Deputies: Man arrested, missing teen found after using TikTok hand signals to ask for help

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — Sheriff’s deputies on Thursday found a 16-year-old girl reported missing out of North Carolina after another person recognized that she was signaling that she needed help using hand gestures known on TikTok, authorities said.

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A person called 911 around 12:30 p.m. after recognizing the girl’s gestures, which are known to represent “violence at home,” “I need help” and “domestic violence,” Laurel County Sheriff John Root said Friday in a news release. The caller reported that the girl was in a silver Toyota being driven south on Interstate 75 by a man, Root said. The caller was in a vehicle behind the Toyota and alerted authorities to the vehicle’s location as they followed the car, authorities said.

Deputies stopped the Toyota once it exited off the interstate. They determined that the girl was a 16-year-old girl whose parents had reported her missing out of Asheville, North Carolina, on Tuesday.

The teen told investigators that she and the suspect, identified as 61-year-old James Herbert Brick of Cherokee, North Carolina, had traveled through North Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky together before arriving in Ohio, where Brick has relatives. She said that once Brick’s relatives realized that she was underage and had been reported missing, he took her south from Ohio, and she began trying to get motorists’ attention to call 911.

Deputies said they found a phone in Brick’s possession with an image “that allegedly portrayed a juvenile female in a sexual manner,” Root said.

Authorities charged Brick with one count each of first-degree unlawful imprisonment and possession of matter portraying a sexual performance of a minor over the age of 12 but under the age of 18. He was booked into the Laurel County Correctional Center in London, where he remained jailed Friday ahead of a court date scheduled for Tuesday, jail records show.