walmart -- open 24 hours.
Any time a jogger is out at a late or early hour, when businesses are closed, he said it helps to run where other people -- and potential help -- are nearby.
White said when she first started running, she would hear about this in bigger cities, such as Port St. Lucie, but never in Highlands County. A cousin there used to tell her to run carrying pepper or other weapons.
"But I never thought it would happen here, to be honest," White said.
As for the incident last Friday, White said she would rather have been shot dead than get in the car.
Paeplow said it's safer to run from an assailant in a car -- especially in the opposite direction a car is headed -- rather than get pulled inside.
"You are in much greater danger (once) in the car. You are much better off to try and flee," Paeplow said.
Nell Hays, crime prevention specialist at the Sheriff's Office, said she will scheduled free safety seminars to any group that wants one.
Several tips from those seminars include:
-- Try to walk or jog in daylight hours.
-- Always walk in well-lighted areas.
-- Avoid walking or running alone. Walk or jog with a friend.
-- Don't use headphones. Stay aware of your surroundings at all times.
-- Choose a route away from large bushes or doorways that would hide an attacker. Don't be predictable: Vary your route from time to time.
-- Avoid short cuts. Keep to well-traveled roads and populated areas.
-- If followed, go immediately toward lights and people. If possible, turn around and head in the opposite direction, so your follower will also have to reverse directions.
-- If someone in a vehicle stops to ask questions, answer from a distance. Do not approach or get close enough to be pulled in the vehicle.
-- Never get into a vehicle with someone you don't know.
-- Keep a cell phone handy at all times. It's the best source of immediate assistance.
-- Report all suspicious persons and situations to local law enforcement.
To schedule a speaker for a group, call Hays at 863-402-7369.
I stand corrected (by: fp - 10/14/2013)
compression socks (by: A Runner - 10/11/2013)
"The socks" she is wearing are compression socks which help runners with circulation in their legs...has nothing to do with fashion.
(by: fashion police - 10/11/2013)
The girl in the picture running, needs to lose the socks.
Jogging (by: As - 10/10/2013)
Women should carry mace or join a cheap gym,early morning and late night jogs are dangerous,,its bad enough in plan day time.trying using a cell phone when a gun is pointed to your head,avoid putting your self in this position,it's too bad that this is what the world has come to ,but it's fact
What can save you (by: AP Chick - 10/10/2013)
joel (by: Blindman~ - 10/10/2013)
Hey buddy, watch how you describe our County. Just locate the car and let the police do the work. Can't they use a computer to check cell tower ping and match a few names with registered autos?
(by: A mom - 10/9/2013)
I would not have let the paper take my picture, put my name in, say I have kids I run with. Anyone can look u up and see you on FB. B smart.
maybe not a local (by: Joe Macy - 10/9/2013)
No one said the suspect is from this county. Could be here from another county. Not enough information from the victim about the suspect.
really (by: joel - 10/9/2013)
no one in this stinking county knows a hispanic male between 20-40 driving a grey nissan altima? common on people, look out your windows. Its time we get to know our neighbors so we can put an end to this craziness. hit and run last week. Now this. Between these 2 cases someone should know something. We should be ashamed of ourselves
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