Crime scene technicians were combing through a Mid-City house on Friday after bystanders helped free a woman who may have been bound and gagged in Kenner and brought to New Orleans.
Police are still investigating what happened, but preliminary information suggested that a man took the woman in Kenner on Friday morning and brought her to a house in the 100 block of North Lopez Street in Mid-City.
The man tied the woman up and left her inside the house, said Officer Frank Robertson, a New Orleans Police Department spokesman.
The woman was able to escape on her own, police believe, and was taken to a hospital with what were described as minor injuries. New Orleans and Kenner police are still searching for the apparent kidnapper.
However the woman wound up in Mid-City, her escape captured the attention of people at Canal Street and Jefferson Davis Parkway about 11 a.m. Friday.
Witness Gary Messina said he and his wife were driving on Canal Street when he saw the woman, in her mid-20s or early 30s, running toward Jefferson Davis Parkway with a man behind her.
The man grabbed the woman and put her in a headlock, Messina said.
As the woman shouted for the police in Spanish, Messina said he jumped out of the car to confront the man, whom he described as an older Latino man, about 5 feet 2 inches tall, with a thin build, a slight mustache and dark hair in a crewcut.
“I just kind of got in his face, because he wouldn’t let her go at all,” Messina said. “He was pretty brazen. He didn’t really care that people were yelling at him.”
Messina said officers arrived within minutes once a bystander called 911. When police sirens started to sound in the distance, the man finally let go of the woman and began running toward a nearby bank.
“At that point, I got the girl,” Messina said. He and another woman who had been standing at a nearby bus stop helped her onto the sidewalk, he said, “and she just kind of collapsed in tears.”
When Messina saw what he described as “severe” restraining marks, he got back on the phone to request an ambulance.
Police began combing the scene and found a bandana that apparently had been stuffed into her mouth as a gag.
“She didn’t want to go to the hospital. I think she was afraid,” Messina said. “Then an NOPD Spanish-speaking officer came in, and things started to calm down a little bit.”
Police cordoned off the area and began interviewing witnesses for the next 45 minutes.
Perhaps the most startling moment, Messina said, was when medics tried to strap the woman to a gurney to be taken to the hospital.
“When they put the little things around her, the straps to hold her to the gurney, she put her hands together and she just started crying,” Messina said. “She was so afraid to be restrained.”