Missing North Carolina Girl, 16, Rescued After Using Distress Hand Signals Learned from TikTok

Someone driving behind the car the 16-year-old was riding in noticed her hand gestures and called 911, leading to the arrest of a 61-year-old man accused of kidnapping her

James Herbert Brick
Photo: Laurel County Sheriff's Office

A missing 16-year-old girl from North Carolina girl was rescued thanks to S.O.S. hand gestures she learned on TikTok, authorities say.

On Thursday, 61-year-old James Brick was arrested after someone driving behind him called 911 after observing a girl inside his vehicle "making hand gestures that are known on the social media platform TikTok to represent violence at home — 'I need help' — domestic violence," the Laurel County Sheriff's Office said in a press release.

The person who called 911 said she "appeared to be in distress," authorities added, and they continued following Brick's car while giving updates.

Laurel County Sheriff's detectives and deputies then conducted a traffic stop and pulled the car over, soon finding out that the girl had been reported missing by her parents Tuesday morning. They also found that Brick had a phone that allegedly contained photos that "portrayed a juvenile female in a sexual manner."

Signal for Help
Canadianwomen.org/Signal For Help

"The female juvenile told Sheriff's investigators that she had gotten with the male subject and traveled through North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky and into Ohio where the accused had relatives," the sheriff's department said. "When the male subject's relatives realized that the female in his custody was underage and reported missing, the accused left Ohio traveling southbound and the female juvenile then began attempting to get motorists attention to call 911."

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Brick was charged with first-degree unlawful imprisonment; and possession of matter sex performance by a minor over the age of 12 but under age 18, first offense. He is being held at the Laurel County Correctional Center on a $10,000 cash bond, according to inmate records, and he is due in court Tuesday morning.

It was not immediately clear if Brick has an attorney for PEOPLE to reach for comment.

Responding to a rise in cases of at-home domestic violence during the pandemic lockdowns, the Women's Funding Network launched a campaign last year called "Signal for Help" where they raised awareness about the distress hand gestures for victims to use for assistance.

The silent, single-handed gesture is done by putting one's hand up with the palm facing outward, tucking the thumb in while the four fingers face up. Then, close the fingers to "trap" the thumb.

If you are experiencing domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, or go to thehotline.org. All calls are toll-free and confidential. The hotline is available 24/7 in more than 170 languages.

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