Jaila Gladden, 21, had just finished shopping at a grocery store one September night. When she reached her car, she felt a knife pressed against her abdomen. She was being kidnapped.
Gladden, a student at the University of West Georgia, recently recounted her harrowing experience of being kidnapped and raped by a stranger to BuzzFeed News, and explained how she escaped with some quick thinking, clever maneuvering, and her iPhone’s built-in location tracking feature.
Last September, Gladden was walking back to her car after picking up a few items from a local Kroger when a man asked her for a lighter. She said she didn’t have one, and continued to her vehicle.
Once she got there, she said the same man threatened her with a knife and forced her into her car’s passenger seat. The man, later identified as Timothy Wilson, got into the driver’s seat and began driving toward Atlanta.
Wilson’s goal, Gladden recalls, was to drive her all the way to Michigan. But when Wilson said he needed to rob a liquor store to get some money, Gladden saw an opportunity.
She told Wilson she couldn’t guide him to a gas station without her iPhone. When he gave it back to her, she turned down the screen’s brightness and quickly sent a text with her current location to her boyfriend. “It was the most logical thing to do,” Gladden told BuzzFeed. When her boyfriend asked why she was in Atlanta, she texted him “Kid napped. Knife. Scared.”
Her boyfriend quickly realized that she was being serious, and rushed to the local police station to get help. Meanwhile, Wilson — who still did not realize Gladden was texting her boyfriend — forced her into the trunk as he unsuccessfully attempted to rob a gas station and a grocery store.
Gladden’s boyfriend was able to feed her updated location to police officers. Officers in Atlanta eventually found the two in a Kroger parking lot. After a short chase, Wilson crashed the vehicle while attempting to escape, and later fled on foot. Gladden was able to get out of the car and run toward the police officers.
Her boyfriend, Tamir Bryant, later told BuzzFeed that her “share my location” text was instrumental in her escape. Similarly, a Carrollton police spokesperson said the public should “take lessons” from Gladden. “If the victim did not have her phone and did not think quickly she may not have been as lucky,” the spokesperson wrote in a statement.
Wilson was apprehended by police around 10 hours after fleeing the vehicle. Authorities have charged him with kidnapping, hijacking a motor vehicle, aggravated assault, rape and other charges.
Gladden and her lawyer are arguing that the entire ordeal could have been prevented by better security in the parking lot where she was abducted. But her attorney added that she is a “hero” who “saved her own life.” For her part, Gladden said she wants people to know that bad things can happen at any time.
“He’s taken a lot away from my life and it doesn’t need to happen again,” she told BuzzFeed. “It shouldn’t have happened in the first place.”
How to Send Your Location
- Open Messages.
- Open the conversation with the person you’d like to share your location with.
- Press the (i) button in the top-right corner.
- Tap “Send My Current Location”.