Her first attempt to escape had already failed — and now, she thought, she only had one chance.
The Florida woman was sitting in the parking lot of a Jacksonville gas station on Feb. 11, where she had been taken by a man who, at first, she thought she knew. He had pulled up and offered her a ride when he saw her walking from one bar to another around 1 a.m., according to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.
Thinking he was an acquaintance of hers and that it would be safe to accept a lift from him, the woman accepted, according to the sheriff’s office.
But that couldn’t have been further from the truth.
Once the woman got in and Jose Ramos Sandoval started driving, she noticed that they were going in the wrong direction altogether, the sheriff’s office said. She also realized the man was a stranger, and not the friend of a friend as she’d originally thought, she said.
Eventually, Sandoval pulled into the Kangaroo Express gas station, according to the sheriff’s office — and his victim took it as an opportunity to make her escape, fearing for her safety. Before she could get out of the car, though, Sandoval grabbed her by the hair and kept her confined inside his vehicle, the sheriff’s office said.
“He refused to let her leave,” the sheriff’s office wrote on Facebook.
The woman realized that her last change to escape might be at that very moment, the sheriff’s office said — so she seized it, mouthing “help” to a gas station employee.
It worked: The employee spotted the woman in distress, read her lips and immediately called 911 for help, the sheriff’s office said. Though the suspect had already driven away from the gas station, an accurate description of the vehicle helped officers in the area find the car.
The suspect tried to flee from an officer who tried pulling him over, but authorities eventually caught up with him and Sandoval was taken into custody, the sheriff’s office said.
Authorities arrested Sandoval, and he’s been charged with false imprisonment, fleeing police and violation of probation. Deputies said he admitted to the crime during an interview following his arrest.
The sheriff’s office also said it’s a good example of how being observant — and helping those who might need it — can really pay off.
“Getting involved makes a difference, we can’t thank you enough,” the sheriff’s office wrote on Twitter.