crimesider

Abducted Phila. nursing asst. a "fighter," family says

PHILADELPHIA -- A Philadelphia nursing assistant who was seen on surveillance video struggling as an apparent abductor is seen forcing her into a car is described by family as a "fighter," reports Philly.com.

Twenty-two-year-old Carlesha Freeland-Gaither was last seen around 9:40 p.m. Sunday in the 100 block of West Coulter Street, reports CBS Philly.

Surveillance video released Monday by Philadelphia police shows a man driving down a street, parking his car and walking a short distance out of the camera's view, back towards the direction from which he came. He's then seen apparently chasing a woman across the street before grabbing her and forcing her down the block and into the car.

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Carlesha Freeland-Gaither

Philadelphia Police via CBS Philly

Police say the woman in the video is Freeland-Gaither. A witness told police the woman was screaming for help as the suspect forced her into a car, and that she kicked out two of the car's rear windows as she attempted to fight him off.

There's been no word from her since.

"I can tell you one thing, she's a fighter. She was not just giving up, she wasn't just going to be taken," said Carlesha's mother, Keisha Gaither, told Philly.com. "She's going to keep fighting to the end. She's coming back to me."

Family told the website that Freedland-Gaither, a nursing assistant at Presbyterian Hospital, was returning home from a visit with her godson when the attack happened. The woman was supposed to call her live-in boyfriend so he could walk with her the six blocks from the bus stop to their nearby apartment, but she never made the call, reports the website.

An eyewitness, who has spoken to police, told CBS Philly he had been walking on the opposite side of the street when he heard her scream.

"When they got in the back of the car, you heard like a tap tap pap pap, whatever it was, it was like two of them and then the back window came out," the witness, who didn't want to be identified, told CBS Philly.

"'Help me, help me,' and I turned around and I just started running up," he said. "I called the cops as I'm like yo screaming stop, stop, stop. He's dragging her to the car."

The witness said the suspect had a large knife which fell into the road during the struggle, along with the woman's cell phone and glasses.

Police believe the suspect may have been watching Freeland-Gaither, Philadelphia police spokesman Lt. John Stanford told 48 Hours' Crimesider. How long he may have been watching her before the abduction, however, is still unclear.

"You can clearly see from the video, he pulls ahead of her and was waiting her out," Stanford said. "He spotted her and had all eyes on her."

Family agrees.

"It was sickening and that's the only thing you can say. It looks like that he even knew that she was coming around that corner because he parked his car and then went back for her," aunt Latesha Tucker-Felder told CBS Philly.

Because of the way the young woman is shown attempting to fight off the suspect, police believe she didn't know her assailant.

"Based on how this young lady is fighting, it looks like she's fighting for her life," Stanford said.

Another car is shown in the video stopping behind the abductor's car and then slowly reversing down the street. The person in the car has been identified and questioned, according to Philly.com.

"Just let my daughter go. Whatever it takes, I don't care. Just let her go," Carl Freeland, the victim's father, told the station.

A $15,000 reward is being offered in the search for Freeland-Gaither, who is described as a black female, 5'3″ tall, 125 pounds with brown eyes. Police say she has braided hair and has a tattoo on her lower back, and was last seen wearing a light blue jean jacket, a gray and white sweater, and was carrying a black backpack.

The suspect is described by police as a black male, five feet, ten inches tall with a medium-heavy build and 25-30 years old. He has a medium brown complexion and was wearing a dark colored jacket with a dark colored hood, possibly a hooded sweatshirt underneath, a dark colored hat and and dark colored pants.

The vehicle is described by police as a 2000-2002 dark gray metallic four-door Ford Taurus with an unknown Pennsylvania license plate, an unknown plate on the front bumper, rear spoiler, and both driver and passenger side rear windows broken out. Police say the vehicle is missing inspection stickers and has an unknown item in the center bottom of the front windshield.

Anyone with any information is urged to call Philadelphia Police at 215-686-TIPS (8477) or text a tip to PPD TIP or 773847 or visit phillypolice.com.