'My 911 Call Helped Police Rescue a Kidnapped Teen'

Looking back, December 7 began as a normal day for me. I spent it taking my mom to her oncology and dialysis appointments in Spokane, Washington, where we both live. Unfortunately Mom has multiple myeloma cancer, and as a result, her kidneys have been damaged and she has to have kidney dialysis three times a week. For the past year I've been playing taxi cab driver, which is fine by me. My parents raised me and now I'm just trying to help them in return.

I had noticed that an Amber Alert had been issued for a 15-year-old girl from Idhao; it had popped up on the home screen of my cell phone perhaps four times throughout the day. Although I had read part of the alert that indicated police were looking for a maroon Trailblazer vehicle, I hadn't read the license plate number. But because I hadn't cleared the alert, it remained on my home screen, which would actually turn out to be helpful.

By the time I left home to collect my mom, it was raining and dark, and as I stopped at a traffic light about 25 minutes into my journey, I happened to notice a maroon Trailblazer ahead of me. I remember thinking: what are the odds that this is the vehicle that the Amber Alert is referring to? When I touched the screen of my phone and checked the license plate number; I couldn't believe it. It actually matched.

I had to look down at my cell phone screen and then back at the plate two or three times to confirm it, but as soon as I had verified that this was the car involved, adrenaline hit and I immediately called 911. I gave the authorities the details of where I was and said that I was calling about the Amber Alert vehicle police were looking for. They asked for the last location I had seen the vehicle and I then told them that I was currently pursuing it. I think the reaction was, "Oh wow, OK!"

At that point, I recall thinking to myself that I was not going to lose this vehicle. I could see that there were two people in the Trailblazer and although I couldn't see them in any detail because I was looking into the vehicle from behind, I was nervous that the driver would notice that I was following them. But ultimately, I wanted to make sure that this girl got home to her family; that was my focus.

At one point during the 911 call, I was asked what vehicle I myself was in, so I knew the police must be pretty close. I went ahead and gave them a description of my car, and shortly after, Washington State Patrol Troopers were able to zip by me and get right in between myself and the Amber Alert vehicle. That was the point that I let the police handle their job, and I understand the State Troopers along with Spokane Valley Deputies and Spokane County Sheriff's Deputies, were able to arrest the suspected kidnapper, a 36-year-old known sex offender. He was placed in custody in Spokane County Jail and charged with various offences, including second degree kidnapping.

When you're in an emergency situation, a couple of minutes can seem like half an hour. But the actual length of the call was only around four minutes; that's from me calling 911 to the police getting in between myself and the Amber Alert vehicle.

911 Caller Ricky Helped Apprehend A Criminal
Ricky L Kelley Jr. in Spokane, Washington where he lives. Kelley was driving in Spokane when he saw a vehicle from an amber alert that had been sent out across the state. Ricky Kelley

After the police relieved me of my pursuit, I was actually able to turn around and pick my mom up from her dialysis treatment before she had to wait too long at all.

The 15-year-old girl was reunited with her family and afterwards, they did reach out to thank me, but otherwise I tried to remain low key about what had happened. I then heard the story of the day's events on the radio, so I sent a message to the station just to give them the facts to share with the public. They then asked if they could let people know it was me who had called 911.

My friends and family have since been sharing the story on Facebook. There have been hundreds of people commenting when others have shared it, saying "thank you" or "you are a hero!" Out of all those comments, to me, the most important ones are from my kids. I have four daughters of my own, and my kids have said the same thing as a lot of people; they have called me a hero and thanked me for being so alert and paying attention to my surroundings.

My kids think I'm a hero and that's great. But I don't really see myself as a hero. If my kids ever needed help, I would hope that somebody would do the same as I did. Amber Alerts are put out there for a reason, a family is looking for a child. God forbid, if it ever happened to me I sure would hope that someone would do the same for me.

I understand that in today's society with all the electronics we have, everyone is really busy. But honestly, it only took me a few seconds to look down at my phone, confirm the license plate and make the 911 call. A few seconds of help can make a huge difference.

Ricky L Kelley Jr. is a father of four and lives in Spokane, Washington.

All views expressed in this article are the author's own.

As told to Jenny Haward.