After completing a live report on a vehicle crash for Atlanta's WGCL-TV early Tuesday morning, reporter Iyani Hughes returned to her station's news van, turned it on, and began to edit video in the back of the van.
Image source: WGCL-TV video screenshot
But as Hughes reached over the seat to lock the doors, a woman pulled the driver's side door open, jumped into the driver's seat, and sped away from the scene, the station said, adding that Hughes fell to the floor of the van and screamed.
The alleged carjacker was identified as 38-year-old Seniqua Lunsford, who's pregnant, the Atlanta-Journal Constitution reported.
Thing is, Hughes also is pregnant, the paper said.
'I could hear her scream'
Veteran journalist Karen Greer was anchoring the station's morning broadcast and could hear the incident unfolding in her earpiece, WGCL reported in an earlier story on the incident.
"It is frightening when you become the news story as a journalist," Greer told the station. "I could hear in my ear because they realized in master control that something was going on, so they were rolling on it, and I could hear her scream, and I could hear ... our photographer yelling somebody just drove off in our car."
Police were nearby
Atlanta police were nearby investigating the crash of a Toyota Highlander into a condominium gate, the paper said, adding that Lunsford allegedly was behind the wheel in that crash and had slipped away from the scene.
As it turns out, it was the very crash Hughes had been covering, WGCL said.
Fortunately, nearby officers heard her scream for help and immediately began to chase the news van, the station added.
"I started texting her once I knew it was her, and I thought maybe they had just stolen the [van], and she didn't respond, so I started calling her and no answer, and I didn't know what was going on, and then I get wind that she's in the [van], and she has been kidnapped," Greer added to the station.
Police spokesman Officer Steve Avery told the paper that Hughes "tried to make the woman stop and pull over. The suspect wouldn't do that, so she did the smart thing: She got into her seat and put her seat belt on."
The chase ended when the suspect jumped a curb and hit a small tree, WGCL reported, adding that the airbags deployed and Hughes managed to escape from the van and run to safety.
Image source: WSB-TV video screenshot
Lunsford was arrested at the scene, and both she and Hughes were taken to a hospital, the station said.
Hughes was not injured, the Journal-Constitution said. Her station said she's recovering at home.
Image source: WSB-TV video screenshot
The paper added that Lunsford was treated for an arm injury.
Witnesses at the scene told police Lunsford was behaving strangely before the alleged hijacking, the Journal-Constitution said.
"They don't know if she is emotionally disturbed or on intoxicants, drugs, something like that," Avery told WSB-TV. "That hasn't been determined yet."
Lunsford was denied bond and is facing the following charges, WGCL reported:
- Aggravated assault
- Criminal damage to property
- Failure to obey signs or control devices
- Hijacking a motor vehicle
- Possession of amphetamine with intent to distribute
- Reckless conduct
- Simple battery
- Willful obstruction of law enforcement officers by use of threats of violence
She was booked into jail after being released from a hospital, the station said.
Avery also said the incident shows how important it is to keep the doors locked when a vehicle is running, WSB noted, even when someone else is inside with no one in the driver's seat.
"Get a second key, so at the very least you can lock your door," Avery told the station. "It happens so fast, and this could have been tragic."
(H/T: Blue Lives Matter)