Three young children were laughing and playing on their neighborhood street in Wichita Falls, Texas. It was a Saturday afternoon, practically picturesque.
TJ Smith, 11, was taking turns on a scooter with two younger girls, 7 and 9—they were sisters, and his neighbors. Then a man with a beard and mass of curls walked right over. Without a word, he picked up the younger girl, right off his scooter, and continued to walk away.
“He cradled her like a baby and just walked down the street,” TJ said.
At first, TJ thought he must be her uncle or some relative, because he was acting so familiar. But the whole situation felt strange.
Then the little girl turned around and TJ saw her face—it solidified his suspicions.
“She was scared,” TJ said. His first instinct was to chase after her—but then he checked himself. What could an 11-year-old do against a grown adult?
The girl started to cry, and her sister exclaimed, “What are you doing?!” But the man continued to walk away unfazed, heading toward an alley.
TJ ran to a neighbor’s house and and burst through the front door.
“Brad!” he yelled. “A man just picked up a little girl and took her into the alley!” Then he sprinted out again so as to not lose sight of his friend.
Brad Ware and his wife had been sitting in their living room; stunned at the sudden outburst, they jumped into action.
Ware and his wife got into the car in pursuit of the abductor, while TJ peeled down the end of the street and turned the corner. He saw the man in front of an abandoned, broken-down house, trying to shove the little girl through a window.
Ware got out of the car and told TJ to stay put as he went after the man.
The abductor, seeing Ware approach, dropped the girl through the window and then turned the other way. Then he roke into a sprint as Ware gave chase—and knocked into him. They struggled and Ware fought to keep ahold of him as his wife called the police.
Soon they arrived, along with the little girl’s mother, and the man was arrested.
The girl ran straight to her mother in tears, and TJ’s quick thinking was praised by everytone.
“You know, he’s the one who more or less saved the girl,” Ware told KFDX.