Laurel County sheriff's deputies on Nov. 4 arrested James Herbert Brick, 61, after receiving a 911 call about a young, female passenger in a silver Toyota who "appeared to be in distress" making hand gestures known on the social media app to represent "violence at home – I need help – domestic violence," according to authorities.
One such video with more than 20,000 views posted to TikTok, a short-form video-sharing app popular among teenagers, demonstrates how those in need of help can communicate that they are in distress without saying anything using hand gestures.
When authorities located the vehicle, they conducted a traffic stop and questioned Brick and the 16-year-old passenger in his car.
"It was learned through investigation that the female passenger was a reported missing juvenile – reported by her parents on Tuesday morning missing from Asheville, North Carolina," the Laurel Sheriff's Office said in a Facebook post. "A check through NCIC confirmed that she was a reported missing person."
The missing teen told investigators that she and Brick had traveled through North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky and Ohio after her family reported her missing. When Brick's relatives in Ohio realized the 16-year-old in his custody was underaged and had been reported missing, Brick left the state and headed back toward North Carolina.
While they drove between states, the juvenile victim began making emergency hand gestures she learned on TikTok to other motorists in an effort to get their attention to call authorities.
Investigators also discovered a phone in Brick's possession "that allegedly portrayed a juvenile female in a sexual manner."
A number of local police departments and FBI field offices assisted in the investigation into the juvenile's disappearance, which is ongoing.
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