Former Marine, soldier traveling to raise awareness of veteran suicides helps save kidnapping victim
TOPEKA, Kan. (Tribune News Service) — An 86-year-old woman abducted by a stranger late Thursday in downtown Topeka was rescued and her kidnapper arrested due to a tip provided by an Army and Marine Corps veteran traveling the country doing push-ups to raise awareness about suicides of combat veterans, police said.
The tipster, Darren Hafford, at about 8:55 p.m. Thursday saw a man enter the driver's side of a vehicle in the 800 block of S.W. Harrison, said Gretchen Spiker, public relations specialist for the Topeka Police Department.
Hafford called police after noting that a woman in the vehicle appeared to be in distress as the man drove away with her in the passenger's seat, Spiker said.
Police located the vehicle, the woman and the man soon afterward nearby in the 300 block of S.W. 10th Avenue, she said. The woman wasn't hurt.
"TPD would like to thank Hafford for immediately stepping into action to help a stranger in need," Spiker said.
Formal charges hadn't been filed against the car's 54-year-old male driver, who was being held Friday afternoon on a $10,000 bond in the Shawnee County Jail in connection with one count each of kidnapping, aggravated burglary, theft, assault and driving on a suspended license.
A GoFundMe page maintained by Hafford, a Dallas resident and veteran of the Army and the Marine Corps, says he's nearing the end of a fundraiser he began July 4 in Austin, Texas.
Hafford plans as part of that fundraiser to do 50 push-ups at all 50 U.S. capitols in 50 days to raise awareness and funding to fight the suicide of combat veterans, according to the GoFundMe page.
The website for his fundraiser said Topeka was the 47th stop for Hafford, who planned to subsequently do 50 push-ups at state capitols Friday in Oklahoma City, Okla., Saturday in Juneau, Alaska, and Sunday in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Half the money being raised will be donated to One Tribe Foundation, which provides counseling for military veterans and first responders, according to Hafford's GoFundMe page.
The other half will go to "help pay for gas, food, coffee and a hotel room here and there when I can afford it," that page said.
It indicated Hafford as of Friday had raised $4,955 of his goal of $10,000.
Hafford did 50 push-ups early Friday morning at the capitol in Oklahoma City and planned to take flights later that day that would take him from Dallas to Alaska, according to a video posted on his personal Facebook page.
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