A College Student Escaped A Kidnapping Thanks To Quick Thinking And Her iPhone

"When she told me what happened to her, I was floored."

Jaila Gladden's quick thinking — and use of a popular iPhone feature — helped her escape a kidnapping last September. It was around 11:30 p.m. in a Kroger parking lot in Carrollton, Georgia when a man approached Gladden to ask for a lighter. After telling him she didn't have one, Gladden went to her car but felt a knife pressed up against her as she was about to enter.

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According to police, a man forced her into her car through the driver's seat and into the passenger's seat, then got behind the wheel and asked her if she knew how to get to Atlanta. In an interview with BuzzFeed News, Gladden told the story of how the man allegedly raped her before she eventually escaped with a clever use of her cell phone.

Video footage from the parking lot of Gladden's kidnapping.

"It is a pretty incredible story and the type of the story you don't necessarily hear every day," Rod Dixon, Gladden's lawyer, told A Plus when we contacted him over the phone. "When she told me what happened to her I was floored."

Gladden, who is a senior at University of West Georgia, told BuzzFeed News that the man first took her to an abandoned church and parked the car. There, she said, he told her to take off her clothes and raped her inside the car. Gladden tried to talk him out of it, but he told her that there was "no purpose in crying." Afterwards, he continued to drive in the car.

"When he initially picked me up I was watching where he drove," Gladden told BuzzFeed News. "He never took eyes off the road."

The man told Gladden he planned to rob a gas station and asked her to find him one. She said that she needed her phone to get directions and so he handed it over to her. Quickly, she turned the brightness down on her phone and texted her boyfriend Tamir Bryant. She sent him her location and tried to tell him what was going on. 

"It was the most logical thing to do," Gladden told BuzzFeed News. 

Jaila's first texts to her boyfriend Tamir Bryant the night she was kidnapped.  Jaila Gladden

When they arrived at a gas station, the man took Gladden's phone and put her in the trunk. He failed to rob the gas station and then told her he wanted to try robbing a Walmart or Kroger. Meanwhile, Byrant took off for the police station with her texts in hand. 

"I immediately realized it was serious," Bryant told BuzzFeed News. "She would never play like that. She would never say that for no reason."

With a new destination to find, Gladden again asked for her phone and continued texting Bryant. 

Jaila Gladden

By the time Bryant had gotten to the police station, Gladden said the man had decided they would spend the night in a different Kroger parking lot, and he would rob the store in the morning. He again put her in the trunk. With the help of Gladden's roommate, Bryant and the police helped identify her car and send the description to the Atlanta Police Department. 

In a police report of the incident, it said that at this point, "Gladden then stopped reading text messages, and stopped responding."

Jaila Gladden

Eventually, a police officer in Atlanta spotted the car. Once the kidnapper saw the cops, he turned the lights off and tried to take off, but crashed into four cars and a parked patrol car. The cops drew their weapons and told him to stop, but he tried to escape again and crashed into a fence before getting on foot and fleeing. Gladden ran to the safety of the police. 

"If I didn't get the location, who knows what would have happened," Bryant told BuzzFeed News. "Her doing it on her own — she was able to outsmart the bad guy."

Timothy Wilson has been charged with "kidnapping,  hijacking a motor vehicle, aggravated assault, rape, aggravated sodomy, false imprisonment, and aggravated assault against a police officer," BuzzFeed News reported. Dixon told A Plus that Wilson has been in custody since the event in September, has not entered a plea and no trial date has been set. When contacted by phone, Dixon repeatedly expressed awe at Gladden's presence of mind.

"Obviously, I knew at the outset she had been sexually assaulted, but I didn't know the details," Dixon said. "I was just absolutely floored by what happened and what she did to get herself out of the situation."

Dixon added that Gladden contacted him because she wanted to investigate the security at Kroger and see if it could be improved so that way nobody would have to go through what she did. Gladden is planning to attend graduate school to become an occupational therapist. 

"He's taken a lot away from my life and it doesn't need to happen again," she told BuzzFeed News. "It shouldn't have happened in the first place."

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