A missing teenager was rescued by sheriff’s deputies after she used an “I need help” hand gesture widely disseminated on TikTok to signal a passing motorist, law enforcement officials reported.
The driver who spotted the teen signaling to him from the back of another car on a Kentucky highway last week called 911 and continued to follow the vehicle to update deputies on its location, according to a statement from the Laurel County Sheriff’s Department.
The 16-year-old girl, who had been missing from her home in North Carolina for days, used the gesture developed by women’s groups as a way to surreptitiously signal for aid in domestic violence situations, according to officials.
“The complainant ... noticed a female passenger in the vehicle making hand gestures that are known on the social media platform TikTok to represent violence at home,” the sheriff’s statement read.
The signal involves holding up a hand, palm out, in a “stop” gesture, then closing the hand with the thumb inside.
The teen also appeared to be “in distress,” the driver reported.
Police stopped the car as it exited the highway and arrested the driver, James Herbert Brick of Cherokee, North Carolina, on suspicion of “unlawful imprisonment,” officials said.
According to the teen, she had been taken by Brick through North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky and Ohio, states the sheriff’s department release.
“We don’t know how long coming down the interstate from Ohio that she had been doing this to other motorists, hoping that they would notice that she was in distress. Finally, someone did recognize” the gestures, Laurel County Sheriff’s Deputy Gilbert Acciardo told CNN affiliate WYMT.