AUGUSTA — A woman beat the odds when she emerged physically unscathed Tuesday night following her abduction in a Walmart parking lot by an armed man.

That’s according to Ed Leadbetter, an instructor at Women’s Self Defense in Portland.

The robber drove the woman to a nearby bank and forced her to withdraw cash from her account via the automatic teller machine.

“The last thing you want to do is go off with a person,” Leadbetter said Thursday. “This person is extraordinarily lucky. More often than not, you’re not coming back from this.”

Leadbetter suggested running away in such a situation, even if a weapon is involved. Statistically, those who run from someone with a gun have an 82 percent chance of survival, Leadbetter said.

“You have a 99 percent chance of dying in a very nasty way if you don’t run,” he said. “If you go with the person, you’re a dead man walking.”

Leadbetter, a former long-time patrolman for the Portland Police Department and former defense instructor at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy, said women are more likely to be targeted by those who want to assault or kidnap someone. Such attackers will target someone they think they can control more easily, and they won’t go after someone who might challenge them, Leadbetter said.

Augusta Police Detective Sgt. Matt Clark said Thursday that police are following leads, but have not made an arrest. Police are examining surveillance videos in hopes of identifying the robber, though the video footage’s quality was deemed too poor to be released publicly, he said.

“We do have some video that we believe is of the incident,” Clark said.

The victim, a 51-year-old woman, told police she had finished shopping at the Walmart store on Civic Center Drive about 5:20 p.m. Tuesday and was walking to her car in the parking lot when a man approached her, showed her he had a weapon and forced her into the front passenger seat of her car.

Police said the man drove the woman to a bank, where he had her withdraw money from the ATM.

Police are declining to say what kind of weapon the robber carried or which bank was involved.

With the woman still in the car, the man then drove into the city to an area near 40 Mount Vernon Ave., about two miles south of the Walmart, and left her there. He fled on foot with an undisclosed amount of money. The woman, who was uninjured, drove to a nearby business and called police at about 5:50 p.m., a half-hour after the kidnapping occurred.

Leadbetter has advice for people to ward against finding themselves in such a situation.

He suggests walking with your head up and looking 20 or 30 feet ahead, instead of down at the ground. The idea is to look as vigilant and confident as possible.

“Don’t look like a victim,” Leadbetter said. “As simple as it sounds, it’s very effective.”

If you are confronted and a robber simply demands your purse or wallet, hand it over without arguing, Leadbetter said.

“It’s only when they say they want you to come along with them that you have to kick into a different mindset,” Leadbetter said. “The answer, almost always, is to run, to get away. The first thing to do is survive.”

As you are running you should create as much commotion as possible, Leadbetter said.

For instance, you could jump on the hood or roof of the cars while screaming for help.

“That will get people’s attention and it scares the person away,” Leadbetter said. “Once there is distance between yourself and the attacker he is less likely to continue.”

Leadbetter advised running away from the attacker even if he has a gun.

“You can zig-zag or whatever, but take off,” he said.

Sometimes criminals use fake guns, or the guns are real but unloaded, he said. Even someone with a loaded gun is unlikely to shoot at you, Leadbetter said.

“As you’re running away he may decide to shoot at you and he might be a bad shot, but even if he hits you it probably will not be fatal,” Leadbetter said. “As bad as getting shot is, it’s a whole lot better than being taken away to another location.”

Craig Crosby–621-5642

[email protected]

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