KEARNEY, Mo. — A frightening situation for a teenage driver as two masked men run up to her car and try getting inside. It happened at Regency Drive and Watson on Friday, April 14, near the QuikTrip and Price Chopper in Kearney.
“It’s absolutely terrifying to think that something like this could happen to your child,” said Michele Witten, the mother of the teenage driver.
Her daughter called her right after the incident, which caused about $3,000 in damage to her rear-view mirror and passenger door. Fortunately for the teen, another driver saw what happened and tried to intervene.
Nathan Welterlen was in his rental Tesla when he saw two masked men on the sidewalk around 10:30 p.m. Since his car is equipped with cameras, he was able to record the incident and get a glimpse of the two men and one of their distinctive tattoos.
“They started punching and kicking the vehicle. They, at one point, Witten said. ‘I don’t want to hurt you.’ They were clearly trying to carjack the vehicle.”
Welterlen decided to intervene. He turned onto Regency Drive and pulled directly in front of the two men. When the teenage driver took off, the masked men turned their attention to Welterlen and started hitting his hood.
“After the guy hit the hood of the car, he made a gesture kind of like, ‘What are you going to do about it?’” Welterlen said.
Eventually, the two men ran off into the nearby woods.
Both men have since been arrested and identified as Jason Hale of Pleasant Valley, Missouri and Bradon McLaughlin of Kearney, Missouri. They’re charged with vehicle hijacking and property damage, both felonies.
According to court documents, Hale told investigators he and McLaughlin were at home all night watching kids. When investigators asked McLaughlin about their whereabouts, the documents say McLaughlin told them he was at QuikTrip with Hale when a car pulled up next to him. He said the occupants in that car were recording and asking him questions.
McLaughlin claims he asked them to leave, and that the car left but came back. The last time they came back he said he’d “had enough,” and that if they didn’t stop antagonizing him, he “would do something he didn’t want to do.”
He told investigators that the “car came back again flashing its lights.” McLaughlin claimed the encounter lasted three seconds when another car, Welterlen’s Tesla, pulled up and hit his shin. He claimed he thought the second car was trying to run him over, so he and Hale took off.
McLaughlin admitted to telling the first car that he would “damage their car and rob them,” and that he only wanted to talk to them.
“When two men are in ski masks, I usually don’t think they’re up to any good,” added Witten, who said her daughter and her two friends in the car with her didn’t know the two men.
However, when police got permission to search Hale’s property from the property owner, they found clothes inside a burn pit which matched what Hale was wearing in the video.
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With both men in jail, Witten is at ease. Now, she and Welteren want to use the situation to promote safety behind the wheel.
“Think about if you were in a situation like this. What would you do? How would you react? When you see something, say something. In the times we live in safety is very important,” she said.