A few years ago, the restaurant chain Pizza Hut introduced a pizza ordering app. Instead of calling and placing an order, customers can place their order through the app—you can even add a note to the employees if you have a special request. It was meant to make buying a pizza more convenient for technology-driven customers.
But employees at one restaurant were shocked when they received a special order—and realized their app was a crucial tool in a life-or-death situation.
A Pizza Hut restaurant got a strange message one day from an ordering app.
The staff at the Pizza Hut in Avon Park, Florida were used to the new high-tech system. It was simple: When someone placed an online order, it would show up on an overhead screen. They’d read the order and any specifications and get to work.
But during one afternoon shift on May 4th, 2015, a peculiar message came up that one no one ever expected.
“Please help. Get 911 to me.”
The order came from Cheryl Treadway, a 25-year-old mother of three who lived right down the block from that Pizza Hut location.
She was with her boyfriend and the children’s father, Ethan Nickerson. The two had been fighting all day about Nickerson’s drug use—which escalated to Nickerson holding Treadway hostage at knifepoint, along with their children.
Nickerson had taken away Treadway’s phone—but she knew she had to find a way to escape this dangerous situation.
So she came up with a plan to discreetly get her phone back and contact someone on the outside.
“She told him, ‘The kids are hungry. Let’s order a pizza. Let’s get them some food,'” Public Information Officer Nell Hays told ABC News.
Nickerson fell for it, and he gave back her smartphone so she could order the pizza for the kids. But Treadway knew she couldn’t just call 911—her boyfriend would hear her, and who knows what he would do.
So she brought up her Pizza Hut app and ordered the food—along with a plea for help.
The restaurant’s manager, Candy Hamilton, was stunned—and responded immediately.
“I’ve been with the company for 28 years and I’ve never seen nothing like that ever,” Hamilton told ABC News.
“We didn’t even question it, we immediately called 911.”
Hostage negotiators promptly arrived on the scene.
“Lt. Ludden happens to be a negotiator and is the head of our crisis negotiator team,” Hays reported to WFLA. “He just happened to be the one on duty that night.”
Ludden and his team arrived, and Nickerson reportedly had no idea his girlfriend had called the police until they were coming down their street. Treadway immediately ran to the officers with one of her children in her arms.
But Nickerson wasn’t moving.
“His first words were, of course, ‘I’m not coming out because I know I’m going to jail,’” Lt. Ludden told WFLA.
Luckily, the hostage team was able to talk Nickerson down—he eventually turned himself in, and the children were safe.
The man was charged with several felonies, including aggravated assault with a weapon, battery, kidnapping and obstruction of justice.
A lot of people came together to save the family and put Nickerson behind bars—the Pizza Hut responded to the call, while the police talked Nickerson down safely—but everyone credits the success to Treadway, whose quick-thinking saved the day.
“[Treadway is] the hero in this situation,” Hamilton told ABC News. “She just thought outside the box. I think that’s amazing. I’m just blown away.”
“I don’t know if I ever would have thought of it,” Ludden told WFLA. “I mean it’s just something that she did so naturally.”